Google defines #ChallengeAccepted as “an Instagram tagged challenge as well as an awareness campaign on empowering women involving sharing posts of black-and-white selfies.” In reality, this hashtag got lost in translation, intended to aid with the femicides occurring in Turkey, where women are murdered simply for being women. The campaign takes off, but it loses its original significance as it grows in popularity. This is the true story behind the #ChallengeAccepted campaign that inundated your Instagram feed in the summer of 2020. When two women are brutally killed five years apart and half a globe apart, protesters search for a method to bring attention to Turkey’s significant and rising femicide problem. 

On February 11, 2012, Özgecan Aslan, 20, went to her university in Mersin, Turkey, for her morning psychology class and then stayed around on campus until 1:30 p.m. She then went shopping with a friend at a nearby mall, and on her way there, she used her friend’s phone to text her sister, Beste Aslan, saying she was on her way. Özgecan and her friend went shopping, ate dinner, and then boarded a minibus to return home. When the rest of her family, father: Mehmet Aslan and mother: N/A did not hear from her and she did not come back that night they started to panic. When she fails to show up for her morning classes the next day, her family’s worry turns to fear. They know she did not become lost because she rides the same bus every day, so they contact her friend. Her friend verifies the story, telling the distraught family that the last time she saw Özgecan was when she got off the minibus. So, what occurred between Özgecan’s friend’s stop and her next stop?

Coincidentally, cops pulled over a bus that was not taking its normal route. When they boarded, they discovered bloodstains on the bus’s walls; the bus driver stated that a fight had broken out. The cops then discover Özgecan Aslan’s hat. Police detained Ahmet Suphi Altndöken and two others who were with him, a 20-year-old friend named Fatih Gökçe and his father, Necmettin Altndöken. According to Fatih Gökçe and Necmettin Altndöken, Ahmet arrived at his father’s residence frantic and scared, pleading for help. There was a woman’s body in the minibus, and Ahmet needed help concealing it. Ahmet informed his father that he waited until all passengers had exited the bus so that he and Özgecan were alone. He then went down the wrong path, planning to rape her. Özgecan, on the other hand, was not going down without a fight and took out the pepper spray that her mother had given her.  He stabbed her and beat her to death with an iron rod in a fit of fury or bewilderment. The three then proceeded to set fire to her body and dispose of it in a nearby river bed. They were wise enough to chop off her hands first since they knew Ahmet’s DNA would be beneath her fingernails. When the police came, they discovered a decomposing, severely burnt, and injured body. Özgecan was unrecognizable. Her friend was able to make a preliminary identification based on her clothing, and tests were conducted over the next several days to determine the time and cause of death.

During the trial, Fatih Gökçe and Necmettin Altndöke told the same story they gave the police, while Ahmet told a different one. During his trial, he claimed that he did not seek to sexually assault Özgecan and that her death was an accident, claiming that he was provoked. There have been hundreds of incidents when males blamed the women and received a reduced sentence; it was an effective technique. Ahmet said that if she had not attacked him initially, none of this would have occurred. According to his narrative, Ahmet was minding his own business when he decided to take a faster route to bring Özgecan home faster. When she noticed, she became enraged and struck him in the back. She passed out while he was fighting her, so he called his friend. Fatih Gökçe said he was merely participating in the cleanup, but Ahmet believes Fatih Gökçe had ulterior motives. When his friend got off the minibus with his pants undone, Ahmet questioned Faith whether he harmed her, and Faith told him to stay quiet and not tell anyone else, or he would call the police. Ahmet’s story could have succeeded because he only received 48 years, Faith received 46, and Necmettin received 30.

On April 11, 2016, a former hitman known as “the crime machine” pulled the trigger in a maximum-security prison, murdering Ahmet. His father escaped with just minor injuries. It’s unclear how the hitman obtained the pistol or if he was recruited. But Özgecan Aslan’s murder was the motivation; at the hitman’s court appearance, he wore a t-shirt with her face on it. He has three daughters, so it might have been personal. Özgecan Aslan’s murder sparked outrage in Turkey, her father, “Although he is heartbroken and angry, Mehmet Aslan isn’t out for revenge. In fact, his family has received donations from across the country and is planning to use those to set up a rehabilitation center – not for women who are abused but for men who abuse” (CNN). Five years later something so similar happens it seems like deja vu.

Late on Thursday, July 16, 2020, in Istanbul, Turkey, Sibel Gültekin is trying to reach her big sister Pınar Gültekin. Pınar was a full-time student at Muğla Sıtkı Koçman University and was 6 years into her economical studies. Sibel and Pınar were extremely close and spoke multiple times a day. Pınar was heading to the mall at 3 p.m. that Thursday and they planned to call thereafter; however, Sibel’s call went straight to voicemail. She tries not to panic and calls her mother for assistance, but the calls still go to voicemail.

It’s unclear how missing person reports are handled in Turkey, but Sibel and her mother, Şefika Gülteki, drove the seven-hour journey from Istanbul to the coast where Pınar resided. Fortunately, the police instantly start looking for her. The mall where Pnar went included gas stations, restaurants, marketplaces, and other businesses nearby, so authorities were able to track her activities through over 100 cameras in the region. They request a copy of her phone records while reviewing the footage, which indicates their first lead in the case, her ex-boyfriend, Cemal.

Pınar met Cemal while she was single and new in town, and the two hit it off immediately. The issue was that Cemal had an undisclosed wife, and when Pınar discovered this, she broke things up. Americans have a strong thirst for true crime, therefore they want a great deal of detail from police investigations as well as social and political issues. There are few facts in the inquiry at the time when the police speak with her ex-boyfriend, but we do know that he denies knowing her whereabouts. Cemal was the last person to see her, therefore the police began tracking his activities using CCTV video. He is spotted carrying two bottles of gasoline from the mall to a gas station. When confronted with the footage, Cemal alters his story, telling them that Pınar agreed to meet him at the gas station so they could drive to his country house in the hopes that she would soften her position and reignite the spark. Keep in mind that he is still married, so when she refuses to alter her mind and threatens to inform his wife, things go downhill.

Cemal told police that he was so furious that he couldn’t contain himself and beat her until she blacked out before strangling her to death. He then disposed of her body in a barrel, poured gasoline over her lifeless body, and set her ablaze near his country house. Since it was fire season in Turkey and the flames were high, a neighbor approached him and yelled at him for setting a fire. Cemal carried what was left of her body to the forest and covered it in concrete. Police discover her “body” in the early hours of Tuesday, July 21, 2020. Pınar’s body was so decomposed that authorities were unable to establish a time or cause of death. Pınar’s death swept through her community, the media, and across the country like wildfire.

Femicide is increasing at such a rapid pace that Turkish women were unsurprised. In 2019, 474 women were murdered as a result of femicide, the majority of them were intimate partners or family members. This in and of itself is alarming, but there is a more troubling trend: males victimizing women. In reality, Cemal stated that it was her fault that he became furious and that he was unfaithful to his wife. Preparors are frequently given a slap on the wrist and a short sentence. In fact, it occurs so frequently in Turkey it is known as a tie reduction, in which a man appears in a suit and tie for his court appearance and blames the woman.  

As for Cemal, he made calls to his family and when his brother stopped by he told him that he was burning spoiled meat from the bar he owned.  His brother was arrested for destroying/tampering with evidence. Cemal was charged with aggravated murder and sentenced to life in prison. He did, however, try to seek a lighter sentence by claiming that he had been unjustly provoked. Cemal’s wife divorced him, changed her identity, and relocated to a new city. In any other circumstance, such boldness would have resulted in her death, especially if her ex-husband was not imprisoned.

Protests and marches were held in response to Pınar’s death, and organizers used black and white pictures of themselves to publish on social media. What is the significance of black and white? Because that is what is seen on the news and on missing person posters, the women were attempting to convey the message that this might be me tomorrow. Unfortunately, by the time it arrived in the United States, the value had shifted. The message was vague and focused on empowering women rather than raising awareness about femicides. This demonstrates that when we take part in something on social media, we should think about it and take a minute to learn about what we are participating in.