turkey memorial women killed
Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
November 17, 2020 ·  4 min read

There’s A Haunting Memorial In Turkey To Commemorate 440 Women Killed By Their Own Husbands Last Year

Violence against women is a global issue, but some countries have it worse than others. In Turkey, for instance, 42% of women over 15 years of age have experienced physical or sexual abuse. [1] One artist wanted to raise awareness of domestic violence and created an unbelievable memorial in Turkey.

He paid tribute to the women killed by domestic or sexual violence in his country in 2018. Mounting 440 pairs of high heels on a wall of a building in Istanbul, Vahit Tuna brought these silent crimes into the spotlight. 

440 Pairs of Shoes for 440 Victims 

Tuna had seen people bring awareness to this issue on social media but these posts left the public’s attention alarmingly quickly. He wanted to keep the awareness present at all times. 

“We are standing in a street now and maybe people are faced with a work of art for the first time, an open and bleeding wound for the very first time. I believe this has an impact,” said Tuna. “I think this (installation) creates awareness and is something that influences people and makes them think.” 

This artwork was inspired by the Turkish tradition of placing the shoes of someone recently deceased outside the front door. In cases of abuse, it’s unlikely these victims got that tribute. So Tuna gave it to them in a display that spans across 260 square meters. 

“Frankly, I do not feel safe on the streets and this view is really awful. There are 440 pairs of shoes here and it means that many lives have been lost in 2018. This is very upsetting,” said Turkish banker Serap Kilic. 

Another banker, Hilal Koseoglu, said: “As long as everybody remains silent, violence against women will increase and this violence is not just about murdering women but also suppressing and silencing them.” 

Read: Scotland becomes the first country in the world to add LGBTQI history to school curriculum

Raising Public Awareness

The report that discovered the incredible number of 440 women killed in 2018 was published by Kadin Cinayetlerini Durduracagiz Platformu (We Will Stop Femicide Platform); they hold records on murders. They also reported that 49 women were killed by men in just August 2019. [2] 

The shoes are indicative of female independence and empowerment, which he wishes were more part of Turkey’s reality. At least now his exhibit most definitely is. As he explained, “We wanted everyone passing by the road to see [the work]. This is why we did not want to host the exhibition in a closed area.” [1] 

He chose heels in particular over flats or the like since employed women tend to wear them. He uses them as a symbol of women who are independent, and not reliant on their spouses. [3] 

Hopefully, its message will spark conversations and change in Turkey and the world.  

Violence Against Women 

The United Nations describes violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.” 

Analysis done by The World Health Organization found that almost one third (30%) of all women have suffered physical and/or sexual violence from their partner. All over the world, about 38% of female murder victims were killed by their partners. It’s no surprise that domestic violence is more often men against women than the other way around. (Although women abusing men is also an important issue.) 

Risk factors for this kind of abuse includes: 

  • Lower levels of educations 
  • History of exposure to family violence and child maltreatment 
  • Antisocial personality disorder 
  • Toxic use of substances 
  • Beliefs or attitudes that condone violence 
  • Communities that give a high status to men and a lower one to women 

The consequences of domestic violence are far-reaching, with negative physical, sexual, reproductive, and mental health effects. For instance: 

  • Homicide or suicide 
  • Injuries  
  • Unintended pregnancies, induced abortions, gynecological problems, and STDs. 
  • Depression, PTSD, anxiety disorders, sleeping issues, eating disorders, and suicidal thoughts 
  • Gastrointestinal disorders, headaches, back pain, poor health overall, etc. 
  • Substance misuse and risky sexual behaviors appearing later in life 

With the rise of awareness for this issue, studies and programs are being created to respond and prevent further violence against women. Empowering women economically and socially, promoting good relationship skills, fighting toxic gender norms, and similar advocating instances can help create a world where Tuna’s display won’t be needed. [4] 

  1. “This Haunting Memorial in Turkey Commemorates the Women Killed by Their Husbands Last Year.” Matt Gilligan. Did You Know?  
  1. ” Artist displays 440 pairs of high heels for women murdered in Turkey in 2018.” Reuters. September 24, 2019 
  1. “There’s A Haunting Memorial In Turkey To Commemorate 440 Women Killed By Their Own Husbands Last Year.” Judita K. Bored Panda. 2019 
  1. “Violence against women.” The World Health Organization. November 29, 2017