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Tragedy draws Turkish 'Men Against Violence'
Photo: DPA

Tragedy draws Turkish 'Men Against Violence'

Published: 06 Jun 2012 16:02 GMT+02:00
Updated: 06 Jun 2012 16:02 GMT+02:00

The killing of a mother-of-six by her mentally ill husband in Berlin this week prompted hundreds of men, mostly with a Turkish background, to gather at her house to speak out against domestic abuse. Jessica Ware went along.

An anonymous courtyard in the Kreuzberg district was filled on Tuesday evening with a mix of mourners and demonstrators – it was here that Orhan S. threw parts of his wife Semanur’s body after killing her on the roof.

Those gathered lit candles and laid flowers on the ground in remembrance, but the talk was also of prevention. Many of the people there were wearing T-shirts bearing the slogan "Men Against Violence" above the image of a bushy moustache.

“Unemployment, drugs, poverty, they’re leading people to depression and violence,” said Ali Baba, 51, who helped organise the gathering. He works with community group Aufbruch Neukölln! - “Neukölln Awake!” which runs projects to try to prevent and stop domestic violence, as well as working with victims.

The horrors which took place on the roof and the attention they grabbed across the country have inadvertently given frustrated men from Germany’s migrant community a box on which to stand and decry an all too often hidden pandemic.

Baba has been working with Aufbruch Neukölln! for the past six years, helping men to fight drug addiction and raising awareness and rejection of domestic abuse.

Wider impact on the community

He, like others who turned up that evening, is concerned by the wider impact that Semanur’s killing has on the city’s Muslim and migrant people.

“We know that he was shouting 'Allahu Akbar' from the balcony, which means God is great in Arabic,” said Baba. “But what he did was nothing to do with God, Islam forbids murder and this has to be understood.”

Mourners had laid large photos of Semanur on the ground along with the candles and flowers – and hand-written placards reading, “Never turn away from help” and “We are shocked by so much violence”.

Heval K. told The Local that he had known the 32-year-old suspect Orhan S. loosely for the past 20 years. They had mixed in the same social circles. “I saw him about two weeks ago, he looked ill, something was clearly wrong.”

Indeed Orhan S. was known to have had problems with depression and schizophrenic episodes and is now being held in a psychiatric institute.

’It was about mental illness, not Islam’

“That is what this was about, mental illness, not Islam,” the 26-year-old added. An animated young Kurd, he explained that he was here “out of solidarity” and to help spread the word that domestic abuse is not a problem confined to Berlin's immigrant circles.

“It's a problem everywhere, the difference is that the German media make a much bigger deal out of it when they can connect it to Muslims,” he said. His friend nodded beside him. “The media desperately needs to be more objective.”

He, like Baba, believes that raising awareness about domestic abuse within Germany’s migrant communities could help not only them, but encourage German men to speak out too and even aid relations between different groups.

“Mixing with Germans is hard; girls have turned me down before because they think I could be violent. And when a man throws a woman's head off a balcony this only serves to widen the divide.”

Pointing to the group of Turkish pre-teens that have gathered behind him – all wearing red and green “Men Against Violence” T-shirts, Heval said, “We don't want young people growing up in this kind of atmosphere. The boys nod, the youngest of the group chews on sweets being handed out by one of the women present.

“We just want to prove that not all of us are like this, and the sheer cruelty that happened here has left us truly saddened,” he added.

Anger at the violence and its circumstances

Groups of men from Aufbruch Neukölln! young and old, of both German and migrant descent stand side by side for photos. Neighbours greet each other with hugs. The atmosphere seemed to contain a certain subdued anger – for what had happened in this case, and the circumstances surrounding it.

Away from the crowd, 43-year-old Duran Korkmaz surveyed the scene. Speaking in perfect English he lamented the high unemployment and poverty levels in Berlin.

“Mental illness is not a taboo in the Turkish community, but I think the problem is more of a class thing,” he said.

“No matter where you come from I believe that if you are in a lower social class, depression has more of a stigma.”

Korkmaz, a dentist, is one of the Aufbruch Neukölln! volunteers running a helpline for Turkish men struggling with violent urges. “We try to de-escalate the situation,” he said.

The three placards on the floor appeared to offer a quiet message to the women present – have the strength to speak out against domestic abuse and try to prevent the fate of Semanur S. from being repeated.

Jessica Ware (jessica.ware@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

17:14 June 6, 2012 by Edin
According to the Bundeskriminalamt in 2011 there where exactly:

-2.174 murders

-7.539 rape cases

-139.091 Serious assault cases

-236.478 Drug cases.....etc.

Now can someone explain me how come only those which are even remotely related to Muslims and Islam get such exposure in German media and especially The Local??? Is one lunatic so much more important than any other of those 2174 just for shouting AllahuAkbar???

The Local editors, would you please be so king to enlighten me?
18:40 June 6, 2012 by Erwin Mahnke
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
19:04 June 6, 2012 by joysonabraham
@Edin

Look inwards and try to correct yourself rather than finding solace in what others did wrong or what others saw more. when there is no more of such stuff people won't see anything anymore and peace.
19:38 June 6, 2012 by Englishted
¦#39;It was about mental illness, not Islam¦#39;

Totally agree ,sad case and I hope the children recover and find happiness in the rest of their lives.
19:41 June 6, 2012 by Jerr-Berlin
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
20:46 June 6, 2012 by Leo Strauss
All of this is just off the hook. This cat and the Canadian porn star. Human life seems to have very little value anymore. Is the Psychopathy of our leaders trickling down into the street and unleashing this? Ever read `American Psycho`? Its much better than the movie. The killer wants to be caught and is crying out for recognition the whole time but everyone else is just too self-absorbed. Maybe we aren`t listening. Is anyone still freaked out by these acts?

Was it always like this?

Gonna go push some heavy German Möbel up against my door. :(
17:27 June 8, 2012 by tadchem
The flip side of this is that there are societies in which this kind of behaviour is tolerated, and parhaps to some extent encouraged. Granted, most of those societies collapsed when 'literacy' was introduced, but not all of them. Some current 'societies' still discourage literacy among women to keep them away from ideas that might threaten the status quo - ideas such as the one that 'honor killings' are wrong.
00:19 June 9, 2012 by schmuck281
Ali Baba? Ali Baba?

Are you kidding me?
13:39 June 9, 2012 by AlexR
Tragedy draws Turkish 'Men Against Violence'

Better late than never.
15:19 June 9, 2012 by Bruno53
Unemployment or belonging to some religion is NO excuse for ugly crimes like this. Punish this guy NOW!
06:48 June 10, 2012 by soros
Leo Strauss asked "Was it always like this?" concerning the incidents of violence in the news: the answer is that it was far worse throughout history. And don't forget 1945 with the mass rapes and murders of women in Berlin by the advancing Russian Army. Yes, it was like this. But, according to prof. Steven Pinker, in the West and in America life has become less violent, even with domestic violence,than ever before as far as the records indicate. We needn't be so pessimistic.
18:01 June 10, 2012 by Eagle in NYC
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
23:15 June 10, 2012 by sirona
@Eagle in NYC, I do not know exactly where you get your information but I'd say that it's definitely not from the so-called "moderate" Muslims. First of all, there are innumerable interpretations of any religious teaching in Islam. There are as many different believes regarding how you should live your life or what the Qur'an is talking about as there are Muslims.

Secondly, the Qur'an does mention that killing humans is a terrible sin in quite a number of different passages as well as stating that murder of a human is equivalent to the murder of all humanity (5:32). There is also an incredible amount of debate on the literal translation of the passages regarding violence against women in the modern Islamic community. I have read 2 different tafsirs of the Qur'an and still all I remember about actual "violence" in the books are regarding (depending on the translation) what to do when your wife is doing evil things/cheating on you, and the suggestions do not in any way include cut her off into small pieces and go bats**t crazy and throw them out the window. So you can have a look at the "friendly" teachings of Islam and the Qur'an or alternatively, you can focus on the really unfriendly, non-modern parts of a 1400 year old book and blame all the contemporary Muslims for its contents.

Finally, I think if you really read the Qur'an and/or have conversations with more moderate Muslims, you may change your ideas about how the book is just an evil downgrade of all the awesomeness that was in the Bible/Torah. It is, in the end, a different book of a different religion and I, personally, find it to be a much more abstract, less humanized version of the aforementioned religions, and also to be less influenced by the over-simplified paganistic believes. I like that the Qur'an seems to follow in the middle Eastern tradition of mystic religions, which is perhaps the reason why they did not include a list of 10-steps to heaven for the common people.
17:54 June 12, 2012 by DickShawnsDiction
@Edin:

You have a very good point, of course, but what is mere logic and fairness against the overwhelming (and deeply addictive) pleasure of Xenophobia? Also, considering the fact that the gentlemen under discussion was "mentally ill", how can his case be used as a lens through which to view anything other than mental illness? Ah, but that's just logic again, rearing its boring head.

Yes and ask yourself what the "Local" is really all about... is it to bring you "news" or to aid in creating a certain... mood...?
23:21 June 16, 2012 by cliveklg
sirona "I think if you really read the Qur'an and/or have conversations with more moderate Muslims"

Is that code for we'll skip over the passages that are reprehensible?

But then the Bible is no less offensive in many ways.
13:14 November 18, 2012 by roundabout321
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
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