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Missing journalism student found brutally murdered: report

Azra Gülendam Haytaoğlu

A 21-year-old journalism student who went missing in the southern Turkish province of Antalya last week was found brutally murdered on Monday, the private DHA news agency reported.

A man identified as Mustafa Murat Ayhan, 48, was detained in connection with the murder of Azra Gülendam Haytaoğlu, who was sexually assaulted, strangled to death and dismembered. Her body parts were buried in a suitcase in a forest in Antalya, according to the report.

Ayhan, a civil engineer who works in the real estate sector, was the last person called by Haytaoğlu, according to phone records. He was detained over the weekend but was released after telling the police that he and Haytaoğlu had dinner together, walked and then left each other.

Police surveillance and footage from security cameras prompted the police to detain Ayhan again in connection to the young woman’s murder. Ayhan reportedly confessed during interrogation and then showed the police the area where he buried the woman’s body in Antalya’s Kepez district.

Haytaoğlu reportedly quarreled with her sister after learning that she had tested positive for the coronavirus last Wednesday. Her sister, Ezgi, reprimanded her for not paying more attention to her health. Azra left the house following the argument, saying she wanted to get some fresh air. When she was called by her sister, Azra told her she met with a “brother” in a cafeteria who had recovered from COVID, that he understands her and that she would spend the night at his house. Her sister was unable to reach Azra after this conversation.

Haytaoğlu was a third-year student at Akdeniz University in Antalya. The university released a message of condolence to her family while demanding the harshest possible punishment for the perpetrator of the murder.

Azra’s aunt, Mine, told DHA that Azra chose to study journalism to be the voice of women who are subjected to violence and was taking an active part in projects to raise awareness about domestic violence.

Violence against women and femicide are serious problems in Turkey, with daily media coverage of the issue.

In 2020, 300 women were murdered, and the rate shows no sign of slowing, with 79 women killed in the first three months of 2021, according to the We Will Stop Femicide Platform.

Despite widespread violence against women, Turkey withdrew in July from an international treaty, the Istanbul Convention, aimed at protecting women against violence after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan issued a decree on March 20 that pulled the country out of the convention, which requires governments to adopt legislation prosecuting perpetrators of domestic violence and similar abuse as well as marital rape and female genital mutilation. Erdoğan’s move sparked protests across Turkey and attracted global condemnation.

The Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence is an international accord designed to protect women’s rights and prevent domestic violence in societies and was opened to signature by member countries of the Council of Europe in 2011.

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