Father of murder victim Ozgecan Aslan: 'A country woke up'

Ozgecan Aslan, 20, was murdered in Turkey last month. Her death sparked massive protests.

Story highlights

  • Ozgecan Aslan allegedly fought off a sexual assault before being killed
  • Her death triggered widespread protests, including one on International Women's Day

(CNN)Her murder shocked a nation, but according to the slain woman's father, it also woke Turkey up.

Ozgecan Aslan's body was found last month, burned and abandoned, just days after her family reported her missing.
    She allegedly fought off a sexual assault before being killed by the driver of a bus she'd taken to go home. Her death sparked widespread protests.
    "A country woke up," Aslan's father, Mehmet Aslan, told CNN in a phone interview. "There was no way for so many people to come together over a single killing. But, I know that my Ozgecan was sent for a reason. And as devastating it is, it was her part, her destiny to wake people up."
    Aslan, 20, was a first-year university student. She studied psychology.
    "My Ozge lived for peace," her father said. "For peace, love and beauty. She believed in a better tomorrow."

    'We must surrender to love'

    Since her death, hundreds of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets and online, demanding Turkey do more to protect women. They say the problem is cultural; it's also criminal.
    Bianet, a Turkish group that tracks violence against women, reports that at least 281 women were killed in Turkey in 2014 -- up 31% from the previous year.
    According to Hulya Gulbahar, a Turkish activist and women's rights lawyer, laws are irregularly applied.
    "In a majority of Turkey's female abuse cases, the perpetrators receive mitigations in their sentences due to court's detection of consent granted by the victim," Gulbahar said. "In some cases, wearing a miniskirt or some cleavage got the woman's rapist mitigation in his punishment, while in some cases the consent was attached to her wearing red."
    It's unclear what will happen in Aslan's case. Three suspects have been arrested in her death, Turkey's semiofficial news agency Anadolu has reported.
    The agency identified the main suspect as 26-year-old Ahmet Suphi Altindoken and said that he had confessed. Aslan reportedly fought him using pepper spray, which had been given to her by her mother.
    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.
    "We must surrender to love," he told CNN. "Otherwise, we all lose."

    'Ozgecan's screams have indeed been heard'

    Aslan's murder is similar in many ways to well-known case in India.
    There, a student was attacked by five men on a public bus in 2012. She was raped and later died from her injuries.
    Like Aslan's murder, her death triggered massive outrage and nationwide protests. And like Turkey, India has a serious problem when it comes to women's rights.
    Out of 142 countries, Turkey ranks 125th (India ranks 114th) on the World Economic Forum's 2014 gender gap index.
    On Sunday, some 3,000 women marched in Istanbul to mark International Women's Day, Anadolu reported. The female-only rally was dedicated in Aslan's memory.
    "Ozgecan's screams have indeed been heard. Maybe not that very instant, but later -- and in millions of hearts," said Mehmet Aslan.