Shocked. Appalled. Sad. These were the emotions I felt when I read about Tugce Albayrak getting beaten to death after she defended a group of girls from harassment.
Born to Turkish parents and living in the town of Gelnhausen in Germany, Albayrak was studying to be a German and ethics teacher at the University of Giessen. In the early hours of November 15, Albayrak did what you hope any good citizen would do: she saw two teenage girls being harassed by three men and intervened. Her applaudable action has left her dead. Albayrak was attacked and beaten with a baseball bat when one of the men attacked her outside her car. She had severe brain damage and was hospitalized, soon falling into a coma. Doctors pronounced her brain dead on November 26 and her parents made the decision to remove her life support on November 28, which would have been her 23rd birthday. Can anything be more heartbreaking?
Her death has understandably left people in shock. There were candle-lit vigils in Berlin and other cities around Germany over the weekend. People from all over the world are taking to social media with messages for Albayrak, most of them calling her a “hero” and saying how courageous she was. A petition calling for her to be awarded the national order for merit posthumously has gathered more than 100,000 signatures.
But what is most disturbing to me is that we live in a society where standing up for something that shouldn’t happen in the first place can get you killed. And this didn’t happen in a dictatorship or a corrupt country, or one governed by laws and religions that subjugate women. This happened in ‘progressive’ Germany. Albayrak did a good thing, the right thing, but not a heroic thing. She stood up for girls getting unwanted male attention. That is commendable but that kind of behavior should also be the norm (and we shouldn’t be getting assaulted on bus stops during the day with people doing nothing). But instead it’s not the norm and Albayrak paid for it with her life. Trying to combat harassment against women has resulted in one of worst publicized (and I say publicized because many women die daily without it making the papers) cases of violence against women in recent times. Don’t let Albayrak’s death go in vein: stand up for harassment, abuse, violence, and misogyny whenever you can, however you can. If standing up for people in need becomes normalized behavior, then maybe it wouldn’t be something that can get you killed.
Title image source: The Independent