Turkey

Name and identifying details have been changed for privacy and protection.

Photography used for representational purposes only and the does not depict the story’s subject

Turkey
© UNFPA Turkey

In the early days of our marriage, my ex-husband did not allow me to use a mobile phone. It was not until after I had a child that he allowed me to use his phone in case of emergency. We shared one phone that he controlled. I only got my own phone with the help of my sister in the last months of my marriage.

My ex knew the password to my Facebook account and read my messages with relatives and friends. Whenever I received a male friend request, he would accuse me of having a relationship with this person or wanting one, which was not true.

After I told him I wanted a divorce, he opened a fake Facebook account for me using my personal information, adding male followers from my real account or choosing men randomly and sending them messages in my name so that he could check my activity.

"Not being monitored all the time makes me feel free."

He used WhatsApp to talk to both my friends and strangers as me, and said, “If we get divorced, I will share these screenshots with your family. I will disgrace you.” Even though the conversations were not mine, he laughed.

In our Muslim culture, it is considered inappropriate for a woman, married or single, to talk intimately to other men. Intimate [physical] contact outside of marriage is a crime. My husband’s conversations with other men I didn’t know, pretending to be me, made me afraid of other people's reactions. This is a matter of honour and dignity. Honour killings have been perpetrated against women who committed the behaviours my ex-husband falsely accused me of.

I told my family about the situation. I warned my friends on Facebook that I was not the person they were messaging with. But I still felt fear of being disgraced, and, when I encountered my relatives and friends, I felt anxiety about whether my husband had texted them from my account. This went on for a year.

ONLINE IMPERSONATION

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Zehra
Hi! Accept my friend request.
Zehra
Hi! I’m Zehra, how are you doing?
Zehra
Hello! Accept my friend request
REPORT FAKE ACCOUNT
© Karolina Grabowska
ONLINE IMPERSONATION

Creating a fake profile and assuming someone’s identity for nefarious purposes, including destroying someone’s reputation or threatening her safety.

UNFPA Turkey
© UNFPA Turkey

My family had forced me to marry this man against my will because his financial status was good. [Throughout the relationship], I was exposed to physical violence many times; once, he poured boiling water on my back.... I attempted suicide twice, once before the wedding then again five months after.

Finally, I took my children and settled in my family's house. They supported me. I was able to access health services whenever I needed. My social circle started to form again. Friends and relatives provided me with employment opportunities to take care of myself and meet the basic needs of my children.

Friends also directed me to UNFPA’s Women's Health Counselling Centre, where I learned about the divorce process and my legal rights. They also helped me learn about digital violence.

In the last year, there has been no violence. No pain. No evil. Not being monitored all the time makes me feel free. I no longer use social media as much as before.

I use the Internet mostly to improve myself and my psychological well-being.

76%

of women surveyed across the eight countries changed the way they used social media after experiencing abuse of harassment on those platforms.

–Amnesty International

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WHAT CAN I DO?

For everybody

do more

For technology companies

do better

For lawmakers and law enforcement

do right
Disrupt digital violence

Take Action

A virtual world free of violence is possible. UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, supports the right of all women and girls to live without fear of gender-based violence or abuse in all spaces, including online. Everyone plays a role in making this more than a hope but a reality.

WHAT CAN I DO?

For everybody:

DO more

Anyone who shares another’s intimate images without her consent – even if a sharer is not the original perpetrator – is committing violence against women. Let the disruption start with you. See people attacking, bullying or threatening someone online? Don’t join in. Post positive messages to counter the negative. Report the abuse to the technology platform. One cybermob attack survivor said she felt seen and supported by people who defended her.

For technology companies:

DO better

UNFPA joined the World Wide Web Foundation in its call to Facebook, Google, TikTok and Twitter to prioritize the safety of women online, holding them to the pledges made to do so during the 2021 Generation Equality Forum in Paris. But there are many more platforms. In the words of Thorn, which works to end online child sexual abuse, “We won’t achieve the goal of building an Internet that is safe until every platform with an upload button has adopted proactive detection measures.”

For lawmakers and law enforcement:

DO RIGHT

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, “In 64 of 86 countries, law enforcement agencies and courts appear to be failing to take appropriate  corrective actions to address online violence against women.” Lawmakers need to recognize the pervasive and prevalent nature of the violence and support legislative and regulatory responses that meet the needs of women and girls, including creation and resourcing of independent monitoring and regulatory bodies. For example, Australia’s Office of the E-Safety Commissioner is serving as a model for countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom in addressing online safety. Seeking justice should not have to be another traumatizing experience.