Tell us where she’s buried, honour killing sister pleads
18/12/2009 The Times, Helen Nugent
Tulay Goren was 15 when she disappeared
The sister of a teenage girl who was murdered by her father to protect his family’s “honour” pleaded with him to reveal the whereabouts of her body after he was jailed for life yesterday.
Nuray Guler urged Mehmet Goren to “end the nightmares” and allow the remains of Tulay Goren, who was 15 when she disappeared a decade ago, to be given a decent burial.
Goren, a Turkish Kurd aged 49, killed his daughter after she rejected the customs of her homeland, embraced Western life and formed a relationship with an older man, bringing what he saw as disgrace on him and the rest of his family.
During the trial, which ended with Goren being told that he would serve at least 22 years in prison, jurors wept as Mrs Guler, 28, described how she lay awake at night wondering what had happened to her younger sister.
“In quiet moments during the day I ask myself if she suffered or knew what was in store for her,” Mrs Guler said. After a car crash three years ago when another sister, Hatice, died, the family had begun to wonder whether they were “cursed in some way”.
Goren remained impassive as his eldest daughter’s statement was read out and showed no emotion when Mr Justice Bean sentenced him after an 11-week trial.
Crucial to the prosecution’s case was testimony from Hanim Goren, 45, his wife and Tulay’s mother. For ten years she had been a “silent witness”, too frightened to say anything, but after the death of the second daughter, Hatice, and feeling that her life was over, Mrs Goren’s fear evaporated and, with her help, the police were able to piece together the circumstances of a sadistic murder of a young girl by the man she had looked to for love and protection.
To anyone not familiar with her home life, Tulay was an ordinary 15-year-old. Sometimes in trouble at school, she played truant and was caught smoking. She bickered with her sister over clothes and was known for her nice singing voice. With her slim frame and long brown hair she was noticed by boys and talked of the day that she would get married and leave home.
But behind the door of her house in Woodford Green, a suburb of East London, her life was anything but ordinary. After she was smuggled into this country from southeast Turkey in 1995, Tulay shrugged off her home country’s customs.
Her parents, who had also entered Britain illegally in the 1990s, expected their children to adhere to their culture’s strict customs. Women were seen and not heard. Expressing an opinion was rash; challenging a man’s decision was unthinkable.
The parents, both Alevi Muslims, made little effort to learn English and, for Goren in particular, assimilation was difficult. He was in and out of work. What employment he could find was limited to cleaning jobs in fish and chip shops and what money he had, including the family’s social security payments, was frittered away on gambling. By his own admission, he was violent towards his wife and children.
Tulay was desperate to find a way out. So, during the summer of 1998, she jumped at the chance of work experience at Techron Trading, a clothing factory in Hackney, East London. Within a few days Tulay had struck up a friendship with another Turkish Kurd, the factory manager, Halil Unal. The teenager confided in him. “She told me that her father tortured and beat her. She said to me, ‘Really, genuinely, I hate these people. I hate my house’,” he said
But Mr Unal, who was twice Tulay’s age and a Sunni Muslim, “was viewed in every sense as an unsuitable boyfriend and potential husband”, Jonathan Laidlaw, QC, for the prosecution, told the Old Bailey. By striking up a relationship with Mr Unal, Tulay was putting herself and her lover at terrible risk.
Professor Yakin Erturk, an expert on violence against women, told the jury that at the heart of the honour code was “a woman’s virginity, which determines her worth”. Tulay’s behaviour was viewed by her father as a stain on his family’s honour.
Goren agreed that they could marry, however, when Tulay turned 16 on March 8, 1999. While they waited to marry, Tulay went to live with her lover in a cramped flat overlooking Victoria Park in East London. She had been there just a few weeks when Goren discovered that another single man was living at the property and hauled Tulay home.
Afraid of what might happen next, Tulay tried to escape in the early hours of January 7 but the attempt was foiled by her father.
The next morning Goren told his wife to leave him alone with Tulay. As she left with two of the children, Goren told his eight-year-old son: “Tuncay, come let Tulay kiss you. This will be the last time you will see each other.” With that he closed the door.
Only Goren knows what happened next. What is clear is that he invited Mr Unal over. But shortly after 5pm, Tulay called her boyfriend. In a hushed voice, she told him it was a trap and hung up. Police believe that she saved his life. Only her father spoke to her again.
When Mrs Goren returned late the next day, her husband told her that Tulay had run away. He dismissed a deep wound and scratch marks on his hand, saying he had slipped on a banana skin while looking for his daughter. Two kitchen knives and the clothes line were missing, as well as a full roll of black bin liners. For the first time in 30 years of marriage, Goren had washed his own shirt. It still bore stains. There was no sign of Tulay.
Passing sentence yesterday, Mr Justice Bean told an expressionless Goren that he killed Tulay “simply because you regarded it as unacceptable that she, rather than you, should choose the man she wanted to marry. The term ‘honour killing’ is a convenient shorthand but it is a grotesque distortion of language. There is nothing honourable about such a hideous practice or the people who carry it out”.
Goren’s brothers, Ali and Cuma, were cleared of the murder charge. All three were cleared of a conspiracy to murder Mr Unal. Goren will be nearly 70 when he is eligible for parole.
Meanwhile, his family are worried what the future holds for them. In her statement, Mrs Guler explained what giving evidence against her husband had cost her mother. “In taking this action, she has confronted and accused the men of our family. No one should fail to realise what this means within our culture. These people do not forget.”
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