The Songbirds

September 17, 2020

By: Nicole Cohen

when the songbird stops singing, 

promise me to remember her tune.

she is the messenger of the killings,

lest she too is not immune.

from the ears of an onlooker,

her song is as sweet as honey.

too little seek to listen closely to her,

almost none see as many horrors as she.

after the news of several women’s deaths,

she always feared that she could be next.

perhaps she outed herself, with every laboured breath,

so the beginning of the end naturally started to take its effects.

before it gets better,

somehow, it must get worse.

one is foolish to believe they can outrun demons so easily,

she knows she was guilty, though only for having hope.

there’s no question her hunter had planned it all out vehemently,

for everything to spiral down such a never-ending, steep slope.

why must it be the poor songbird, or me,

any of the countless sisters we’ve never once met?

there will be no fantasizing how things could be,

when no one is trying to protect us yet.

so i never did find out,

if it’d actually get better.

i wish i could’ve heard the songbird sing once more,

just one final, open letter.

Author's Note

Recently, you may have seen the hashtag #ChallengeAccepted floating around social media. Many are unaware of the hashtag’s underlying context; an extension for women to call for solidarity on social media in order to bring attention to the femicide happening in Turkey. Femicide is defined by the Oxford dictionary as the killing of a woman or girl, in particular by a man and on account of her gender. The trend encourages people to post black and white photos using the hashtags #ChallengeAccepted, partnered also by the hashtag #İstanbulSözleşmesiYaşatır (Istanbul Convention Saves Lives). The black and white photos themselves simulate the media photos of murdered women in Turkey. Further concern also arises regarding the substantial increase in femicide reports within Turkey in recent years; The Independent reported that, according to femicide awareness initiative Kadın Cinayetlerini Durduracağız Platformu (We Will Stop Femicide Platform), at least 474 women were murdered by men in 2019 alone. Violence against women and so-called “honour” killings are said to be quite deeply rooted in Turkey, with The Guardian reporting that according to a 2009 study on prevention strategies, 42% of Turkish women aged between 15–60 had suffered some physical or sexual violence by their husbands or partners. A recent spark in outrage can be attributed to the murder of 27-year-old Pınar Gültekin by her ex-boyfriend, Cemal Metin Avci. This is yet another case that continues to emphasize the country’s shockingly high femicide rate and brings attention to the government’s efforts to roll back legislation designed to protect women from gender-based violence. Specifically, the Istanbul Convention is what’s at stake, a 2011 Council of Europe convention on gender-based violence and domestic violence, intended to serve as a groundbreaking legal framework that protects victims and effectively prosecutes offenders. While reading this poem, remember all the Turkish women and women worldwide who suffer for simply identifying as women. My hope is that not only will women continue to stand up for other women, but soon, everyone will.