Thousands of Germans are mourning the death of 23-year-old student Tuğçe Albayrak, who was murdered after confronting a group of men harassing teenage girls in a McDonald’s bathroom.
Back on November 15, Albayrak was at a McDonald’s in Offenbach when she heard the screams of two teenage girls coming from the bathroom. The girls were reportedly being harassed by three men. Albayrak came to girls’ defence, confronted the men and bravely broke up the situation.
Things should have ended there but shortly after the incident, as Albayrak was leaving the McDonald’s one of the same men attacked her in the parking lot. That man has now been identified as Sanel M, an 18-year-old Serbian man who is currently under police custody. According to security camera footage released on Monday, Albayrak received blows to the head with a stone or baseball bat, she then hit her head again when she fell backwards on the pavement. The video also shows another man trying to hold Sanel back as be began attacking Albayrak, but his efforts unfortunately failed in the end.
Albayrak suffered severe brain injuries and fell into a coma shortly after. Her family finally decided to take her off life support on Friday on her 23rd birthday; she later succumbed to her injuries.
Thousands of Germans held candlelight vigils on Sunday to honour the young student who is being hailed an exceptional “role model.” In fact, over 130,000 people have signed a petition to award Albayrak with the national order of merit for her selfless act of courage.
“She will always remain a role model to us, our entire country mourns with you,” said German president Joachim Gauck. “Where other people looked the other way, Tugce showed exemplary courage and moral fortitude.” The president said he is currently checking into Albayrak’s eligibility for the award, one she undoubtedly deserves.
Now, let me just say one thing: Women are constantly criticized for not standing up for themselves or standing up against their harassers. But all it takes is one hard look at a story like this one to remind ourselves that women choose to stay silent out of fear and the repercussions of fighting back. Fear that unfortunately is not misplaced, especially in a world where male entitlement and misogyny still exists.
Why do victims of sexual assault come out years after the incident happened? Because of fear. Why don’t women stand up to catcallers? Because of fear. Would you have done what Tuğçe Albayrak did, run to the aid of two teenage girls being harassed by a group of men? As a women, I probably wouldn’t have. Not because I wouldn’t want to, but because of fear. Because the moment a woman demands to be treated like a human being against a group of men who feel entitled to harass her can be absolutely terrifying.
That’s what makes Albayrak’s actions so incredibly brave—she decided to stand up, even though the odds weren’t in her favour.
This is why feminism is so important. Both men and women deserve equal rights and opportunity, but most importantly they both deserve to be treated with respect. No woman should be afraid of doing what’s right because she fears for her life. I mean let’s face it, this attack was rooted in male entitlement and misogyny because one man didn’t get his way with two teenage girls. And until we start realizing that and stop dismissing these acts of violence, it will continue to happen.