‘I have made peace with the bullet in my head’

Mutlu’s family is proud. This Kurdish woman from the Turkish province of Diyarbakır was just 19 years old when she entered the finals of a nationwide singing competition. The media celebrated the teenager, whose name seemed to set the agenda: ‘Mutlu’ means ‘happy’ in Turkish.

Today, Mutlu looks glumly at the TV footage. ‘I sang my own lament,’ she recalls in the documentary ‘My Name is Happy’ (Turkish: ‘Benim Adım Mutlu’) about the Kurdish folk song that helped her to make it to the 2015 finals. She was preparing for her next performance when a man shot her in the head – because she had previously rejected his marriage proposal. Mutlu survived the attempted femicide, but she has been in a wheelchair ever since. The injuries she suffered were so severe that she had to relearn how to eat and speak.

My Name is Happy

Mutlu was picked up by her family, and her older sister Dilek in particular was there for her. Until the supposedly unimaginable happened again: Dilek was shot by a man with whom she had previously been in a relationship.

Despite the grief for her sister and her shattered dreams, Mutlu has not given up and is working tirelessly on her recovery. Today, she is a women’s rights activist with 1.9 million followers on TikTok. It is her window to the world, where she exchanges ideas with her community, which admiringly refers to Mutlu as the ‘Iron Woman’ because of the bullet in her head. She has also written a protest song. It’s grittier than her old songs. Trap beats mixed with traditional elements reflect Mutlu’s anger about patriarchal conditions.

With impressively layered everyday scenes interspersed with archival footage from the talent show and news broadcasts, this award-winning documentary follows Mutlu and her family as they come to terms with the horrific events that have befallen them. The intimate insights provided by directors Nick Read and Ayse Toprak demonstrate one thing above all: Mutlu’s strength.

By Gesine Gerdes

In an unhappy life, my name was 'happy.' But now my name has a new meaning for me: survivor.
Mutlu Kaya
Mutlu Kaya

Infobox: Femicides

Worldwide, a femicide occurs every 11 minutes

Femicide refers to the killing of a woman due to her gender or due to certain ideas of femininity or the role that women are supposed to play but do not. According to the UN, more than half of all women killed in 2021 were killed by an (ex-)partner or family member.

Turkey has one of the world’s highest femicide rates. And yet, head of state Erdoğan decided to withdraw his country from the Istanbul Convention, an international treaty to combat gender-based violence against women. Never-ending patriarchal violence and inadequate judicial responses mobilised protests across the country.

However, femicide is a global problem that also occurs in Germany. Here, a man kills his (ex-)partner every three days on average. The term femicide was coined by Diana E. H. Russell, a feminist activist and sociologist. While the term has been used in the United States since the 1990s, it has been less common in Germany. Often, femicides are referred to in the media as ‘family tragedies’ or ‘dramas of jealousy’ – and thereby trivialised. A group of journalists, a survivor of a femicide attempt and other experts have therefore published a guide for reporting femicides.

After all, the media and their choice of words often influence how we perceive and deal with an event or an act.And the judiciary also plays a role: femicide is not yet a separate criminal offence in Germany. Although the government agreed in its coalition agreement that violence against women would be punished more severely in the future, there is no mention of femicide as a form of murder.

By Jana Sepehr