Threats Halt Woman Lawyer Who Fought Forced Marriages

Kate Connolly, Telegraph (UK), September 6, 2006

A prominent Berlin lawyer has gone underground after receiving death threats for defending Muslim women who have been forced into marriage.

Seyran Ates, 43, a women’s rights advocate, was named Germany’s woman of the year in 2005 and has repeatedly spoken out against forced marriage, headscarves and honour killings. She said she had closed her practice as she could not operate safely.

Miss Ates said police had refused to protect her despite threats against her life, including a shooting incident in which a colleague was killed and she was seriously injured.

Her withdrawal from public life as one of the country’s most outspoken critics of the subjugation of Muslim women has been called “alarming” by politicians and has sparked debate across the political spectrum.

Miss Ates, a Turkish Kurd who moved to Germany when she was six, has been the repeated target of insults and attacks by the families of many Turkish and Kurdish women in Germany, whom she has represented over more than two decades.

Last week she was threatened again by the husband of one of her clients, who attacked his wife and Miss Ates outside the courtroom where a case against the man was being held.

“It’s once again clear to me how dangerous my work is and how little I was and still am protected as an individual. A lot has to change,” she wrote on her website.

“My life and that of my young daughter have priority”, she told a newspaper

Police denied that they had been approached by Miss Ates for protection.

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