A Ugandan woman who arrived in Istanbul a year ago to earn money to support her two children in her home country was raped and murdered earlier this month, according to a support network for female migrants.
Jesca Nankabirwa, 39, went missing on Sept. 6 after going to see an individual that had requested to meet her, according to the Women’s Group Without Borders. Already concerned about their inability to reach Nankabirwa, the woman’s friends began traveling from police station to police station after news reports emerged on Sept. 10 about the discovery of a woman’s body.
The friends eventually identified Nankabirwa’s remains at Yenibosna Hospital on Sept. 13.
According to her friends, Nankabirwa was raped by several people before her naked body was thrown out a window. At the same time, they said her head had been bruised and that there were deep cuts to her forehead.
The results from Nankabirwa’s autopsy are expected soon, while the Istanbul Prosecutor’s Office has opened an investigation into her death. The National Judiciary Informatics System, meanwhile, has registered her death as “deliberate,” while identifying an individual named E.D. as a suspect in the case.
Emel Coşkun of the Women’s Group Without Borders said it was essential that police conduct a thorough investigation into Nankabirwa’s death and determine who the woman last met before her death.
Coşkun also noted the precarious position of many migrants, noting that the woman’s friends feared deportation and were wary of approaching the police.
Kristen Biehl, an activist with the Women’s Group Without Borders, said migrant women were systematically subjected to harassment and sexual assault, according to the website of television channel İMC.
“In cases of harassment and sexual assault, there is a vulnerability that stems from being a woman, in addition to the fact that they are working without papers or documentation,” she said. “Migrant women know that they cannot go to the police under any circumstances because they are being employed without permission. Because of this lack of documentation and fear of being deported, most migrants remain silent in the face of these types of incidents. There must be a mechanism that provides migrant women with the ability to file complaints without fear.”
Nankabirwa was reportedly working at a textile factory in Sancaktepe’s Sarıgazi neighborhood for 900 Turkish Liras a month.
Members of the Ugandan community in Istanbul reportedly raised $7,000 over the last week to repatriate Nankabirwa’s body back home due to a lack of assistance on the matter from the Turkish state. The woman’s body was set to be returned to Uganda on Sept. 17 following a funeral in Şişli’s Kurtuluş neighborhood.
Istanbul has witnessed a growth in the number of African migrants in recent years, with many settling in neighborhoods such as Kurtuluş, Tarlabaşı in Beyoğlu and Aksaray in Fatih in a bid to earn money or as a way station on the road to Europe.