Friday, September 08, 2006

A prominent Berlin women's rights lawyer and critic of Islam has closed her practice, saying her life is in danger

DW staff:

For years, Seyran Ates has been a prominent figure in Germany on account of her books and public engagements reinforcing her fight against forced marriage, headscarves, so-called honor killings, domestic violence and the subjugation of women in many Turkish and Kurdish families.

The 43-year-old German-Turkish lawyer, who was shot at by a Muslim man 20 years ago in Berlin's Kreuzberg neighborhood, has received numerous prizes over the years. Last year, Ates was named Germany's woman of the year for her unstinting battle for the rights of mainly Muslim women.

Given her reputation for toughness and bravery, Ates' recent announcement that she was closing her practice because she felt threatened has sent shockwaves through the German capital.

Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel reported that Ates, who has been insulted and threatened by the husbands and relatives of many Turkish women she has represented over the years, decided to wind up her work after another similar incident last June.

The Muslim husband of one of her clients, whom Ates was representing in divorce proceedings, assaulted his wife and tried to attack Ates opposite the courtroom where the case was being heard, the paper wrote.

"I'm withdrawing from professional life as a lawyer, my client is living in a women's shelter, but the assailant is running around scot-free," Ates told the paper, adding that "my life and that of my young daughter have priority."

A statement on Ates' Web site said: "It's once again clear to me how dangerous my work as a lawyer was and how little I was and still am protected as an individual."

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