In August 2006, I learned for the first time what a professional towing strap means. Twenty-year-old Jana Kavacova, who had been missing for days, was found buried in the industrial area of Dali. Her hands and feet were tied and bent backwards, and she wore a black nylon bag over her head. She had a black strap tied around her neck.
Panayiotis Nekatim, or Netzati, was charged with her kidnapping, rape and murder. He had been following and abducted her after her work in Ayia Napa. The girl had desperately tried to contact a friend, but then her traces disappeared. He tortured her for a few days and then killed her.
I remember that I had thought at the time that the word strap was a man’s word. Harness and hooks. Strapping for load support. Towing strap … mooring strap. A durable harness for professional use. A male strap.
Turkish Cypriot Panayiotis, a married man and father, who had been previously accused of violence, was sentenced to life imprisonment in August 2007. Three months later he managed to escape from the central prison. The media pointed out that the escape showed “professionalism” as he was held in ward 4, the maximum security wing, and had a 24-hour armed guard. Turkish Cypriot media reports had suggested he was a MIT agent, or a double one. He remains at large and decorates the top wanted list not only of the Cypriot authorities but also Interpol. Since then, the strap reminds me of Jana.
A few days ago a 35-year-old Ukrainian woman was found dead, gagged with a towel, half-naked and tied with a cord. Around her neck was plastic rope and cloth. The wanted man is 25-year-old Erkan Alkan, a political asylum seeker. As the new horror unravels, it appears that this femicide leads to a prostitution ring.
The murder spree record is still held by the domestic serial killer, Metaxas the horror red lake case, which highlighted the loopholes in police procedures for missing persons cases and caused political upheaval (for a while).
From strap to strap, many femicides have been interspersed. The pregnant Julia Oporok and her three-year-old daughter Victoria by the hairdresser, the two Russian women in Amiantos by the Syrian man who “lost his mind” because they “mocked” him, a Belarusian woman, mother of three children, by her Lithuanian ex who “couldn’t stand the separation”. Each number corresponds to a woman, while during the pandemic, the numbers increased worldwide. Women who lost their lives to men who exercised power over them.
The gender dimension of this violence was recognised in July 2022. By 38 votes for and four votes against, the House passed femicide into law, which carries a penalty of life imprisonment.
But two decades and some centuries later, many men do not take a woman’s “no” calmly or do not tolerate that a woman is entitled to do what she likes. If the heinous crimes are not exempt from patriarchy and hyper-sexism, if they continue in the same patterns, with the same fury, the same harness, it means there is still much that needs to be done. In 2023 education and the church still want the girl to be good, not to provoke, not to play with the strap.
We also learned that human trafficking has mutated. That the horror women experience and the unbearable pain of their families is disproportionate to the punishment. Femicides – still underlined by the computer speller as unknown words – are still considered isolated and secondary crimes.
As long as Panayiotis is walking around carefree – some said he was seen in the north as long as we, the authorities, public opinion, the media, treat the case as solved, as long as interest and analysis stops after the court decision, as long as our voracious eye is satiated with the gruesome details in the headlines, the crimes of femicide will continue unabated. These girls, these women, the names of whom we don’t even know how to spell right, will not be vindicated. But maybe, maybe they are somewhere watching, hoping that we learn something from their sacrifice.