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“Iron Woman” is the name given to Mutlu Kaya by her almost two million TikTok followers, due to the bullet in her brain. She is a social media star, a heroic figure to her followers. But this isn’t how she wanted to find fame.

In May 2015, aged 20, Mutlu was a finalist on the Turkish equivalent of Britain’s Got Talent. As a little girl, she used to sing into her hairbrush in front of the mirror, pretending to be a popstar, and now it looked as if her dream might come true. “I was so excited I could hear my heart,” she recalls.

But, days after appearing on the TV show, the future she had imagined was brutally snatched from her when a jilted suitor tried to kill her. Mutlu was shot in the head and spent just under two months in intensive care, her family camping in the hospital car park outside to stay near her.

Turkish singer Mutlu Kaya was shot by an ex boyfriend

Her story made headlines around the world. Eight years on, she is unable to use her hands and uses a wheelchair, and the little walking she can manage is slow and stilted. The bullet remains lodged inside her brain, a permanent reminder of her ordeal, too risky to remove.

In a cruel twist of fate, her older sister, Dilek was murdered three years ago by a man claiming to be her boyfriend. According to the Turkish campaign group We Will Stop Femicide, some 334 women lost their lives as a result of gender violence in 2022, and 245 died suspiciously.

Dilek was shot and killed the day after her 35th birthday, in March 2020. “It hit me harder than the bullet,” Mutlu says.

Turkish singer Mutlu Kaya was shot by an ex boyfriend - pictured with her sister Dilek
Mutlu (left) pictured with her older sister Dilek

Today, she still wants her voice to be heard but she is no longer singing traditional Turkish folk. Instead, she has recorded a protest track, Resurrection, a Turkish trap song in which she sings of her hope that “the cruel ones will pay the price one day”. On TikTok, she is fighting for change; for harsher penalties and for violence against women in Turkey to be taken more seriously.

Mutlu is one of eight siblings, six girls and two boys, and her family comes from the small Ergani district of Diyarbakir, a conservative, Kurdish-majority city in southeastern Turkey. She speaks no English, so we communicate through a translator on a video call. Dressed in a brown spotted blouse, she looks more formal than in the TikToks in which she is often beautifully made-up, wearing bright colours. Her long, dark hair, which reaches to the backs of her knees, is pulled loosely behind her.

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She first met Veysi Ercan, “the man who messed up all my life”, when she was 14 and he was in his 20s. She thought he was a gentleman at first, but over time her opinion changed. When he asked her to marry him, she said no, sending him “crazy”.

Turkish singer Mutlu Kaya was shot by an ex boyfriend

When she filmed the TV show in Istanbul, some 1,400km (869 miles) from her home, he also made the journey. “He came to the studios and said, ‘if you let her join the show, I will kill you all’. He was always calling and threatening me. ‘You are mine or you will be dead’. After I took part in the contest, he became more jealous. I think he felt like if she is successful on TV, [he] won’t be able to control her.”

With just a few days until the final, Mutlu had been rehearsing when Ercan turned up to find her at Dilek’s home, after bombarding her with messages. Outside, he pulled out a gun and shot her through a glass door. The next thing she remembers is waking up in hospital. “I opened my eyes and I was in bed, totally immobile. I had to use nappies, which was very hard.”

In 2016, Ercan was convicted over the shooting and sentenced to 15 years in jail. There have been reports of his release under surveillance, but it is unclear exactly when that may be. With time served before his sentencing – which counts for double – it could be in the next few years.

Mutlu says this is one of the hardest things to deal with. “This man took my hands and feet from me. He should have got a life sentence. The penalties are not strong enough. I want to keep the topic of violence against women on the agenda. I always get positive feedback, especially from women. They tell me, ‘Mutlu, you are our hope’.”

Turkish singer Mutlu Kaya (centre), who was shot by an ex boyfriend, pictured with her sister Songul and mother Hanim
Mutlu (centre), relies on the support of one of her other sisters, Songul, and mother Hanim

According to the World Health Organisation, almost a third (32%) of women and girls in Turkey aged between 15 and 49 have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from a partner in their lifetime, based on data collated between 2000 and 2018. This is the highest percentage in Europe and West Asia, for countries where data is available. By contrast, the average for Europe is 23%.

Incidents of femicide and violence against women are said to have risen in recent years. In 2021, there were protests after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pulled out of the Istanbul Convention, an international accord designed to protect women from domestic violence.

Hundreds of women protested against the decision to pull out of the Istanbul Convention
Hundreds of women protested against the decision to pull out of the Istanbul Convention in 2021

Mutlu is sharing her story in a new documentary, My Name Is Happy, so-called because “mutlu” means “happy” in English. In one extraordinary scene, she sits and watches as a doctor shows her a scan of the bullet inside her. She has made peace with it. It sounds strange, she says, but sometimes she talks to the foreign object inside her head. “Often I have strong headaches. I ask her not to make me feel so bad and cause so much pain.”

Since the shooting, the support Mutlu has found on social media has sustained her in her darkest moments. She shares everything from updates on her treatment to touching family moments and singing clips. In the documentary, we see footage of her speaking to other women sharing their stories of violence and femicide.

In 2022, her sister’s killer received a life sentence, which he is appealing, according to the programme. Despite her disabilities, Mutlu made sure she was at the court for the hearing.

She still loves singing but it is campaigning that helps her cope. “In Turkey, many people play the three monkeys: deaf, blind and mute,” she says. “I want other countries and communities to hear what happened. I want everyone in England to hear my voice – and I ask them to add theirs.”

Her name may mean “happy”, but for her it now has a different meaning, as she says in the documentary. “When I say Mutlu now, it means to be mature, to be a woman who has suffered a lot.”

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Left-wing Labour MP hits out after losing selection battle – as party leadership accused of ‘purging socialists’




Left-wing Labour MP hits out after losing selection battle - as party leadership accused of 'purging socialists'

A left-leaning Labour MP claimed she faced “unacceptable obstacles” after losing a selection battle for a new seat in Wales.

Beth Winter said she would be “taking advice and soundings” on her next steps after Gerald Jones, a Labour frontbencher, was announced as the candidate for Merthyr Tydfil and Upper Cynon.

Proposed boundary changes in Wales mean the two MPs’ constituencies would effectively be merged into one – setting up the two-way contest between them.

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The controversy comes amid a row over the decision to block left-wing Labour mayor Jamie Driscoll from running for another role in the North East.

Momentum, the grassroots left-wing organisation that supports Labour, accused the party’s leadership of “taking a sledgehammer to the democratic rights of local Labour members in order to purge socialists and instal [Keir Starmer] loyalists”.

Mr Driscoll said he had not ruled out taking legal action against the party, with Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and his counterpart in the Liverpool City Region, Steve Rotheram, claiming the move did not seem “democratic, transparent and fair”.

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In a statement, Ms Winter said she was “disappointed by this very close result and the unjust manner in which it came about, which leaves major questions outstanding”.

She said: “In this contest, I sought reselection as Labour’s candidate on a platform of solidarity with striking rail workers, nurses and teaching staff, all of who I have been proud to stand with on the picket line.

“I have campaigned for properly funded public services paid for by taxing the rich, an extension of workers’ rights including a £15 per hour living wage, the renationalisation of our public services and a ‘green new deal’ to deliver a jobs-led economic recovery.

Beth Winter
Beth Winter (centre right) said she ‘campaigned for properly funded public services’

“However, unacceptable obstacles were placed in the way of this grassroots campaign, undermining the democratic process.”

Describing the “obstacles” she faced, Ms Winter claimed the “online only process” was “bulldozed through” in a matter of weeks without any face-to-face hustings.

She added: “This was not a fair contest, and I will be taking advice and soundings in the days ahead about my next steps.”

Ms Winter has been MP for Cynon Valley since 2019 and is a member of the Socialist Campaign Group parliamentary caucus.

She had previously expressed concern that too much of the contest was online.

Commenting on the case, veteran left-wing MP John McDonell said there were questions to be answered and called the result a “huge setback for our movement”.

He tweeted: “Beth Winter is a principled, incredibly hard working, socialist MP, so this is a huge setback for our movement. In this dignified statement, she shows her commitment to her constituents & the cause of Labour. Questions need to be asked about forcing thru of a solely online process.”

Mr Jones has represented Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney since 2015 and serves as shadow Wales minister.

He thanked Ms Winter for a “comradely campaign” and said he was “incredibly grateful that Labour members have chosen me to be the candidate for Merthyr Tydfil & Upper Cynon”.

“Britain is crying out for a UK Labour Government and I’ll work flat out to make Keir Starmer our next prime minister,” he said.

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Putin’s dam attack is a dangerous escalation that takes the war in an even more perilous direction




Putin's dam attack is a dangerous escalation that takes the war in an even more perilous direction

The breach of the Nova Kakhovka dam is most worrying for what it says about the mind of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his generals – and their capacity for dangerous escalation.

It takes the war in an even more perilous direction.

The military impact is likely to be temporary. Armies blow dams or use them to unleash floodwaters for tactical advantage.

The Soviets and the Germans both did it in the Second World War.

But the gains generally do not hold. Water drains away, the ground dries out.

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Ben Barry, a land war senior fellow at the International Institute of Strategic Studies, said: “It could set back any assault river crossing for a couple of weeks.

“Difficult to tell for how long. But only once the water subsides and the ground dries out will Ukraine have the same chance of a river crossing as it did before the flood.”

And he believes an attack across the swollen Dnipro is not out of the question even now.

“It’s not impossible to do an assault river crossing across a river that’s in full flood. It’s just more difficult,” he said.

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Kherson main square ‘awash with water’

The Russians have blamed the Ukrainians for the attack, but most analysts have dismissed that as unlikely to impossible.

The Russians have a proven track record for accusing the other side of doing what they have themselves done. And the Russians have most to gain. Up to a point.

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The breach benefits the Russians by reducing the length of the frontline it has to defend and allowing it to focus attention in the east, but not indefinitely.

And it has blowback for the Russians too, flooding some of the defensive positions they have dug in on the southern bank since retreating there last August.

So temporary gain, some self-harm and all the opprobrium that comes with carrying out yet another war crime.

Where is the margin in that for Vladimir Putin? It looks rash and premature. A disproportionate and irrational act.

But that may be the point.

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In war, it can pay to do the crazy thing, to look unhinged and keep your enemy guessing at your next act of madness.

Putin excels in scare tactics and knows the dam blast makes him look more dangerous.

If Russia was irresponsible enough to blow the dam and unleash such destruction for limited advantage, what will it do next, planners in Kyiv and the West will be asking.

The fear now is for the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. The dam breach endangers the supply of water to its cooling systems. Could Russia now sabotage the plant to change the course of the war?

The destruction of the dam undoubtedly changes the risk calculus in handling Russia, but correctly calibrating it will need cool heads so it is not overdone.

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Ukraine war: Major dam attack

Putin has, after all, indulged in nuclear sabre-rattling for much of this war.

It has weighed on the minds of Ukraine’s allies and made them more timid in arming Kyiv.

But so far analysts say his nuclear bluster is just that.

FILE PHOTO: A view shows the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict outside Enerhodar in the Zaporizhzhia region, Russian-controlled Ukraine, March 29, 2023. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko//File Photo
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Pic: File

The nuclear option

There is no sign of Putin starting the lengthy process of bringing tactical warheads out of storage and deploying them.

And any disaster at Zaporizhzhia threatens Russia most.

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The prevailing winds would be most likely to carry the fallout east across the Russian border.

The Russians have shown stunning disregard for the welfare of their own soldiers but a radioactive cloud over their defensive positions and logistics lines would be challenging to say the least.

What we can say for sure is this war has swung again in a more unpredictable direction and the longer it goes on, the more such lurches are likely to happen.

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Elderly Ukrainians weep after escaping floodwaters and Russian fire




Elderly Ukrainians weep after escaping floodwaters and Russian fire

There was a steady stream of boat landings throughout the day in Kherson city in southern Ukraine as the rescue efforts were ramped up to reach those stranded by floodwaters.

The water levels rose about 11 feet in about 24 hours according to emergency services, with some areas reaching a depth of 17 feet.

It meant those who had stayed in their homes overnight awoke to find themselves stranded the day after the destruction of the enormous Nova Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine.

The Ukrainian president said the priority was evacuating those trapped in their homes and providing fresh drinking water to an area where they predict there are going to be serious supply challenges in the very near future.

We watched as a flotilla of rescue boats serviced by police, troops and eager volunteers searched the newly flooded streets of Kherson.

Amphibious vehicles like the Ukrainian-made Sherp were brought in with its huge, specialised inflatable wheels to try to help in the rescue attempts.

It turned out to be of less use than small rubber dinghies which have been forced to manoeuvre their way through broken electrical lines, submerged trees and trailing branches to try to reach trapped residents.

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“Turn around, it’ll be easier,” volunteer Mykola urged one of the pensioners he was rescuing from the third floor of an apartment block.

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A rescue effort is under way in Kherson
A rescue effort is under way in Kherson

The two floors downstairs are now utterly submerged. “I can’t go inside my home at all,” one resident shouted to our boat, “The water is way over our heads in there now”.

Mykola tells us there are still a lot of people stranded after believing the waters wouldn’t rise so high.

The predictions are the levels are likely to go up a few inches more before they hope they will start to recede – but it could take a week for them to go down entirely.

Until then it is going to be difficult to assess the long-term impact of this catastrophic dam burst – which the Russian authorities are continuing to deny responsibility for.

Stranded elderly people who lived alone have had to be rescued
Stranded elderly people who lived alone have had to be rescued

But Vladimir Putin’s enemies are in no mood to listen to his protestations with the United Nations, America and European countries all lining up to blame him.

The US admitted it did not have any firm evidence but Western officials seem to be basing their assumptions on the fact the dam has been largely under the control of Russian forces since the beginning of the war.

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Before-and-after images of devastation after dam destroyed

Putin loyalists, however, are still blaming the Ukrainians as the Russian leader announced he too would be launching a criminal investigation to discover exactly what happened.

There are several witnesses saying that the Russians have been continuing to attack those trying to flee the territory they control on the other side of the flooded Dnipro River.

Two boats carrying old people and family members landed in Kherson saying they’d fled Russian troops from the east bank. They went on to say the Russians had also looted their summer homes and been bombing the beaches.

Olga says Russian forces attacked as she fled to Kherson
Olga says Russian forces attacked as she fled to Kherson

Olga wept with relief as she told us: “The current was so powerful, we barely made it.”

She was hugged and consoled by her friends as they all sat round the few bags of possessions they’d managed to take with them.

“When we were in Dachi, all our boats had been sunk and the Russians were looting our summer houses and taking our boat engines. They were taking everything. Our guys just managed to save our two boats.”

She’s overwhelmed with emotion as reaching dry land. But the challenges in this area are likely to mount in the coming days and weeks when the full scale of the disaster is finally known.

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