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Turkish feminist's funeral lacks equality she died for

Even in death, Konca Kuris was denied her last wish: that women be allowed to pray alongside men. It was a desire that cost the religious feminist her life at the hands of Islamic radicals.

Police dug up Kuris' naked body from the basement of a hideout used by Islamic militants who videotaped weeks of abuse they inflicted before suffocating her.

In two weeks, police have found the bodies of 48 people presumed to have been killed by Hezbollah, a militant group that seeks to establish an Islamic state in southeastern Turkey. It is not related to the Lebanese militia of the same name.

Police found the remains of six more bodies Sunday in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, Turkey's Anatolia news agency reported.

The killings have horrified the country, but Kuris' slaying also has focused attention on the role of women in Islam. The issue was underscored when male relatives at her funeral last week refused to allow her eldest daughter to pray beside her coffin.

"One more person paid with her life for being different and searching for her own voice," Sibel Eraslan, a female commentator, wrote in the Islamic newspaper Akit.

At first a member of Hezbollah, Kuris gradually became disillusioned with the group's attitude toward women.

She demanded the right to pray alongside men and insisted that prayers be said in Turkish and not the traditional Arabic, which few Turks understand. Although Kuris wore a traditional Islamic head scarf, she said head scarves or the full black robes worn by some religious women were optional and not required in Islam.

Kuris' feminist views infuriated Hezbollah, which is dominated by traditional, rural Kurds.

In early 1998, she began to receive anonymous telephone calls. "Are you inventing a new religion?" the voices asked, according to the newspaper Milliyet.

In July of that year, three militants kidnapped Kuris from in front of her home in the southern port of Mersin.

Tapes of Kuris' interrogation were discovered about two weeks ago during a police raid on a Hezbollah safe house in Istanbul, the newspaper Sabah reported.

Kuris was apparently suffocated with a pillow or clothing in the basement of a house in the central Anatolian city of Konya. In death, she also was kept from equality. Her body was buried in a different corner of the basement from those of the murdered men.

At her funeral, the dispute over her views erupted in full force.

"I will carry out my mother's last will," shouted Kuris' eldest daughter, Sirma. But men blocked her from the male section of the mosque. Mosques are divided into sections by gender, with the separate area for women usually in the back.

Another female relative, Necla Olcer, finally pushed the men aside and stood near the coffin as the Islamic preacher quickly read the prayers and hastily ended the funeral.