Ito murder: Death of elite athlete puts domestic violence in focus (2023)

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Kenya Eaton (CNN)Martin Tirop raises his fist during Faith Kipyegon's winher third gold medal in the 1500mat the World Athletics Championships in Budapest on Tuesday. It's a bittersweet moment for him, as Kipigon inevitably reminds him of his murdered sister, Agnes.

Agnes Tirop was racing with the superstar as a teenager when both women were racing, Agnes Tirop told CNN Still just poor teenagers making their mark on the Kenyan racing circuit. "Watching her run and win is like watching my sister. I have mixed emotions: pride, sadness... I hope Agnes is still here and she's competing in Budapest."

Instead, on October 13, 2021, Martin Tirop made the grisly discovery in his sister's three-bedroom bungalow in the long-haul capital of Kenya. Agnes had just returned from a race in Switzerland, but Martin said he hadn't heard from her for several days.

After calling police, he told CNN he went to her home and saw her body through the window in a pool of blood near the bedroom door.

She suffered stab wounds to her neck and was wearing an Adidas sports bra and shorts. Martin believes she may have been on the run when she was attacked.

In the world of elite running, Agnes is a rising star. she brokeGerman women's 10km recordIn September 2021, it will be about a month before finishing fourth in the 5,000-meter race at the Tokyo Olympics. She lived and trained in Iten, recalls Martin, fans waving excitedly as she drove by in her white Toyota pickup truck to blaring gospel music.

Shocked neighbors gathered outside to cry as the 25-year-old champion was carried away on a stretcher.

Six months later, tragedy struck again nearly two kilometers from her home.

Photo credit: Agne Jurkenaite and David Blood

Another runner, Damaris Mutua, was found strangled in a houseA pillow covers the hatJust finished third in the Angola Half Marathonthe beginning of the month. She was a bronze medalist at the 2010 Singapore Youth Olympic Games.

Investigators announced Tirop's husband as a suspect. In Mutua's murder, the prime suspect is her boyfriend.

Iten, an idyllic townNearly 2,400 meters8,000 feet above sea level), a popular training ground for long-distance runners, is now making headlines around the world for the brutal murders of two female athletes, allegedly by their intimate partners.

These deaths highlight acts of violence that often go unmentioned and unaddressed. “We found female athletes miserable and silent,” said Joan Chelimo, a long-distance runner who trains in Iten. "They need to know they are not alone and they have rights."

Ito murder: Death of elite athlete puts domestic violence in focus (1)

Agnes Tyrup is a rising star. A few weeks before her death, she broke the women's 10km record in Germany.

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A remote town is grappling with a global problem

Iten is located on the western edge of Kenya, a six-hour drive from the capital, Nairobi. It is picturesque, with red earth, cornfields and houses scattered among the mountains. But it was the altitude, the clean air and the simplicity of the countryside that drew Itendistance runnerHe has participated in numerous running camps since the 1960s.

Eliud Kipchoge,first person to run a marathonIn less than two hours, I was training here. So did Faith Kipyegon, the current 1,500m record holder and winner of the same event at this week's World Athletics Championships. Kipchoge and Kipiegon are too famous to ride Mount Eten back-to-back, now they train at the same timelower captagat, about 30 miles from Iten.

Logos of the city's biggest export are everywhere. In the hazy morning light, before most of the city woke up, throngs of runners roared through square arches of red metal bearing the words in white capitals: "Welcome to Ito, Champions of Champions." Home." Only the stomping of feet on the gravel. Through the crowing of cocks and birdsong.

The goal is to get local runners access to CNN's brand sponsorship, which includes scholarships, performance bonuses and sometimes race travel costs, resources that allow them to compete internationally. They dream of bringing home a competitive victory that will revolutionize life in this part of the world. bonusboston marathon,For example, the prize money for first place in the New York City Marathon is $150,000Top Winner Receives $100,000last year. By comparison, Kenya's GNI per capita (the country's total income divided by its population) in 2022 is $2,170.

Ito murder: Death of elite athlete puts domestic violence in focus (2)

Iten attracts both novice runners and record holders thanks to its high altitude and clean air. Some of Kenya's greatest marathon runners are inextricably linked to the city.

Most mornings, Agnes and her brother lace up their sneakers and join the other runners in matching lime green leggings and a black T-shirt. The young woman's success began to change the fortunes of her family. "Agnes did it and lifted our family out of poverty," Martin told CNN. "My parents lived in a thatched cottage all their lives until she bought them land and built a brick house. She gave us great hope."

Martin now runs long stretches of training routes alone. He described his horror and anger at Agnes' murder: "I miss running with her," he said. "This man took everything from our family. Not only our sisters, but our hopes and dreams. I hope he stays in prison forever."

in Kenya,According to government figures for 2022,More than a quarter of men and a third of women aged 15 to 49 have experienced physical violence "by husband/wife, intimate partner or others". Not only are more women experiencing violence, the survey showed, "Marital status is also associated with women's experiences of violence... Married women are significantly more likely to experience violence from the age of 15 onwards than never married women." Married. "Married (41% vs. 20%)."

While official figures show intimate partner violence is widespread, experts told CNN the actual number of cases may be higher than reported because many victims suffer in silence. "Many attacks go unreported because people don't trust the system," said Ilungu Horton, executive director of Amnesty International Kenya. "They feel that the police may not be human, they may laugh at them, and the court process may It's going to take too long."

Domestic violence is not limited to Kenya. AReview all available dataThe 2000-2018 study covered 90% of women and girls aged 15 and over in 161 countries and territories, and found that 27% of female partners had experienced intimate partner violence.

In US, '1 in 4 women have experienced severe intimate partner violence'According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.Advocacy groups have described the killing of women in the United States as being "mainly killed by men they know, and mostly by current or former intimate partners.""A silent epidemic."

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The deaths of Tirop and Mutua prove that even successful female athletes cannot escape violence.

"We don't protect them. We just expect them to break records.

Experts and runners alike tell CNN that in Iten, a mix of (potential) wealth, fame and a patriarchal culture (where men are considered the breadwinners) makes young, ambitious women either prey to unscrupulous men. Prey, these men try to keep them in trouble. They depend on future income for power, or are easily influenced by an intimate partner who wants to control them.

At an Ititer gathering of athletes, six women told CNN their stories of alleged physical, emotional or financial abuse by intimate partners. One woman said she had to hand over all her winnings to her husband so he could remain the breadwinner of the family.

Founder Njeri Migwi reflects on the precarious situation some runners find themselves inUsikimye, an organization that provides shelterVictims of sexual and gender-based violence across Kenya told CNN: "Once they want a certain level of independence, they are abused by men. We [society] don't protect them...we don't even educate them "[Standing up for yourself] ... we just expect them to run and break records. Where is the anger? Where is the anger?

Echoing Migvi's statement, runner Joan Chelimo told CNN that aspiring young runners "are easy targets because they're new, don't know much, and don't There are no financial advisors. Some of them get something as simple as a shoe, or are offered an agency relationship, and then feel obligated to give this person everything in order to obey him.”

These views are of course supported by Martin Thirop's account of his sister's life.

Ito murder: Death of elite athlete puts domestic violence in focus (3)

In October 2021, Martin Tirop discovered the body of his sister Agnes Tirop.

He said Agnes began dating her husband, Ibrahim Rotich, when she was still in high school. Martin, who is 16 years his senior, said he isolated Agnes from her friends and family. In fact, their marriage in March 2016 was kept a secret, and Agnes's family didn't know about it until after she died aged 25.

Martin claimed that Rotic was abusive and that Agnes left him shortly before his death and moved to a runners' camp. They later learned from a friend that Agnes briefly returned to the house she once shared with her husband, he said.

Rotich was found a day after Agnes' body was foundArrested 800 kilometers awayIn the coastal city of Mombasa. He allegedly tried to flee the country, according to Kenyan criminal policeThen said.

Rotic has pleaded not guilty to murder, but admitted to killing Tirop in an affidavit for bail, according to court documents and Tirop's family attorney, Richard Warigi. His request to settle on the lesser charge of manslaughter was denied, the lawyer added.

Ibrahim Rotich is being held without bail for the murder and his trial is due to begin in November. His lawyer, Ndjiji Mbugua, declined to comment.

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Mutua, who holds Kenyan and Bahraini nationality, was only 28 years old when he was killed. The suspect, her Ethiopian boyfriend, was not arrested. Investigators told local media last yearHe traveled to neighboring EthiopiaAfter killing.

CNN reached out to the Criminal Investigation Service for more information but did not hear back. CNN's attempts to reach Mutua's family were also unsuccessful.

Investigators have yet to release a suspected motive for each woman's murder. But Amnesty International's Horton is clear about what he sees as the root cause of domestic violence in Kenya: "The root cause of sexual and gender-based violence is patriarchy," he told CNN.

"The idea is that men are entitled to women's bodies, they should always be in control, they should have more resources, finances and income. Of course, [that] is no longer a real-world reality."

Ito murder: Death of elite athlete puts domestic violence in focus (4)

A group of female runners take part in an event organized by Tirop Angels.

"If someone hurts you, don't keep silent"

On a sunny Saturday in late June, three dozen women met in the courtyard of their fellow athlete Joan Chelimo's hotel. They danced, hugged, huddled, and ate rice and chicken. Some shared their experiences of abuse and how they quietly planned to leave while their spouses were away.

The event is sponsored byTirops Engelis a nonprofit founded in early 2022 by athletes and the family of Agnes Tirop whose goals include: empowering women and girls at risk of violence; expanding services to survivors; Commitment to reality and engaging men and boys. Prevention by traditional and religious leaders.

Chelimo is one of the group's five co-founders. "It breaks our hearts that we started Tirop Angels out of emotion," she said. "Agnes lives here (Iten), she's one of us, we don't even know what she's going through."

But the initial reaction to the new group, hoping to spark a public discussion about the private matter, was skepticism and mistrust.

"It's hard for people to understand what we're doing," Chelimo admits. "Most men think we're against marriage. Most things here are cultural: When I go to my mother or my girlfriends, they tell me to fight for my marriage, even if it's abusive. I'm trying to change that. The mentality is not easy."

"Girls are now coming to talk to us," Chelimo added. "It's a great achievement because, like Agnes, many of them couldn't talk about their problems."

The organization employs experts to help young runners live more balanced lives, providing them with information on topics such as financial literacy, investing and relationship warning signs. "We want to make sure these women are financially independent so that if someone wants to leave, they don't feel like they're clinging to their partner because of what they have," Chelimo told CNN. A hard job ... because we're dealing with so many interconnected issues."

Aware of the need for widespread cultural change, the organization said it was working with local schools to educate children about various forms of abuse and ensure future generations of runners learn important lessons from an early age.

Ito murder: Death of elite athlete puts domestic violence in focus (5)

Agnes' parents, Dinah and Vincent Tirop, visit their daughter's grave at the back of their Nandi County home.

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Losing her daughter also made Dinah Tyrup an advocate. "Every chance I get, I tell young girls, even my other daughters, 'Be careful who you date. Don't let anyone lie to you, don't keep silent when someone hurts you,'" she whispers.

Agnes's trophies, medals and ribbons are neatly arranged on a table in the corner of her parents' living room, a tribute to a daughter who lived out big dreams. Dinah picked up the Tokyo Olympics ribbon from the table, hung it around her neck, and stroked it gently with her hand. Your eyes sparkle. To this day, she still doesn't know what happened to her daughter.

The open door is a tomb, black granite gleaming after heavy rain.

"Agnes Tyrup. "Unspeakable Love" written on the cross.

Ito murder: Death of elite athlete puts domestic violence in focus (6)

At the home of Agnes Tirop's parents, some of her medals are displayed on a small table in the corner of the living room, a tribute to a daughter who dreamed big.

If you or someone you know has experienced or is at risk of domestic violence, you can help by:

In the U.S:National Domestic Violence Hotline: Call 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS 22522. Available 24 hours a day. It is also available through an online chat tool.

Get help around the world:UN Women provides global directory listings. You can also find a list of national institutions on the pixel project.

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