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Zelal Binici is a lawyer registered at the Ankara Bar Association, Turkey. She is also an LLM Candidate in Law and Technology at Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society (TILT), Tilburg University. Currently, her thesis focuses on the distribution of liability in the deployment of lethal autonomous weapons. Before the master’s program, Zelal worked as a volunteer for survivors of domestic violence and their families on behalf of the We Will Stop Femicide platform. In her role, Zelal provided support via the legal service hotline for women and LGBT+ individuals who are seeking help by gathering information and also represented them during criminal proceedings. In 2021, Zelal also participated in the AI Policy Clinic as a research member at the Center for AI and Digital Policy. 

What motivated you to pursue your career? 

I started facing gender-based inequalities from a young age like every woman in the world. Especially in Turkey, empowering women and informing them about their rights has always been a struggle given the patriarchal premises embedded in the society. Nevertheless, it is important to note that even a few people can stimulate a change in the narrative and push law enforcement to take action. This is one of the reasons why I decided to pursue a career in law. I believe it’s essential to assure people – especially in this context, domestic violence survivors – that they are not alone in this and that they are being heard. 

What was one of the most significant moments in your career? 

Even though I can name more than one, I will always remember the moment a foreign non-native Turkish-speaking survivor reached out to the platform I was volunteering at and expressed her heartfelt appreciation for the support she received from the emergency hotline. Sometimes, we forget or underestimate the impact we can make on individuals’ lives but hearing how she got out of the situation and felt safe by knowing that she was not alone in this world, made me realise how important it is to show up for people who are in need.

Name the three lessons you’ve learnt in the course of your career? 

  1. It’s always a good idea to follow what you believe in, even if people around you won’t get what you are doing.
  2. Having a good notion of law and moral values is more fulfilling and valuable than just pursuing a career that will only meet your material needs 
  3. Don’t expect to be perfect or know everything to start doing something or offer help. The smallest contribution can make a huge difference.

What progress do you hope to make in the protection and promotion of human rights, particularly women’s rights? 

Since I’m pursuing a career focused on the intersection of law and technology and especially on what Artificial Intelligence might have to offer, I would like to contribute to the essence of building a transparent, accountable, and fair ecosystem and balancing both risks and benefits of AI in human rights. While in Spring ACT we provide evidence-gathering services for domestic violence survivors and prioritise users’ both online and offline safety, it is a well-known fact that particular groups in society such as women and ethnic minorities are affected more than others when it comes to certain AI-driven applications such as deep fake technologies which exacerbate gender-based online violence.  It is important to stress that emerging technologies are multifaceted and should be governed by the active involvement of every individual in society to mitigate the adverse impact on human rights and especially women’s rights and offer legal remedies for those whose rights are violated by such applications. My goal is to actively participate in the process of the robustness of legal and institutional mechanisms that are currently in place to regulate and create a safer environment for every individual.

How has your experience been volunteering at Spring ACT?

It has been a pleasure and a blessing to be a part of such a like-minded, supportive community and inspiring on every level. Every individual who is involved is an expert in their field, selfless and supportive. It is such a safe and empowering space to work in, and getting to know people who are willing to move mountains when it comes to this noble cause is something I truly admire. I truly believe in the potential of this group to overcome every hurdle that appears on the way. I hope we will grow bigger and change things for the better.