Published On: Sun, Mar 21st, 2021

Turkish Govt. Faces Backlash: Women Protest En Masse Against Pulling Out of Istanbul Convention

Share This

By Janet Ekstract

ISTANBUL (TURKISH JOURNAL) – The Turkish government received huge backlash after a major blow to women’s rights by the ruling AK party and its leader – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan when the Turkish leader pulled out of the Istanbul Convention late on Friday. Women of all backgrounds took to the streets of Istanbul on Saturday to vehemently protest Erdoğan’s presidential decree removing Turkey from the Council of Europe’s Convention, signed 10 years ago in Istanbul. The 2011 Istanbul Convention, signed by 45 countries and the European Union, requires governments to adopt legislation prosecuting domestic violence and similar abuse as well as marital rape and female genital mutilation. It was designed to protect and combat violence against women with the goal of prevention, prosecution and elimination of domestic violence. Turkish women marched with the slogan “You’ll Never Walk Alone” as they recounted in media interviews what they described as heartbreaking cases of domestic violence that have increased three-fold in Turkey over the last five years. Turkey’s We Will Stop Femicide Platform’s Secretary General Fidan Ataselim said “millions of women” can’t be ignored, imprisoned, placated or silenced. On social media, Ataselim called for the government to withdraw their decision.

Cancellation of the convention came as a major shock since it’s the world’s first binding treaty to prevent and combat violence against women that has remained in place for a decade. The head of Europe’s top human rights organization, Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejcinovic Buric commented, that Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention is “devastating news.” She further remarked: “This move is a huge setback to these efforts and all the more deplorable because it compromises the protection of women in Turkey, across Europe and beyond.” Political analysts and experts see withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention as a move for Erdoğan to consolidate his conservative party while Turkish conservatives claim that the convention’s principles of gender equality and non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, undermine family values and promote homosexuality. Some analysts say that Turkish conservatives fear the LGBTQ community will try to use the convention as a way to gain broader acceptance in Turkish society. Human rights advocates had already signaled the alarm that cancellation of the convention, puts women’s lives at risk. Turkey’s Minister for Family, Labor and Social Policies, Zehra Zumrut Selçuk, commented on social media that women’s rights in Turkey are protected by the constitution and that it will be the “guarantee of women’s rights” in Turkey. In contrast, Deputy Chairperson of the opposition Republican People’s Party, Gökçe Gökçen tweeted this statement about the cancellation, likening it to “keeping women second class citizens and letting them be killed.”

Meanwhile, this isn’t the first time Turkish women have protested en masse for their rights. In 2016, mass protests ensued in every Turkish city throughout the country when the Turkish government was set to pass a law known as the ‘rape law’- pardoning men convicted of sex with underage girls if they marry them.  The proposed bill was condemned in Turkey as well as abroad.  It was because of Turkish women continuing daily mass protests all across Turkey that the government withdrew the proposed bill. In 2018, Turkish women also came out en masse to protest the horrific rape and murder of 23-year-old student Sule Cet in Ankara. Cet was raped in a high-rise office and her body thrown from a window while the attackers tried to disguise the crime as a suicide. It was because of mass outrage from women that the men received just prison sentences. Human rights campaigners combating violence against women, cite numerous rising incidences of female deaths that happened under suspicious circumstances. In addition, the warning has been heard by human rights and women’s groups in Turkey about an alarming rise in the number of wives being murdered at the hands of their violent spouses. In 2020 alone, at least 400 or more murders were committed against Turkish wives throughout the country by their husbands.

It appears that with the increasing visibility of Turkish women, that the Turkish government will heed the call of their female citizens experiencing domestic violence. Despite what appears to be no silver lining in the situation, brave Turkish women are offering a glimmer of hope amid the outrage. A growing number of Turkish women who were victims of domestic violence are sharing their stories through videos posted on major social media sites in the hope that their stories will save other women in the same situation. Council of Europe head Buric emphasized the importance of the convention: “The Istanbul Convention is widely regarded as the gold standard in international efforts to protect women and girls from the violence that they face everyday in our societies.” An academic and lawyer specializing in human rights law, Kerem Altiparmak compared the cancellation of the Istanbul Convention to the 1980 military coup in Turkey. Altiparmak commented to AFP News agency: “What’s abolished tonight is not only the Istanbul Convention but the parliament’s will and legislative power.”  In addition, We Will Stop Femicide Platform’s leader Ataselim tweeted: “The Istanbul convention was not signed at your command and it will not leave our lives on your command.” Ataselim’s additional tweet message to the Turkish government was clear: “Withdraw the decision, implement the convention.”

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these html tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>