Protesters have taken to the streets of Istanbul and other cities for the second straight weekend to protest against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to withdraw from an international treaty to combat violence against women.
By the Levant News newsdesk
Erdogan last week sparked anger with the announcement Turkey was pulling out of the Istanbul Convention, named after the Turkish city where it was drafted in 2011.
Justifying the decision to withdraw, the presidency argued the treaty had been “hijacked by a group of people attempting to normalize homosexuality” which it said was “incompatible” with Turkey’s “social and family values”.
There was a flood of reaction from Western countries and international organisations – including the United Nations, which called on Turkey to reconsider its decision.
On Saturday, protesters gathered in an Istanbul seafront square under heavy police presence, waving purple flags and chanting slogans such as “Murders of women are political.” “Protect women, not the perpetrators of violence”, one placard read, with another adding, “LGBTI+ rights are human rights.”
“We will not give up. We will be here until we get our freedom and our convention back. We will not give up on the convention,” student Selin Asarlar Celik said, which put the number of protesters at several thousand.
In the capital, Ankara, a smaller group of women protested in the heart of the city center, surrounded by riot police. Renowned Turkish novelist and women’s rights activist Elif Shafak said that the femicides figures are in reality “much higher” as there are many cases that go unreported.
She called Turkey’s withdrawal from the convention unacceptable as “femicide and domestic violence in Turkey is at an alarming level”. “This is an emergency for us. The fact that the government is not supporting this and is doing the exact opposite, to me is just unthinkable,” Shafak said.
World Health Organization data shows 38% of women in Turkey are subject to violence from a partner in their lifetime, compared to 25% in Europe. Femicide rates, for which there are no official figures, roughly tripled in Turkey over the last 10 years according to a monitoring group. So far this year 78 women have been murdered by men or died under suspicious circumstances, it said.
The convention annulled by Erdogan seeks to prevent violence against women, including domestic violence, and bring an end to legal impunity for perpetrators. However, conservatives in Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted AK Party say the text, which stresses gender equality and forbids discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, undermines family structures and encourages violence.
Officials said this week that domestic law would protect Turkish women, not foreign treaties.