Istanbul (dpa) – Despite opposition from numerous women’s rights organizations, Turkey has withdrawn from the Istanbul Agreement to prevent violence against women.
Rural people took to the streets against the decision over the weekend demanding that it be taken back. Lawyers complained that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan could not single-handedly decide to leave. The opposition sees an imminent cultural war.
The withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention was announced in a decree by Erdogan. The international agreement was drawn up in 2011 by the Council of Europe. The goal is a European legal framework to prevent and combat violence against women. Erdogan himself had signed the convention in Istanbul – the site of the final agreement – while he was still prime minister.
The Turkish women’s coalition organization wrote in a statement that the now-announced exit will strengthen the killer of women, rapists and rapists. The Council of Europe called Turkey’s withdrawal from the agreement “devastating news”, and the German government spoke of the wrong signal to Europe, but especially to women in Turkey. EU Foreign Affairs Representative Josep Borrell called on Turkey to reverse the exit. Ursula von der Leyen, head of the European Commission, said women deserve a strong legal framework to protect them.
The opposition in the Mediterranean country also responded with clear criticism: “You cannot withdraw 42 million women from their rights overnight by decree,” the head of the Kemalist CHP, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, tweeted in a video message on Twitter. . In particular, the legality of the decision is called into question.
“No, the president has no right to withdraw from the convention with his signature,” said lawyer and member of the Deva party, Mustafa Yeneroglu, of the DPA. Since the government and its partner, the ultra-nationalist MHP, have a majority in parliament, that wouldn’t really be an obstacle. With the decree, the president is taking the path of calculated social division, said Yeneroglu, who grew up in Germany. He left Erdogan’s AKP in 2019. Yeneroglu sees the proceedings as a “demonstration of power” by which Erdogan intends to swear his religious-conservative power base on his own, and as “the preparation for a culture war”.
The vice president of the ruling AKP party, Fuat Oktay, defended the decision. Oktay tweeted that Turkey doesn’t have to imitate others. The solution to protecting women’s rights “lies in our own customs and traditions”.
Many people in the country are convinced that the Istanbul Convention promotes the way of life of gay people – and see this as a threat to “traditional values,” Yeneroglu said. Critical tones also came from within: Turkey’s AKP Justice Minister Adbülhamit Gül tweeted that withdrawals from international agreements should be approved by parliament.
The discussion about a possible exit last year has been started by a conservative-religious platform. Their representatives saw religion, honor and decency as threatened by the agreement. Women’s rights organizations regularly called for protests. But then the matter from the official side became quieter, an exit seemed to be averted for the time being. Activists continued to call for implementation of the agreement during demonstrations. Laws passed on the basis of the convention were not consistently implemented by the courts, criticizing women’s rights organizations.
One of these laws has the number 6284 and according to the organization «Mor Cati» gives those affected the right to protection in a shelter for women, temporary protection through, for example, escort, a court order or financial support. Millions of women, children and LGBT people, ie lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people, would now have these life-saving measures withdrawn, attorney Veysel Ok told the DPA.
Violence against women and against LGBTQI + is a widespread problem in Turkey, as in many other countries. LGBTQI + stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, inter, and queer people – and the plus sign as a placeholder for other identities.
According to information from “We will stop the murder of women,” at least 300 women were murdered by men in Turkey alone last year. Recently, the rape and murder of a 92-year-old woman and the video of a brutal act in which a man assaulted his ex-wife fueled the discussion about violence against women. During protests in Istanbul on Saturday, protesters loudly urged the government to “Take back the decision, apply the convention.”