The EU foreign affairs representative Josep Borrell has asked Turkey to reverse its withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention on Saturday. The convention aims to prevent and combat violence against women. “We hope that Turkey will soon join the EU in defending the rights of women and girls, a fundamental element of human rights, peace, security and equality in the 21st century,” said Borrell on Sunday.
EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen also emphasized on Twitter: “Violence against women is unacceptable. Women deserve a strong legal framework to protect them. I support the Istanbul Convention and call on all signatories to ratify it.” Borrell expressed complete incomprehension about the exit in his statement. This endangers the protection and fundamental rights of women in Turkey and sends a dangerous message to the whole world.
The Istanbul Convention is an international agreement drawn up by the Council of Europe in 2011. It should create a Europe-wide legal framework to prevent and combat violence against women. The current Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself had signed the convention in Istanbul, the place of the last deliberations. The withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention was announced in a decree by Erdogan.
Numerous protests in Turkey
Nationwide people took to the streets against the decision at the weekend in Turkey and demanded that it be withdrawn. Lawyers complained that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan could not decide on his own to leave. The Turkish women’s coalition organization wrote in a statement that the now announced exit will strengthen the murderer of women, molesters and rapists.
The opposition in the Mediterranean country also reacted with clear criticism: “You cannot withdraw 42 million women of their rights overnight by decree,” tweeted the head of the Kemalist CHP, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, in a video message on Twitter. In particular, the legality of the decision is called into question.
“No, the president does not have the right to withdraw from the convention with his signature,” said the lawyer and member of the Deva party, Mustafa Yeneroglu, of the dpa. Because the government and its partner, the ultra-nationalist MHP, hold a majority in parliament, that would not actually be a hurdle. With the decree, the president is choosing the path of calculated social division, said Yeneroglu, who grew up in Germany. He left Erdogan’s AKP in 2019. Yeneroglu evaluates the procedure as a “demonstration of power” with which Erdogan wants to swear his religious-conservative power base on himself, and as “the preparation for a culture war”.
Protection of women’s rights is “in their own customs”
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 homosexual people – and see this as a threat to “traditional values,” said Yeneroglu. Critical tones also came from within: The Turkish Justice Minister of the AKP, Adbülhamit Gül, tweeted that withdrawals from international agreements must be approved by parliament.
The discussion about a possible exit last year was started by a conservative-religious platform. Their representatives saw religion, honor and decency as endangered by the agreement. Women’s rights organizations regularly called for protests. But then the issue became quieter from the official side, and an exit seemed to be averted for the time being. Activists continued to call for the agreement to be implemented at demonstrations. Laws that were passed on the basis of the convention were not consistently implemented by the courts, criticize women’s rights organizations.
High number of violent crimes against women
One of these laws bears the number 6284 and, according to the organization “Mor Cati”, entitles those affected to receive protection in a women’s refuge, temporary protection through escort, an injunction or financial support, for example. Millions of women, children and LGBT people, i.e. lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people, would now have these life-saving measures withdrawn, the lawyer 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 “We Will Stop Femicide”, at least 300 women were murdered by men in Turkey last year alone. Only recently, the rape and murder of a 92-year-old woman, as well as the video of a brutal act in which a man molested his ex-wife, fueled the discussion about violence against women. During protests in Istanbul on Saturday, demonstrators loudly urged the government: “Take back the decision, apply the convention”. (apa)