Massive protests follow Turkey’s withdrawal from Istanbul Convention on violence against women

The Recep Tayyip Erdoğan-led government announced its withdrawal from the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence through a presidential decree on March 20

March 22, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Istanbul Convention-Turkey
Mobilization by We Will Stop Femicide group in Istanbul. (Photo: via CHP-Istanbul/ Twitter)

Women’s rights groups and progressive sections across Turkey have condemned the right-wing government’s decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention on women’s rights. On Saturday, March 20, a presidential decree announced Turkey’s withdrawal from the convention which seeks to prevent violence against women. The major opposition party, Republican People’s Party (CHP), and various feminist groups in the country condemned the decision by the conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to exit the convention. On Saturday, women’s groups, including Communist Women and We Will Stop Femicide, organized protests in various Turkish cities, including in Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir, Antalya, Canakkale, Konya, Gaziantep and others.

Turkey was among the first countries to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, popularly known as the Istanbul Convention, in 2012. Turkey’s withdrawal from the convention is being widely perceived as a longstanding agenda of the Recep Tayyip Erdoğan government.

In response to the withdrawal, Communist Women stated, “The AKP’s misogynist actions..  do not end. This time, the AKP withdrew from the Istanbul Convention, which it has been talking about for months, with a midnight decree. With this decision, the AKP government has shown that it does not care at all about the murders of women, whose number continues to increase in the country. The AKP government has declared that it will not stop attacks on women.”

“We did not expect any other attitude from the AKP. We did not expect the AKP government to fight violence against women as it is trying to place religious reaction in all the institutions of society…fills the education system with religious dogma from top to bottom, and carries out new attacks every day to push women out of social life. Now is the time to counter this attack together! It is time to respond more strongly to every step taken by the AKP,”  the group added.

Turkey saw massive protests last year against the anti-women policies of the Erdogan government. In July, thousands took to the streets following the murder of the Pinar Gultekin, a 27-year-old university student. At that point, activists had pointed out that the number of women murdered in Turkey had doubled since 2012. They also accused the government of ignoring its commitments under the Istanbul Convention. In the following days, they also protested demands made by conservative sections of society seeking withdrawal from the convention.

Last year, the conservative Law and Justice party-led Polish government’s decision to quit the Istanbul convention also courted widespread protests from feminist groups and other progressive sections.