Thousands of women in Turkey took to the streets on Thursday, July 1, following the country’s official withdrawal from the Istanbul convention. Several women’s groups and opposition activists took part in protests against the government’s move and pledged to fight for a gender just society.
Protesters held banners which read “We are not giving up on the Istanbul convention. It’s not over for us” and “Let your order fail, long live the women” and marched across major cities in the country.
— Komünist Kadınlar (@Komunist_kadin) July 1, 2021
The protests were called by the Women Solidarity Committee and Communist Women, along with several opposition parties including the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP). Some of the opposition parties pulled out of a parliamentary commission after the country’s state council rejected an appeal against the withdrawal filed earlier this week and participated in the protests.
“We will not take a single step back, we will take so much more!”
Women's Solidarity Committees and Communist Women @Komunist_kadin are calling to the streets in five cities on July 1 against the attacks on women's achievements #IstanbulSözleşmesi#IstanbulConvention pic.twitter.com/wCEFCluiJF
— TKP International (@tkpinter) July 1, 2021
At several places, police tried to disperse the protesters by firing tear gas shells.
Protests against the decision have been ongoing for months since the government led by president Recep Tayyip Erdogan of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) annulled the ratification of the treaty on March 20 following pressure from conservative sections of Turkey. These sections alleged that the convention posed a threat to existing family structures in the country. They have also alleged that the convention promotes homosexuality.
The Istanbul Convention is an international convention designed by the Council of Europe which was ratified in 2011 by the European Union and 45 other countries including Turkey. The signatories are expected to create a legal and institutional framework and spread values to protect women from violence and promote gender equality.
On Thursday, Erdogan tried to justify the move saying it is not a backward step. He said that, Turkey’s “fight against violence against women did not begin with Istanbul convention and it does not end with the withdrawal” from it.
However, several rights groups condemned the decision to withdraw from the convention saying that it was the wrong move. Canan Gullu, president of the Federation of Turkish Women’s Associations group, was quoted by DW saying that Turkey was “shooting itself in the foot with this decision” to withdraw from the convention.
Violence against women in Turkey is prevalent. According to We Will Stop Femicide, the largest feminist group which also traces the cases of femicide in the country, during the pandemic, at least 300 women were murdered last year in Turkey and another 171 women met with suspicious deaths. According to the platform, this year, at least 189 women have already been killed, mostly by their husbands and relatives.