Turkey was the first country to adopt a 2011 Council of Europe convention on gender-based violence and domestic violence, a groundbreaking legal framework designed to protect victims and effectively prosecute offenders, known as the Istanbul Convention.
However, since then even basic rights and protections won by women in Turkey have come under serious threat as Recep Erdoğan’s conservative AKP ruling party has tried to roll back legislation politicians say ‘threaten traditional family values’.
Powerful lobby groups have repeatedly petitioned for changes to the Istanbul Convention on the grounds that it encourages divorce and “immoral lifestyles”. The law’s future is currently being debated by parliament.
AKP deputy chair Numan Kurtulmuş said in a televised interview earlier this month that the Istanbul convention was “very wrong” and “played into the hands of LGBT and marginal elements” in Turkish society.
Other senior ministers, including President Erdoğan himself, regularly make public statements that are degrading to women. According to the president, women are not equal to men, and those without children are deficient.
Former prime minister Binali Yıldırım has told supporters that rather than physically attack women in public wearing shorts, they should verbally harass them instead.
Comments like this from men in power in Turkey legitimise these attitudes and give rise to horrendous incidents of misogynistic attacks and killings of women as has been recently highlighted on social media.
Seen as a step forward for women, the Istanbul Convention obliges signatories to tackle gender-based crime, provide protection and services for women and ensure that perpetrators are prosecuted. But conservative and Islamists in Turkey remain hostile, insisting that gender equality undermines the institution of the family.
There has been an outpouring of mass revulsion and anger at a series of recent killings of Turkish and Kurdish women inside Turkey.
27-year-old Kurdish student Pınar Gültekin (pictured above) from Bitlis in the Kurdish South-East of Turkey was brutally murdered recently by her boyfriend and her body was discovered in woodland in the Aegean province of Muğla. She was beaten and then strangled to death by her former partner, Cemal Metin Avci, who then burned her body in a garbage bin and covered it in concrete. The 32-year-old has been detained on homicide charges. Other incidents have included Turkish soldiers committing rape and sexual assault against Kurdish women in SE Turkey and so-called ‘Honour Killings’ like the case of Fatma Altınmakas who was raped by her brother in law, only to be killed by her husband upon release from jail.
We Will Stop Femicides Platform (KDCP), a rights group that monitors violence against women, said at least 474 women were murdered in 2019, most of them by current or former partners, family members, or unrelated men who wanted a relationship with them. The real figure is believed to be much higher, with many cases being unreported. KDCP said that 27 women had been murdered in June alone with at least 147 killed so far this year — a figure that is continuing to rise. It is a situation that the rights group describe as a ‘war against women’ with the figures being comparable to war, the Turkish government at war with women.
Women’s shelters are being shut down across the country while violence against women is on the rise, a situation worsened during the coronavirus lockdown. Also, rapists have been released early from prison ostensibly because of the Coronavirus threat while Kurdish political prisoners remain incarcerated.
Poland has threatened to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention recently threatening the lives of women in Poland. Now Turkey’s threatened withdrawal poses a far more serious risk of a wider domino effect if other conservative states follow.
Women lives, not just in Turkey & Kurdistan, but globally are now in danger! And the Istanbul Convention, if implemented, does save lives! “The convention on violence against women is one of the most comprehensive laws to combat violence against women in the world,” said Iverna McGowan, a human rights expert in Brussels.
We call on the UK Government to use their good offices with the Turkish AKP government to demand that they resist lobbyists pressure, protect women and girls in Turkey and stop rolling back on the Istanbul Convention and to forcefully urge the Turkish government to fully affirm and commit to the convention and implement it in full and in its entirety. This is the best course of action to ensure the safety of women around the world. Stop the war on women!
PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION HERE: https://www.change.org/p/elizabeth-truss-mp-defend-women-s-lives-in-turkey-kurdistan?recruiter=8191872&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=share_petition&utm_term=share_petition&recruited_by_id=b2bbcf50-c902-012f-32d6-4040496dcccb&utm_content=fht-23788805-en-gb%3A1