Thousands of women have taken to the streets of several Turkish cities to protest against gender-based violence and ask the country to remain a signatory to an international pact against such attacks.
Wednesday’s rallies were the largest in recent weeks amid growing anger over the growing number of women killed by men in recent years and speculation that Turkey may withdraw from the 2011 Council deal of Europe, known as the Istanbul Convention.
The convention, which entered into force in 2014, is the world’s first binding instrument to prevent and combat violence against women – from marital rape to female genital mutilation. Turkey was the first country to ratify it.
In Istanbul, hundreds of women gathered to support the agreement, holding signs saying “Women will not forgive violence”, “Enforce the Istanbul Convention” and “Long live women’s solidarity”.
In Izmir, police intervened to stop a rally of women and dozens have chosen to launch a sit-in protest, women’s rights group Nar Women’s Solidarity said on Twitter. The group said 10 women had been detained.
Demonstrations also took place in Ankara and the southern cities of Adana and Antalya.
According to We Will Stop Femicides Platform, an advocacy group that monitors violence against women, at least 474 women were murdered in Turkey last year, most by current or former partners, members of family or unrelated men who wanted a relationship with them.
Last month, the brutal murder of Pinar Gultekin, a 27-year-old student in southwest Mugla province, sparked widespread outrage across the country and prompted many to take to the streets.
An ex-boyfriend has been charged with murder and jailed pending trial. Police said he confessed to the murder during questioning, local media reported.
Wednesday’s rallies came as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AK Party) considered withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention. The ruling party’s executive committee is expected to meet for discussions next week.
The dispute even reached Erdogan’s family, with two of his children involved in groups on both sides of the Istanbul Convention debate.
Many conservatives in Turkey have said the deal encourages violence by undermining family structures.
“It is our religion that determines our core values, our view of the family,” said the Turkish Youth Foundation, whose advisory board includes the president’s son, Bilal Erdogan. He called on Turkey to withdraw from the deal.
Their opponents argued that the convention and legislation adopted in 2012 to prevent violence against women must be applied more strictly.
“We can no longer speak of ‘family’ … in a relationship where one side is oppressed and subjected to violence,” said the Association Femmes et Démocratie (KADEM), of which Erdogan’s daughter, Sumeyye, is vice-president. president.
In a statement Wednesday, Anna Błus, women’s rights researcher at Amnesty International, said it was a “bitter irony” that Turkish authorities were considering withdrawing from a convention bearing the name Istanbul.
“This discussion is deeply disturbing, at a time when COVID-19 measures, such as the lockdown, have led to an increase in reports of violence against women and girls with many women and girls trapped at home with their attackers. or unable to easily access security and support services. ”