Turkey leaves European treaty on violence against women, protests in several cities

Turkey is not the only country where the Istanbul treaty has come under attack from conservatives. The Polish government announced this summer that it wanted to leave the treaty. The Polish parliament is about to agree to this. Hungary and Slovakia have also threatened to denounce the convention.

Violence against women in Turkey has been increasing in recent years. This year alone, 78 women were killed by violence, according to the Turkish action group Stop de Femicide. Leading members of the ruling AK party and conservative publicists last year disagreed with the 2011 treaty drawn up by the Council of Europe in Istanbul. In July, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seemed to give them their way, but there was also resistance within the AKP, and especially among the women’s organizations affiliated with the AKP.

The issue seemed to have been put on hold after that, but now Erdogan has pushed through with the withdrawal from the treaty. The reasons were not reported on Saturday in the official journal, which reported Turkey’s withdrawal from the treaty. Demonstrations took place in Istanbul and other Turkish cities on Saturday, after an appeal from women’s groups.

Europe and the US have reacted with dismay to the decision of the Turkish president. ‘Violence against women is inadmissible. Women deserve protection through strong legislation, ”said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who spoke with Erdogan on Friday.

EU foreign chief Josep Borrell urged Turkey to reverse the decision. He deeply regrets the cancellation and said he did not comprehend the decision. US President Joe Biden spoke of a “deeply disappointing” step. According to the French government, it is ‘another step back’ in respect for human rights in Turkey. The Istanbul Convention requires governments to take measures to prevent and punish violence against women.

According to conservatives in Turkey, the treaty undermines Turkish family values ​​and thus encourages violence against women. They also believe that homosexuality is encouraged in the treaty. They deduce this from the provision that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation must be combated.

Turkish authorities intensified their hostile rhetoric towards LGBTI people last year. It started with Imam Ali Erbas, the country’s highest religious authority, who in his sermon at the beginning of Ramadan warned of the dangers of homosexuality, an ‘evil’ that would be ‘cursed’ in Islam and lead to the degeneration of the human species. The hawkish interior minister, Suleyman Soylu, recently called LGBTI people “perverse” and “deranged.”

Homosexuality is not prohibited in Turkey. There is a powerful LGBTI movement, which in fact enjoys increasing support in society. Numerous actors, singers and other famous Turks have expressed their adhesion in the past year.

Earlier this month, President Erdogan announced that he would do more to protect human rights, including the rights of women. His Human Rights Action Plan must also serve to favor the European Union. Next week in Brussels, EU government leaders are talking about possible sanctions against Ankara because of the gas conflict in the Mediterranean.

Family Affairs Minister Zehra Selçuk wrote on Twitter that the Turkish government will continue to fight violence against women, a ‘crime against humanity’. Vice President Fuat Oktay wrote that Turkey “does not need external remedies”. “The solution lies in our own traditions and customs.”

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