Women in Turkey face Erdogan’s decision to abandon treaty on domestic violence

Several thousand women took to the streets of Istanbul on Saturday to demand that Turkey revoke its decision to withdraw from an international treaty against domestic violence that it once advocated.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stunned European allies with last week’s announcement that Turkey was withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention, named after the Turkish city where it was drafted in 2011.

Turkey was one of the first signatories and women say their security has been jeopardized by Erdogan’s move towards the European Treaty.

In the middle of a heavy police presence, protesters gathered in a square in Istanbul with waving purple flags and singing slogans including “Murder of women is political”. A poster read “Protect women, not perpetrators of violence.”

“Withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention is a disaster for millions of women and children living in this country,” Amnesty International Turkey Director Ece Unver told Reuters, urging Ankara to reverse its decision.

The World Health Organization’s data show that 38% of women in Turkey are exposed to violence from a partner during their lifetime, compared to 25% in Europe.

According to a monitoring group, estimates of femicide rates in Turkey, for which there are no official figures, have tripled in the last ten years or so. So far this year, 87 women have been murdered by men or died under suspicious circumstances.

Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention is a major problem for women’s rights and equality. Here’s why: pic.twitter.com/pX7OGphuFw

– Amnesty International USA (@amnestyusa) March 27, 2021

“We will not give up. We will be here until we get back our freedom and our Congress. We will not give up the convention,” said student Selin Asarlar Celik.

Conservatives in Erdogan’s Islamist AK Party say the convention, which emphasizes equality and prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, undermines family structures and encourages violence.

Officials said this week domestic law would protect Turkish women, not foreign treaties.

The protester was worried by Ankara’s western allies, who condemned what they described as a confusing and unwarranted decision that risked undermining the rights of Turkish women.