Protesters take to the streets for the second weekend in a row to call on Turkey to reverse its decision to withdraw from the 2011 Istanbul Convention.
Protesters took to the streets of Istanbul for the second weekend in a row to protest President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to remove of an international treaty to combat violence against women.
Erdogan last week triggered anger with the announcement that Turkey was withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention, named after the Turkish city where it was drafted in 2011.
Justifying the decision to withdraw, the presidency argued that the treaty had been “hijacked by a group of people attempting to normalize homosexuality”, which it said was “incompatible” with “social and family values” from Turkey.
There has been a flood of reactions from Western countries and international organizations – including the United Nations, which called on Turkey to reconsider its decision.
On Saturday, demonstrators gathered in a square on Istanbul’s waterfront under a heavy police presence, waving purple flags and chanting slogans such as “The murders of women are political”.
“Protect women, not perpetrators of violence,” one sign read, while another added, “LGBTI + rights are human rights.”
“We won’t give up. We will be here until we get our freedom and our convention back. We will not give up on the convention, ”student Selin Asarlar Celik told Reuters news agency, which estimated the number of protesters at several thousand.
In the capital, Ankara, a small group of women demonstrated in the heart of the city center, surrounded by riot police.
The protests met with renewed anger in Turkey on Saturday after a 17-year-old pregnant girl was stabbed to death in the Aegean province of Izmir, state news agency Anadolu reported. The suspect is believed to be the man she lived with and her unborn child was also killed in the attack.
Violence against women and femicide is a serious problem in Turkey, with daily media coverage of the issue.
In 2020, 300 women were murdered and the rate shows no signs of slowing down with 87 women killed so far this year, according to women’s rights group We Will Stop Femicide Platform. Data from the World Health Organization shows that 38% of women in Turkey experience partner violence in their lifetime.
Renowned Turkish novelist and women’s rights activist Elif Shafak told Al Jazeera that the femicide figures are actually “much higher” because many cases go unreported.
She called Turkey’s withdrawal from the convention unacceptable because “femicide and domestic violence in Turkey are at an alarming level”.
“It’s an emergency for us. The fact that the government does not support this and do the exact opposite, for me is just unthinkable, ”Shafak said.
Conservatives from Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party have said the convention, which emphasizes gender equality and prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, undermines family structures and encourages violence.
Officials said this week that domestic law will protect Turkish women, not foreign treaties.