Women Across Turkey Say "We will not be silenced, we will not fear, we will not bow down," As Country Pulls Out Of Istanbul Convention
Thousands of people took to the streets to protest against the country's withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention. Amid a heavy police presence, more than 1,000 people, mostly women, demonstrated in central Istanbul, and there were smaller protests in the Aegean city of Izmir and elsewhere across the country.
In March 2021, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a decision to withdraw Turkey from the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, or Istanbul Convention for short. The government argues that having a binding international treaty to protect women’s rights is “westernisation”. Turkey was the first country to sign the 2011 agreement but has officially left the agreement on July 1st.
Nearly 7,000 women have been victims of femicide since (AKP) took power 18 years ago. One of the main reasons behind the increase in femicides in Turkey is due to women not being taken seriously by law enforcement and other judicial authorities when they file complaints against their abusers. According to human rights experts on the matter, “Women go to the police and file a complaint against their partners after a violent incident,” “However, instead of taking the necessary legal steps against the perpetrators, the authorities act as conciliators and try to reconcile the partners.”
Women’s complaints and reports against abusers are regularly being taken lightly by the authorities. Their abusers are released with no precautions based no escape risk and no risk of spoliation of evidence. This practice provides the recipe needed for the recurrence of violence or femicide as a way of revenge against the victims for filing a complaint. Many women are being forced to either stay silent and accept the abuse or be further victimized. Either way, when they are murdered the authorities seldom investigate further or address their role in instigating further tragedy.
Turkey’s reluctance in protecting women or adhering to the Istanbul Convention resulted in a high number of femicides and an increase in violence against women over the past few years. Turkish women's rights activists, lawyers and opposition figures are still fighting to stop or reverse Turkey from completely pulling out of the agreement. Numerous complaints were filed with the Council of State, Turkey's highest administrative court but a halt from withdrawal was rejected. Ankara's withdrawal triggered condemnation from both the United States and the European Union, and critics say it puts Turkey even further away from ever joining the EU.
Women protestors in Ankara chanted, "We will not be silenced, we will not fear, we will not bow down," "We are not giving up on the Istanbul Convention."