Making Turkey Conservative Again? Erdogan Takes Aim at Istanbul Convention Despite Growing Violence Against Women

Published July 22nd, 2020 - 09:20 GMT
Making Turkey Conservative Again? Erdogan Takes Aim at Istanbul Convention Despite Growing Violence Against Women
Demonstrators wearing protective face masks, hold placards reading 'we are not quiet ', 'apply the Istanbul contract', 'stop femicides', 'women will live equally. (Yasin AKGUL / AFP)

Earlier this week, hundreds of Turkish women took to the streets in a protest against possible Turkish withdrawal of the Istanbul Convention, which was signed in 2011 to address violence against women, demanding "better implementation" instead.

Statements, made by the deputy chairman of the ruling party in Turkey headed by the President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the possibility of withdrawing from an international agreement aimed to combat violence against women, have sparked a lot of controversy in the country, especially as the local community continues to report a spike in domestic violence incidents during the last few months.

While it's still unclear if the growing number of crimes, committed against women in Turkey and other countries in the region, is due to COVID-19 lockdowns, worsening economic conditions or other reasons, the possibility of rescinding the Istanbul convention has angered many Turkish women and feminist activists, who argued that the country still needs to take women's safety more seriously.

According to the Middle East Institute, Turkish law enforcement agencies reported a total of 88,491 domestic abuse-related incidents between January 1 and May 20 of 2020, including 81 women killed.

Many commentators have also questioned recent Turkish policies and pointed at possible attempts to make the country more conservative.

According to Turkish women, targeting the convention goes against the urgent need for Turkish strict laws to protect women who face violence at the hands of the men in their lives.

The Turkish debate comes at a time many Middle Eastern women are speaking up against femicide; especially after several women were killed in Jordan and Palestine in less than a week, in addition to a hot month of debates over women's rights in Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region. 

Additionally, the controversial remarks made by the deputy chairman of the Justice and Development ruling party have coincided with growing criticism of Erdogan's "Islamization" policies in the country, especially after he pushed for a constitutional order to change historic Hagia Sophia's status from being a museum to a mosque.

Similarly, Turkish media outlets have highlighted an attempt by government officials to stop Netflix shows filmed in the country, citing "including gay characters and themes."

Most recently, Turkish local media reported finding the body of a 20-something-year-old woman allegedly killed by her boyfriend, who stored her body in a concrete-covered barrel, triggering a strong public reaction.

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