Withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention (July 1)

Erdogan sacrifices women's rights to retain power (Press Release)

Tomorrow, Thursday, Turkey will withdraw from the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, also known as the "Istanbul Convention". The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) is deeply concerned about this step – which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had decided on in March. The alleged reason was that the convention was a threat to the "traditional Turkish family". "This view is especially popular among conservative men – a loyal group of AKP-voters," explained Dr. Kamal Sido, the STP's Middle East Consultant. "Turkish families are supposed to stick to a conservative ideal, in distinction to western models that allow for more equality." Erdogan is also hoping for better popularity ratings – although the country's economy is down and despite the fact that the state failed to react to the Corona pandemic adequately. According to the "Federation of Women Associations of Turkey", there has been an increase in domestic violence since the beginning of the pandemic. 

At the same time, there is also resistance against the decision from within the Turkish society. "It is especially the Kurdish and Alevi women who are fighting against this move. They are opposing the Turkish government's increasing attempts to establish an Islamist patriarchy in the country," Sido criticized. Erdogan's decision to withdraw from the convention is thus to be seen as another step to establish Islamic Sharia laws in Turkey – without consideration of the question how the Sharia laws could possibly be reconciled with membership in NATO and other western institutions. Thus, the Council of Europe criticized Turkey's decision to withdraw from the convention as a serious step backwards.

The Istanbul convention is seen as a milestone with regard to protecting women and girls from violence. "The convention had given hope for improvement – although there are still cases of violence. Now, with the decision to withdraw from the convention, these hopes are shattered," Sido criticized. According to the Turkish organization "We Will Stop Femicide", the number of female murder victims has increased by more than 50 percent between 2015 and 2019. With a total number of 422 cases, an all-time high was reached in 2019. Further, the organization has already recorded 180 murder cases this year – not counting the so-called "honor killings", which mostly occur in smaller villages, often if women or girls become victims of rape. There are no reliable figures for this. "The Turkish judiciary does not pay much attention to such crimes, as these cases are often seen as family affairs," Sido added. "This dreadful point of view is backed by the decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention."