Women protest across the country as Turkey officially withdraws from the Istanbul Convention

A screen shot taken from Voice of America Turkey Service report, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCA4nL1Qo9E

Thousands of women marched across the largest cities in Turkey on July 1, to protest Turkey's official withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention. Heavy police intervention and violence were reported throughout the country.

Turkey announced its decision to withdraw from the Convention on March 20, 2021. The Istanbul Convention is a legally-binding human rights treaty created by the Council of Europe pledging to prevent, prosecute, and eliminate domestic violence and promote gender equality. It was open to signature in 2011 and has been signed by 45 states.

Erdogan first expressed interest in leaving the convention in 2020. The final decision came after the president unveiled a human rights plan he said would “improve rights and freedoms in Turkey and help the country meet EU standards.”

In the Turkish city Izmir, women were blocked by police barricades, prompting the chant “Build the barricades for murderers, not for women.” Police used tear gas and battered some of the protesters according to Gazete Duvar reporting.

Protesters in central Istanbul held up placards reading: “We are not giving up on the Istanbul Convention. It's not over for us.”

Ahead of the official withdrawal scores of women across Turkey shared videos of themselves united under the slogan #istanbulsözleşmesihepimizin (the Istanbul Convention is ours).

At a July 1, event at the presidential palace in Ankara for “Action Plan for Combating Violence against Women,” President Erodgan insisted that the country and its leadership are committed to ending violence against women despite the decision to withdraw from the convention. “As the fight against violence against women did not begin with this treaty, so will our commitment not end because we are withdrawing,” he said. The President suggested numerous new measures to replace the convention, including, reviewing judicial processes, improving protection services, and gathering data on domestic violence.

The view among civil society initiatives fighting for women's rights in Turkey is different. According the initiative We Will Stop Femicide (WWSF) “300 Turkish women were murdered last year, most by their partners. A further 171 were found dead in suspicious circumstance,” WWSF's founder, Gülsüm Kav told The Guardian. This year alone, the platform has documented 130 femicides since January and 99 cases of women deaths in suspicious circumstances according to the initiative's monthly reports.

Meanwhile, the protests on July 1, did not just take place on the streets.

U.S. State Department spokesman responding to Turkey's withdrawal on July 1 said the move was “a step backward for the international effort to end violence against women.”

Amnesty International's secretary-general, Agnes Callamard, said the withdrawal sent a “reckless and dangerous message”:

A court appeal to halt the withdrawal was rejected last week.

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