Turkey formally withdrew on Thursday from a landmark international treaty protecting women from violence, and signed in its own city of Istanbul, although President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted it would not be not a step back for women.
Later Thursday, hundreds of women demonstrated in Istanbul, waving banners indicating that they would not abandon the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention. “It’s not over for us,” we read. Similar protests took place in other Turkish cities.
Erdogan ended the country’s participation in the convention with a surprise decree overnight in March, sparking condemnation from women’s rights groups and Western countries. A legal appeal to stop the withdrawal was dismissed this week.
Erdogan on Thursday announced his “Action Plan to Combat Violence Against Women,” which includes goals such as reviewing court processes, improving protection services and collecting data on violence. .
“Some groups are trying to present our official withdrawal from the Istanbul convention on July 1 as a step backwards,” he said. “Just as our fight against violence against women did not start with the Istanbul Convention, it will not end with our withdrawal.”
In March, the Turkish Presidency’s Communications Directorate issued a statement claiming that the Istanbul Convention had been “hijacked” by those “trying to normalize homosexuality – which is incompatible with the social and family values of the country. Turkey”.
Erdogan emphasized on Thursday traditional values of family and gender, saying that the fight against violence against women is also a fight to “protect the rights and honor of our mothers, wives, girls “.
Women, LGBT groups and others protested the move. They claim that the pillars of the convention of prevention, protection, prosecution and policy coordination, as well as its identification of gender-based violence, are crucial to protect women in Turkey.
Hundreds of women gathered on Thursday amid a heavy police presence on Istanbul’s main pedestrian thoroughfare. Police closed the area, but then briefly removed the barricades to allow for a short march. Protesters held colorful banners and rainbow flags, played music, whistled and shouted slogans.
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Police dispersed LGBT protesters with tear gas on Saturday and arrested dozens, who were later released.
Data from the We Will Stop Femicide group shows 189 women have been murdered so far in 2021 in the country, and 409 last year.
Amnesty International called Turkey’s withdrawal “shameful” in a statement.
“At the stroke of midnight today, Turkey turned its back on the gold standard for the safety of women and girls. The withdrawal sends a reckless and dangerous message to perpetrators who abuse, maim and kill: that they can continue to do so with impunity. , said Amnesty International Secretary General Agnès Callamard.