Protests in Istanbul, Ankara over withdrawal from European treaty protecting women

Thousands of women gathered in Turkey’s largest city of Istanbul and capital Ankara on Saturday to protest the country’s withdrawal from a landmark European treaty protecting women from violence that it was the first signatory to a decade ago.

In Istanbul, women and allies gathered along the pier of Kadıköy district in a protest organised by the Women’s Congresses advocacy group,T24 news site reported, vowing to stand against the decision.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s overnight presidential decree annulling Turkey's ratification of the Istanbul Convention is a blow to women's rights advocates, who maintain the agreement is crucial to combating the festering wound that is domestic violence in the country.

“Implement the convention, let women live,’’ and “withdraw the decision and implement the convention,’’ women chanted.

In capital Ankara, a group of women who gathered on Sakarya Street in Kızılay district were met with police intervention, T24 said.

The women then gathered in front of the Çankaya Municipal Headquarters, chanting “The Istanbul Convention gives life.’’ 

In central Eskişehir province, women gathered in front of the Kanatlı shopping centre, holding a banner that read "We do not abandon the Istanbul Convention.’’

The Istanbul Convention stipulates that men and women have equal rights and obliges state authorities to take measures in preventing gender-based violence against women, protect victims and prosecute perpetrators.

The Council of Europe's secretary general Marija Pejcinovic Buric has called Turkey’s decision to abandon the treaty "devastating."

At least 408 women were killed in Turkey in 2020, according to Anıt Sayaç, or the Counter Monument, an initiative that keeps a record of femicides going back to 2008, with 67 more deaths registered since the beginning of the year. 

Another 171 women were found dead under suspicious circumstances in the country last year, according to the We Will Stop Femicides organisation, with some of those cases including alleged suicides.

Critics and women’s rights groups are concerned that Turkey’s decision to withdraw from the treaty will also affect Law No. 6284, to "Protect Family and Prevent Violence Against Women,” enacted following the signing of the convention in 2011.