Turkish pro-gov’t columnist calls rights defenders ‘prostitutes’

Pro-government columnist Abdurrahman Dilipak, who writes for the Islamist Yeni Akit newspaper, called supporters of several international conventions against violence against women and children “prostitutes,” in his column published in Yeni Akit.

Dilipak cited the Council of Europe’s Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse and Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, better known as the Lanzarote and Istanbul conventions respectively, as well as the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in his column, calling the signing of the conventions a “calamity.”

Under the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the Lanzarote Convention went into effect in 2012, followed by the Istanbul Convention in 2014. Turkey has been a signatory of the CEDAW since 1985.

Turkish parliament passed Law No.6284 to Protect the Family and Prevent Violence against Women in 2012. By the conventions and domestic laws, authorities in Turkey must allocate resources to combatting gendered violence and not discriminate against victims of violence based on inherent characteristics.

A group within the AKP, whom Dilipak dubbed “daisies among the judas trees,” has “fattened itself on European Union funds,” as well as sponsorships from Islamist businesses, the so-called Green Capital, the columnist said.

“Will our Green Capital be loyal to its cause and speak up against these prostitutes and their derivatives?”

The columnist called efforts by Turkish women, including women from the AKP, against domestic violence and violence against women an “instigation,” and pointed to Fatma Şahin - current mayor of southeastern Gaziantep province, founding member of the AKP and former Family Minister - as the main culprit.

The pro-AKP Women and Democracy Association (KADEM) was also responsible for “formatting the minds of (bureaucrats and businesspeople) in this hell,” Dilipak said.

Dilipak accused the Family Ministry of working for GREVIO, which monitors the implementation of the Istanbul Convention, and “infiltrating all levels of the state.”

“Never mind opening Hagia Sophia, even if you took all of Cyprus and the Aegean islands, unless you stop this instigation (‘fitnah’), the growing rage will darken your horizons,” Dilipak said. “After the family is lost, there is nothing to replace it with.”

“Prostitution is what ails us today, and threatens the family! These conventions are about this very thing,” he continued.

Dilipak cited Erol Yarar, founding chairman of the conservative Independent Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (MÜSİAD), as saying that so-called Western values “veritably tear down the family and legitimize all manner of perversion,” and accusing the Istanbul Convention of “imposing a Western lifestyle on our people.”

The hashtag #fahişe (“prostitute”) has been trending for several hours on Turkish Twitter, at the time of writing, as women all around the country protest Dilipak’s comments.

Responding to the criticism, Dilipak said he did not call people who have different opinions than him prostitutes.

“In my article I say that those who support the Istanbul Convention support prostitution,” he said in a tweet. “Because this convention harbours prostitution under the guise of women’s rights.”

“Does (Dilipak’s) wife, daughter, daughter-in-law agree?” conservative journalist Ayşe Böhürler asked. “I’m sure they are sorrowed that you have insulted women who are their friends for defending an international convention.”

“The Istanbul Convention mentions extramarital relationships, sexual orientation, etc. These are defined as prostitution in our religion,” Dilipak continued after the backlash. “The phrase prostitute that I have used for those who violently defend such relations has been interpreted outside of its intent. My criticism there is for those who enable prostitution.”

Islamist figures have long demanded that Turkey withdraw from the Istanbul Convention and annul the Law No.6284, but discussions on violence against women have accelerated since AKP Deputy Chairman Numan Kurtulmuş said in early July that it had been wrong for Ankara to sign the convention. However, there is significant resistance to a withdrawal from within the AKP, mostly among women. NGOs and women’s organisations that are not connected to the government, meanwhile, are unified for the most part in support for the measures to combat violence against women.

A total of 63.6 percent of Turks are opposed to plans to scrap the convention, while only 17 percent support the idea, a recent survey by leading pollster Metropoll Research found. Among AKP voters, those opposed comprise 49.7 percent, while only 25.7 percent actively support a withdrawal.

According to women-run website Anıt Sayaç, the “Counter Monument”, 167 women have been killed in Turkey in 2020, mostly by intimate partners or family members. In 2019, 416 women had been killed, preceded by 403 women in 2018.

Most recently, Turkey’s women took to the streets to protest the killing of university student Pınar Gültekin, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. A day before, women in several provinces held simultaneous protests against withdrawal plans, under the slogan, “Istanbul Convention keeps (women) alive.”

A social media campaign to raise awareness about femicides in Turkey has spread globally, with women posting black-and-white selfies alluding to the photographs used in funerals, using the hashtags #challengeaccepted, #womensupportingwomen, and #istanbulsözleşmesiyaşatır (“Istanbul Convention keeps (women) alive”).

Among celebrities who joined the campaign were actress Demi Moore and singer Christina Aguilera, who also used the Turkish hashtag in her Instagram post.