Thousands of Turkish women took to the streets on the day Ankara pulled out of the so-called Istanbul Convention on women’s rights and domestic violence, despite the best efforts of police to stop them.
Tens of thousands of Turkish women rallied across the country on Thursday evening to protest the government’s decision to pull out of the so-called Istanbul Convention on domestic violence and women’s rights.
The largest protest was held in Istanbul’s historic Istiklal Street where police set up barricades and used tear gas to disperse women marching. “We are not afraid; we will not stop and we will not obey. This is only the beginning, we will continue struggling we are not giving up on the Istanbul Convention,” the protesters chanted.
The Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, known as the Istanbul Convention, is a human rights treaty intended to address violence against women and domestic violence. It was opened for signatures in May 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey.
Turkey was the first country to ratify the treaty, but Islamist and conservative critics claimed that it undermined traditional family values and, ironically, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan then withdrew Turkey from the treaty, which became into force on July 1.
Repeated calls for Turkey’s return to the convention have been dismissed by the government; President Erdogan instead announced an action plan on July 1 to counter domestic violence, which will replace the convention.
“Erdogan’s decision will not end the fight for equality and an end to gender-based violence in all its forms,” Emma Sinclair-Webb, Human Rights Watch Europe and Central Asia Associate Director, said on July 1.
Turkey’s abandonment of the Istanbul Convention was also condemned by the US, the EU and the opposition.
“Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention is deeply disappointing and a step backward for the international effort to end violence against women. We urge all states to strengthen their prevention of and response to all forms of gender-based violence,” a spokesperson at the US State Department said.
Experts have warned that President Erdogan’s decision to withdraw from the convention could encourage other populist and socially conservative governments in Europe to follow suit.