‘We won’t be silent!’: Women clash with police in Istanbul over femicide

Istanbul: Women marched in Istanbul and other cities to protest Turkey’s formal exit from a European treaty aimed at preventing violence against women, saying the move stripped them of critical protection at a time when femicides are on the rise.

Turkey signed the treaty, called the Istanbul Convention, in 2011. In March, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued an unexpected decree announcing Turkey’s intention to withdraw from the treaty, which he and members of his Islamist party have framed as part of a Western plot aimed at harming conservative notions of family and encouraging homosexuality. Ankara’s exit from the treaty took effect Thursday (Friday AEST).

A protester, left, confronts police officers preventing the group from marching against the government’s decision to withdraw from Istanbul Convention, on Thursday, July 1, 2021. Credit:AP

The Council of Europe, the United States and the United Nations had appealed to Erdogan’s government to remain in the treaty, which sought in part to ensure equal legal protections against abuse for women across Europe. The decision, “in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to deepen the protection gap for women and girls during a time when gender-based violence against women is on the rise,” the UN women’s rights committee said in a statement Thursday.

“Such an unprecedented act cannot, and does not, have a valid ground and justification,” the statement said. Amnesty International said in a statement on Wednesday that the convention was the “gold standard for the safety of women and girls” and called Turkey’s decision “shameful”.

In a televised speech, Erdogan denied that Ankara’s exit from the treaty would be detrimental to women. “Our battle against violence against women did not start with the Istanbul Convention and it will not come to an end with our withdrawal,” he said, while announcing local measures to fight gender-based violence.

But women who marched in central Istanbul on Thursday night local time said they were unmoved by the President’s promises, saying that violence against women was on the rise and that laws aimed at preventing it in Turkey were being unevenly applied. Several hundred protesters gathered at one end of Istiklal Avenue, a central thoroughfare, chanting and marching for more than two hours Thursday evening before riot police dispersed the demonstration with tear gas.

“We won’t be silent, we won’t be afraid, we won’t obey,” went one chant.

“We won’t be silent, we won’t be afraid, we won’t obey,” went one chant.Credit:AP

Advocacy groups have tallied hundreds of femicides annually in recent years, with one monitoring group recording sharp increases beginning in 2018. Killings or attempted murders of women, sometimes carried out in public and captured on cellphone video, have circulated on Turkish social media with an alarming frequency.

One such video circulated late last month, showing the death of Yemen Akoda, 38, who was allegedly fatally shot by her estranged husband outside her home in Turkey’s central Aksaray province, according to Turkey’s IHA news agency. Akoda had obtained a restraining order against the husband, Esraf Akoda, but it had expired, according to the news agency. In the video, the woman’s daughter is seen standing next to her mother’s body, screaming: “Is my mother alive? Please let my mother be alive!”

“We complained 50 times, 50 times. Goddamn you all,” she said.

Although the convention had not succeeded in stemming violence, Turkey’s stated commitment to the European treaty had provided a measure of “psychological support” to women, said Gonul Ugurel, 30, who stood on the edge of the protest as demonstrators began to move up Istiklal.

Bermal Sogut, 29, agreed, saying that the treaty had been a “tool” women could use as they appealed to courts for protection. “We have nothing in our hands anymore,” she said.

The Washington Post

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