Erdoğan will withdraw Turkey from İstanbul Convention, opposition politician claims

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A politician from Turkey’s right-wing Felicity Party (SP) has claimed that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will withdraw Turkey from the İstanbul Convention, a Council of Europe treaty designed to prevent violence and domestic abuse against women, according to Turkish media reports.

The claim was raised by the SP’s higher advisory board chairman, Oğuzhan Asiltürk, who was visited by Erdoğan at his Ankara home on Jan. 7.

Asiltürk said some officials from Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) requested he talk to Erdoğan about Turkey’s withdrawal from the İstanbul Convention, saying there is discontent within the AKP for Turkey’s participation in the treaty. The AKP officials allegedly asked Asiltürk to support them in their endeavor to engineer Turkey’s withdrawal from the convention.

“He [Erdoğan] told me in clear terms that [the treaty] would be abandoned,” said Asiltürk.

The İstanbul Convention, signed by member countries of the Council of Europe in 2011 to promote women’s rights and prevent domestic violence in societies, has split views inside the AKP. The convention, signed by 45 countries and the European Union, is a human rights treaty that specifically deals with the issues of domestic violence and injustice towards women.

After signing it Turkey added Article 6284 to its Civil Law, which defined the rights of women who feel threatened in their homes. The article has shortened the path to obtaining a restraining order against husbands, a move that is strongly criticized by the conservatives as breaking the family apart.

Conservative newspapers mainly claim that the İstanbul Convention has destroyed families by introducing “foreign terminology” to traditional Turkish values and the law.

“The first of them is gender. The İstanbul Convention is built on the concept of gender. … In the simplest terms, it holds that the identities and the biological sexes of men and women are constructed by the society, and envisions a fight against it. It doesn’t accept the distinction of the sexes,” Ebru Asiltürk, a prominent Islamist politician from the SP, wrote in May.

President Erdoğan has repeatedly said he sees gender equality as contradictory to the nature of men and women.

“Feminists doesn’t understand motherhood,” he said in a 2014 speech, claiming that Islam accords women high value due to their ability to bear and raise children.

Amid debate over the İstanbul Convention at the time, Amnesty International’s Women’s Rights Researcher Anna Błuś said in a statement in August that Turkey’s withdrawal from the convention would have disastrous consequences for millions of women and girls in the country and to organizations providing vital support to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.

“Even the discussion of a possible withdrawal is having a huge adverse impact on the safety of women and girls. Rather than becoming the first Council of Europe Member State to withdraw from the Convention, Turkey should ensure the treaty is fully implemented and take immediate action to better protect and promote the rights of women and girls,” she noted.

While Turkey was ranked 130th among 140 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index in 2016, its ranking was 131 in 2017, 130 among 149 countries in 2018 and 130 again among 153 countries in 2020.

The number of domestic violence cases has increased to 400 per thousand over the last decade, and more than 15,000 women have been killed by men over the past 18 years, according to a report from an opposition deputy.

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