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By withdrawing from İstanbul Convention, Erdoğan makes good on his promise to Islamists

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Cevheri Güven

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s decree announcing Turkey’s withdrawal from the İstanbul Convention, an international treaty to combat violence against women, was released soon after Erdoğan met with the leaders of smaller Islamist parties to talk about possible election cooperation. The exit from the Council of Europe treaty was a prerequisite for an alliance put forward by the Felicity Party (SP) of the Milli Görüş movement and the conservative Kurdish HÜDAPAR.

Erdoğan, who according to polls is having trouble attracting the 50 percent of the vote required for his re-election, embarked upon a series of talks with opposition leaders to seek avenues for joining forces. His first visits were with parties known for their radical conservative stance.

On Dec. 16 Erdoğan hosted at his presidential palace İshak Sağlam, the leader of HÜDAPAR, which many in Turkey consider to be a radical Islamist movement and the political branch of the country’s Hezbollah, which is different from the Hezbollah in Lebanon. Turkey’s withdrawal from the convention, which for a while had been the main goal of Turkey’s Islamists, was HÜDAPAR’s first precondition for an alliance.

The president’s next meeting was with Milli Görüş, the precursor of Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) that enjoys strong established networks in Turkey as well as in Germany, where it is viewed as an organization similar to the Muslim Brotherhood and is under surveillance by German intelligence. In Turkey Erdoğan has been strengthening his ties with the SP, the movement’s political front which during the last elections received 1.3 percent of the vote. On Jan. 7 Erdoğan paid a visit to Oğuzhan Asiltürk, the head of the party’s High Advisory Board, at Asiltürk’s home. Following the visit Asiltürk declared on TV that Erdoğan was willing to annul the convention but needed time to move forward with it due to reactions coming from his own party.

The SP claims that the convention was destroying family values and promoting homosexuality. The withdrawal was among the party’s foremost election promises.

It was after these meetings that Erdoğan announced Turkey’s withdrawal from the convention on Saturday. A statement released by the Presidential Communications Directorate defended the views of the two Islamist parties, stating that the treaty was manipulated by a segment of society that wanted to normalize homosexuality, which it said was not compatible with the country’s public norms and family values.

“It is on this ground that Turkey’s withdrawal is based,” the statement read.

Milli Gazete, a newspaper close to the SP, cheered the development with the headline “Anti-family convention to the trash!”

During the last few elections the party had acted in line with the opposition bloc, including the 2019 local elections in which Erdoğan’s AKP suffered unexpected blows by losing large municipalities such as İstanbul and Ankara. With his move to annul Turkey’s signature to the convention, Erdoğan has made significant progress towards separating the SP from the opposition coalition.

Talk of a caliphate

Erdoğan’s increasingly Islamist rhetoric and actions in the last few months have contributed to the visibility of the country’s Islamists. Yeni Akit, a radical conservative paper, published the headline “Parliament can reinstate the caliphate if it wants” on the day of the decision about the convention. According to Yeni Akit, the proclamation of Erdoğan as caliph is a matter of a 15-minute session in parliament.

According to one scenario, in the year 2023 the capital will be moved to İstanbul and Erdoğan will be declared caliph.

Since the establishment of his party in 2001, Erdoğan claims that the centenary of the Turkish Republic in 2023 will bring significant transformation. His party has a series of goals set down as “2023 objectives.” Initially, these were mainly economic targets. Over time however, they were modified. Hatip Dicle, a prominent figure in Kurdish politics, believes that proclaiming Erdoğan as caliph is one of the objectives and that it will be a turning point, after which Turkey’s policies towards countries formerly ruled by the Ottoman Empire will become more aggressive.

Abdurrahman Dilipak, an Islamist journalist close to Erdoğan, claimed that following the proclamation of the caliphate Erdoğan’s palace will host an administrative room dedicated to each and every Islamic country.

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