Turkish police on Wednesday detained three women, whose identities were not disclosed, during a raid on their homes in Istanbul, despite not having a warrant ordering their detention, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported, citing the Diken news website.
The women allegedly participated in a demonstration in Istanbul’s Taksim Square to raise awareness about violence against women on November 25, 2021 and were accused of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. During the demonstration, they chanted slogans criticizing Erdoğan, whose policies they believed were responsible for increasing cases of femicide and violence against women.
One of the slogans was, “Tayyip run away, the women are coming!”
Insulting the president is a crime in Turkey, according to the controversial Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). Whoever insults the president can face up to four years in prison, a sentence that can be increased if the crime was committed through the mass media.
Women’s activist Nevruz Tuğçe Çelik said her friends were taken to a police station for questioning. The detained women said they had exercised their right to demonstrate peacefully and that their slogans should be considered to have been within this right.
The women’s lawyer, Fulya Dağlı, said the authorities were trying to criminalize the activities of activist women. “Women who are speaking up against violence and femicide are deliberately being pressured into silence,” she said. “Neither the demonstration nor the slogans were in any way illegal.”
Dağlı added that such actions were only increasing women’s anger because their right to demonstrate was being taken away from them.
Women’s right to protest in Turkey has been increasingly restricted in the last year. A judge at the İstanbul 58th Penal Court of First Instance sparked criticism from women’s rights activists in December after saying during a hearing that women should not be demonstrating against femicide. The judge said men were also murdered every day but that they did not mobilize and demonstrate.
Femicides and violence against women are serious problems in Turkey, where women get killed, raped or beaten every day. Many critics say the main reason behind the situation is the policies of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, which protects violent and abusive men by granting them impunity.
According to the We Will Stop Femicide Platform (Kadın Cinayetlerini Durduracağız Platformu), 280 women were murdered in Turkey in 2021. Among them, 124 were killed by their husbands, 37 by their boyfriends and 21 by their former husbands. Only 11 of the women were not killed by a man closely related to them. The number of suspicious deaths has also increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Erdoğan withdrew Turkey from the Istanbul Convention, the Council of Europe’s binding treaty to prevent and combat violence against women, on March 20, despite high statistics of violence targeting women in the country and drawing condemnation from Turks and the international community.