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Turkey withdraws from the Convention against Violence against Women

Turkey has withdrawn from the so-called Istanbul Convention, which aims to prevent and combat violence against women. A corresponding decree by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was published in the official gazette on Saturday night. The decision met with sharp criticism. Erdogan had only announced an “action plan for human rights” at the beginning of March, including the fight against violence against women.

The Istanbul Convention – an international agreement – was drawn up by the Council of Europe in 2011 and was intended to create a Europe-wide legal framework to prevent and combat violence against women. Erdogan himself had signed the convention in Istanbul – the place of the final agreement – when he was still prime minister. It was later ratified in Turkey, but according to the organization “We will stop feminicide”, it was never applied.

The Austrian Foreign Ministry said on Twitter: “We deeply regret Turkey’s decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention. Preventing and combating all forms of violence against women and girls is our joint responsibility.”

Minister for Women Susanne Raab (ÖVP) announced that Erdogan was once again leading his country back into the past and further away from Europe, and that the victims of this decision were again women. It is all the more important to sharply oppose Erdogan’s influence on Europe and Austria through networks and associations and to clearly prevent it.

In the past few months there have been repeated discussions in Turkey about a possible exit from the convention. She had been kicked off by a conservative religious platform that saw religion, honor and decency endangered by the agreement.

Violence against women is a common problem in Turkey. According to information from women’s rights organizations, at least 300 women were murdered by men in Turkey in the past year alone. Just recently, the rape and murder of a 92-year-old caused outrage, as did the video of a brutal act in which a man assaulted his ex-wife.

After leaving the convention, the activists of “We will stop feminicide” now called for protests via Twitter. General Secretary Fidan Ataselim said the government is putting the lives of millions of women at risk by leaving. She called on the leadership to reverse the decision and apply the convention. In a video shared on Twitter, she said, “You cannot lock millions of women at home, you cannot wipe millions of women from the streets and squares.”

The vice-chairman of the largest opposition party, the CHP, Gökce Gökcen, said that leaving the country means that women will continue to be “second-class citizens and will be killed”. The opposition Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu wrote on Twitter that the withdrawal from the convention was “very painful”. This disregards the years of struggle of women.

Vice President Fuat Oktay defended the decision and wrote on Twitter that Turkey does not have to imitate others. The solution to protecting women’s rights “lies in our own customs and traditions”.

The Council of Europe spoke of “devastating news”. General Secretary Marija Pejčinović Burić said: “This step is a major setback (…) and all the more regrettable as it threatens the protection of women in Turkey, throughout Europe and beyond.”

The manner in which it left the country was also heavily criticized. The Istanbul Lawyers’ Association complained via Twitter that the President did not have the authority to terminate international agreements by decree.

Petra Bayr (SPÖ), Chairwoman of the Committee on Equal Treatment and Anti-Discrimination of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, called the decision of the Turkish President alarming in terms of democracy.

FPÖ boss Norbert Hofer said in a broadcast: “With this step, the Turkish ruler Erdogan has again provided impressive evidence that Turkey is not based on the values ​​of a free and enlightened Europe.”

On March 8th, on International Women’s Day in Istanbul, thousands of people demonstrated peacefully for equality and against violence against women. Erdogan had said that day that one wanted to take stronger action against violence against women and that families, whose foundations are “man and woman”, were to be strengthened as an institution.

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