Nesrin Xelil, the co-chair of the Euphrates District Justice Council in North and East Syria shared her evaluations with Jin News about the withdrawal of the Turkish state from the Istanbul Convention and solidarity messages of the women in North and East Syria with the women’s struggle in Turkey.
Turkey announced it’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention that endangers women’s rights on 20 March. The decision was published by a presidential decree issued in the middle of the night, which triggered public outrage.
Women in Turkey took to the streets in dozens of cities to protest against the withdrawal over the last week, but spokespeople of Erdoğan’s government continued to share their opinions saying “how dangerous” the Istanbul Convention was for the “unity of the family” and showing full support for the decision to withdraw.
On the other side of the border, the women’s struggle continues as well. In North and East Syria, also known as Rojava, women lead the struggle in all areas of life.
Nesrin Xelil is one of those women in Rojava, who participates in the re-building of life and communities in the war-torn region.
She contributes to women’s legal struggle in Rojava as the Co-Chair of the Euphrates Region Justice Council.
Xelil said that at first glance, women’s problems may seem to differ in different parts of the world, “but essentially violence women face is the same everywhere.” That is why, she said, women in North and East Syria have been closely following the developments in Turkey regarding the Istanbul Convention.
‘Turkey has never complied with the Istanbul Convention’
Recalling that Turkey was the first state that implemented the convention, Xelil said, “The Convention lists comprehensive practical measures to prevent violence against women, to protect the victims of violence against women and to ensure that the perpetrators of violence are brought to justice. Looking at the increasing rates of femicides, sexual and physical violence against women and the impunity of the perpetrators in Turkey, we can say that Turkey has never actually complied with the Istanbul Convention.”
This was already a matter of protest, according to Xelil, because “being the first signatory of the convention and never actually adopting it into practice, Turkey was already acting against it’s domestic laws.”
‘The Turkish state is afraid of women’
Xeil has been following Turkey’s penal system closely for a long time, with regards to the women’s murder cases and cases of sexual violence. “Their courts are insufficient to support women’s protection from violence,” Xelil said, “Erdoğan himself talks about child marriage, about how many children a family should have, about what kind of clothes women should wear etc…. Under such a regime of such a president, violence against women of course increases. So this is a problem related to the system in Turkey.”
If women’s rights are not included or they are ignored in a system, women cannot be protected in any way, Xelil stated. “All kinds of tendencies to use violence on women will be seen in such societies. Such regimes are afraid of women and they utilise the system in a way to further oppress women. Women in Turkey are the ones who can revise the laws for the benefit of women, the system will never do that,” she said.
‘Çiçek Kobane is an example of injustice in Turkey’
Xelil stressed that perpetrators of violence against women are freely walking the streets of Turkey due to the lack of adequate penalties. According to her, this injustice has been a systematic part of the penal system in Turkey.
‘The same injustice carried out against women is carried out against political prisoners. The punishment given to Çiçek Kobanê is an example of the injustice in Turkey that the women who have been subjected to violence have been facing in their courts,” Xelil said.
‘We need to support the voice of women in Turkey’
Xelil finally stressed that, “The women in NE Syria are aware of this violent campaign against the women in Turkey.”
“Women are the colours of life, women must have the right to make their own decisions and these are our principes we embrace here in Rojava. Women in Turkey lead the struggle in many ways in Turkey as well and we believe that they will achieve women’s freedom by their very own struggle, but we need to support their voice. The women in North and East Syria and as the Justice Council here, we will do anything to raise their voice higher,” she said.