“I believe that one of the most effective struggles in Turkey is the women’s and LGBTI+ liberation struggles since they both resist against the ‘official norms’ imposed upon us.” writes the feminist lawyer and most well known human rights activist Eren Keskin for Yeni Yaşam.
The geographical area that we live is a male-dominated and militarist geography. Feudalism is also very strong. That is why discussing violence against women is a very important but also challenging task here.
The women’s liberation movement has brought this topic to a very important place in the agenda of the country. Today, violence against women and violence against LGBTI + people have become one of the dominant issues in the country.
In fact, historically, there is a global male-dominated legal system; an example of that is, although millions of women were subjected to sexual violence during the 1st and 2nd World Wars, it was not considered as a war crime or a crime against humanity.
The Tokyo and Nuremberg Courts, established after the two world wars, ignored crimes committed against women during the 1st and 2nd World Wars. However, after Bosnia and Rwanda, violence against women is now accepted as a war crime in international law. It became possible with the struggles of women for their rights over their identities and bodies.
The reason I am writing this is to point out that international law and international conventions have not been written only at desks.
States do not regulate these conventions to ‘do good’ to women, children, and people. There is a huge amount of struggle behind these conventions. There is the long and painful struggle for human rights and women’s rights behind these contracts. These are the struggles that have sacrificed many lives. That is why these conventions are very valuable and women continue to defend them.
The İstanbul Convention is one of these conventions. In fact, it is the most important contract ever written on the issue of violence against women. This convention is almost like the constitution of women.
The importance of the Istanbul Convention comes from the fact that it prioritises the statements of women, and at the same time, it obliges the signatory states to take action regarding violence against women.
In addition, there is an important sentence in the contract that states as follows; “No custom, no so-called honour can justify violence against women.”
So, in fact, this convention questions the “holy/sacred family”, which is the central tennant of the official ideology of the Turkish state. Without questioning this ‘holy family’, it is not possible to question the red lines of the official state ideology. The Turkish state signed this contract, but it was never implemented fully. We have expressed this repeatedly in all trials. We requested decisions in courts to follow the Istanbul Convention. But so far this hasn’t happened.
The state has been following a different political path when they became a signatory of the Istanbul Convention. Turkey was trying to join the EU then, but of course, they don’t have such efforts now.
Most of the practices and politics within the country have changed after the AKP (Justice and Development Party) and President Erdoğan gave major compromises to the MHP (Nationalist Movement Party) and the deep state. They brought the LGBTI + struggle onto the agenda for the whole society to discuss this convention.
“I believe that one of the most effective struggles in Turkey is the women’s and LGBTI+ liberation struggles since they both resist against the ‘official norms’ imposed upon us.” This is extremely important.
One of the biggest reasons for the open air prison we are forced to live in as the citizens of this country today is that definition of the “officially normal”.
There are people in this country that do not comply with this ‘official norm’. Kurds, women, LGBTI+, workers, Armenians, and Jews are all those who are marginalised and do not ‘comply’ with the ‘official norm’ of Turkish state ideology.
For this reason, even though Turkey withdrew from the Istanbul Convention overnight with the signature of one single man, it triggered such a big struggle on the streets that this is much more important than that single one signature.
That’s why I trust the women’s struggle, the most important part of the resisting parts of the country who does not comply with the ‘official norms’.