Amidst the heated debates in Turkey regarding violence against women – following President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention – one of Turkey’s leading women’s organisations revealed that 2,289 women were killed in the country between 2015 and 2021.
The Justice and Development Party (AKP) and it’s ultra-nationalist coalition partner, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), had already been significantly criticised for their unwillingness to act against the increasing violence that was being perpetrated against women in the country even before Turkey pulled out of the Istanbul Convention.
Turkey’s president Erdoğan withdrew from the Convention using a presidential decree that was issued in the middle of the night on 20 March.
The Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, known as the Istanbul Convention, has been a legally binding instrument which obliges the signatory countries to prevent, investigate and punish violence against women.
A massive alliance of women activists has maintained its struggle against the ‘patriarchal’ regime of Erdoğan and the ‘misogynistic policies’ of the ruling AKP-MHP alliance. The alliance states that a new ‘low’ was reached when Turkey withdrew from the Convention.
At least 2, 289 women were killed in Turkey from 2015 to 2021, stated the ‘We Will Stop Femicide Platform’ (‘Kadın Cinayetlerini Durduracağız Platformu’). These figures, it noted, emphasize the misogynistic climate that exists in the country.
Increase in violence against women after the peace talks halted
The data produced by the ‘We Will Stop Femicide Platform’ suggests an increasing trend in femicides in Turkey over the years: 303 women were killed in 2015, 328 in 2016, 409 in 2017, 440 in 2018, 440 in 2019 and 474 women were killed in 2020 in Turkey.
These killings have also taken place within an increasing ‘war climate’ in the country which was triggered after the peace talks between the state and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) were ended.
The jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan had shared his concerns over violence against women in a written message on 8 March 2015, ‘International Women’s Day’: “The social contract for women must be developed. Such a social contract must give a struggle against all kinds of violence against women from femicide to rape. You have to develop a deep understanding on this issue. You should not trust men. Break the dogma of ‘the man’, trust in your womanhood. Real equality and justice can only be achieved through women’s freedom. That is why our revolution is a women’s revolution. I said this before and I say this again: I cannot be a part of such a state where so many women are killed on a daily basis. The solution can only be achieved through women’s equal and free laws. Women’s laws – freedom laws – are a pre-requisite for me”.
After the Turkish state ended negotiations with the PKK, many human rights and women’s rights organisations have been subjected to a massive range of police operations throughout the country and especially in eastern and southeastern Turkey, as part of the attacks targeting democratic Kurdish organisations.
Together with the state of emergency that was announced after the 21 July 2016 coup d’etat attempt, a great number of women’s organisations have been shut down and many women activists have been detained and sent to prison.
A total number of 52 women’s organisations have been banned by the trustees appointed by President Erdoğan in places where Kurdish mayors had been elected.