Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a ‘midnight decree’ in March seeking to withdraw Turkey from the Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention.
Being the first country to sign the agreement, Turkey has officially withdrawn from the Convention as of 1 July. Whilst several women’s and LGBTI+ organisations announced that they would take to the streets throughout the country to protest against the withdrawal today, women in Istanbul issued an appeal to meet this evening in Tunel Street, close to the historical Istıklal Street which has traditionally been a public protesting venue for years.
“Turkey has set the clock back ten years on women’s rights,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General today, in response to today’s withdrawal from the Convention, which comes despite massive mobilisation by women and LGBTI+ people across Turkey and around the world.
Even as this decision has aroused controversy, Turkey’s government and leading authorities have strictly defended their stance. Communications Director Fahrettin Altun has supported the view that the Istanbul Convention has been used as a tool to “normalise homosexuality.”
The Convention, he said, “was hijacked by a group of people attempting to normalise homosexuality – which is incompatible with Turkey’s social and family values. Hence the decision to withdraw.”
International bodies and world leaders, including Joe Biden and Ursula von der Leyen, have roundly condemned the decision.
As the US President described the decision as “deeply disappointing,” he said this was “a disheartening step backwards for the international movement to end violence against women globally.”
Calling it a “terrible signal,” the European Commission President also shared her deep concerns about the withdrawal.
The German Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, Heiko Maas, the Chair of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, and the President of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly, Rik Daems and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić also said in a joint statement that the withdrawal “would deprive Turkey and Turkish women of a vital tool to counter violence.”
The Chilean feminist collective Las Tesis activists in March also shared a solidarity message with the women and the LGBTI+ of Turkey who took to the streets protesting against the withdrawal. This, they said, “is a reminder of how important and effective it is to struggle globally for our rights.”