In Turkey, the tireless fight against violence against women

“Hundreds of women write letters to the authorities every day saying “I do not want to die”, and it is only when 18 men come to complain that justice is mobilized! ? », angrily launches Nursen, activist of the We Will Stop Femicide platform (“We will stop femicide”).

In mid-April, the famous association announced that it was the target of complaints for “activities contrary to law and morals” : a trial that could lead to the closure of this emblematic organization in the fight against violence against women.

A terrible record of feminicides

Among other victories, in twelve years of existence, the platform has succeeded in replacing the expression “honour killings” with the term “feminicide” in public debate. Turkey holds sad records in this area: 137 women have been killed since the beginning of the year, according to the association.

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In view of the scale of the phenomenon, the Mor Cati (“Mauve Roof”) association was created in the 1990s to provide care for women who are victims of domestic violence. In the premises of the association, located in the heart of Istanbul, employees and volunteers take turns to provide listening and support. “Hello, you are on line with the Mor Cati association, how can I help you? », asks a soft-spoken operator as soon as the phone rings.

As a precaution, the entrance door to the premises remains double-locked. Visitors are asked to state their identity before being invited to enter. The organization receives about thirty calls a day and has about twenty places in a shelter in Istanbul, at an address kept secret.

A general degradation

Since the sudden decision of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention (international treaty to combat domestic violence) by decree-law on March 20, 2021, feminist organizations have taken the brunt. “We were obviously very shocked by this withdrawal, remembers Selime, a member of Mor Cati. However, from our point of view, this is not a real turning point, because it is part of the continuity of a general deterioration in the mobilization in the fight against violence against women. »

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Opponents of the Istanbul Convention see it as a Trojan horse of Western values ​​and believe that the text threatens “family unity, encourages divorce and that the definition of equality could be used by the LGBT community to gain legitimacy in society”, reminded the pro-government press, the day after the withdrawal. The Minister for the Family had affirmed that the Constitution and the national legislation would be “the guarantee of the protection of women’s rights”.

Inequality entrenched in society

Turkey had however been the first country to ratify the text in 2011 to mark its voluntarism on the question, but its application still poses a problem. And for the Mor Cati team, the managers are the perfect choice: “Men’s violence against women stems from gender inequality in society. However, the government’s discourse places family policies as a priority and assumes the idea of ​​inequality between women and men. In this context, the mechanisms for combating violence against women had become obsolete. »

Hundreds of female lawyers gathered in Ankara to attend the much-awaited hearing of the Council of State on April 28, which considered the complaints filed by the associations following the withdrawal. “Legally, the country cannot withdraw from an agreement by simple decree-law of the president, considers the young lawyer Tuba Torun, on her return from the hearing. But in Turkey, the state does not respect its own institutions. In this sense, the decision of the prosecutor who took up our arguments surprised me a lot, because, in the current state of the justice system in Turkey, any decision of the court is very political. »

Going against the presidential will, the prosecutor asked for the cancellation of the withdrawal from the Istanbul convention. The final decision is expected in the coming weeks.

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The worrying evolution of feminicides

► In 2021, 280 women were killed, and 217 others died in suspicious circumstances – this figure notably includes deaths presented as suicides.

► According to the association We Will Stop Femicide, 2,296 murders of women were perpetrated between 2010 and 2020 in Turkey.

► During this decade, 2011 – the year of the signing of the Istanbul Convention, an international treaty establishing rules to fight against gender-based violence – is the only period during which a drop in feminicides was recorded in Turkey.

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