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Women rally in Istanbul before rights treaty formal exit

Farah Bahgat
June 19, 2021

Protesters have called on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to reverse Turkey's withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention — an accord to end violence against women.

Women hold signs in a protest against Turkey's withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention.
Women's rights groups in Turkey have staged several rallies against the decision since MarchImage: Erhan Demirtas/NurPhoto/picture alliance

Hundreds of women on Saturday marched in Istanbul against Turkey's decision to withdraw from an international agreement to prevent violence against women. 

In March, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan withdrew Turkey from the Istanbul Convention, sparking outrage. The withdrawal enters into force on July 1.

According to the AFP news agency, over a thousand women protested on Saturday, calling on Erdogan to reverse the controversial decision.

The "We Will Stop Femicide" rights group said on Twitter that the protest was "against those who try to take away our rights." 

'Not giving up on the Istanbul Convention'

Dozens of women's rights organizations had called for Saturday's rally under the motto "We are not giving up on the Istanbul Convention," the ANKA news agency reported. 

Melek Ondas of the Women's Council association was quoted by AFP as saying that women came from 70 provinces to the rally in Istanbul.

"We believe in the strength of our organizations. And whether the decision is overturned or not, we will continue our struggle in every way possible," Ondas told AFP.

Activists hold signs and wave rainbow flags during the protest.
Activists held gender equality signs and waved rainbow flagsImage: Umit Bektas/REUTERS

What is the Istanbul Convention?

Drafted by the Council of Europe in Istanbul, the 2011 agreement aimed to provide a legal framework to protect women and promote gender equality through legislation, education and spreading awareness. 

Signatories of the Istanbul Convention had to "take the necessary legislative and other measures to adopt and implement state-wide effective, comprehensive and coordinated policies encompassing all relevant measures" to prevent violence against women.

Turkey's conservatives have long slammed the agreement, saying it threatened family structures and promoted homosexuality with its principle of non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Women in Turkey fight back against male violence

Erdogan's decision received wide condemnation from the European Union, which Turkey remains a candidate to join.

Critics of Turkey's withdrawal argued that it would leave women at greater risk in a country where domestic violence is prevalent.

At least 300 women were murdered in Turkey last year, according to We Will Stop Femicide platform.

AFP contributed to this report.