A 27-year-old female student has been found murdered and feminists have had enough, calling it the last straw.
Women in Turkey protest on the streets of Izmir, eye-witness accounts claim protesting activists are ‘illegally detained, beaten and abused’ by the police. Photo: Daniel Bellut
On July 16th 2020, the women of Turkey froze in shock as something that had happened countless times, happened once more. A 27-year-old university student, Pinar Gültekin was found murdered by her ex-boyfriend for allegedly refusing his advances. When they heard the news, women marched onto the streets of Izmir in protest. Only to be met harshly by the police as several activists were arrested, some allegedly even detained, beaten, and abused.
Women and men are not equal in Turkey, both in politics and in the economy. The threat of death and the prevalent gender inequality in the country are not new to Turkish women, as Melek Onder from the Turkish platform ‘We will Stop Femicide’ will tell you. “In Turkey, a woman dies because of violence every day. And with the pandemic, femicide is increasing,” she says.
We Will Stop Femicide is a platform started in 2010 by the relatives of families of women who were murdered in Turkey. It keeps a tracker of all the femicides in the country, and provides legal aid for vulnerable women.
Turkey is no stranger to gender violence or femicide, a hate crime committed against women. In fact, a study conducted by Hacettepe University Institute of Population Studies in 2014 reveals that 38 percent of ever-married women reported having been subjected to lifetime physical and/or sexual violence by their husbands or intimate partners, meaning that women are often unsafe in their own homes. This has only gotten worse during the lockdown, as at least 18 women have been killed across Turkey, 12 of them at home.
This is why the women of Turkey are calling out for enforcement of the Istanbul Convention, a human rights treaty signed in Istanbul, Turkey, specifically aimed at preventing and combating violence against women. This is especially significant now as the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and President Erdogan have raised doubts about the Istanbul Convention due to its encouragement of homosexuality and consequent ‘destruction of family values’. The AKP has refused to rule out the possibility of leaving the Istanbul Convention, much to the anger of feminists across Turkey who have raised their voices in protest.
“The Istanbul Convention protects women from domestic violence. Leaving the Istanbul Convention will empower and encourage men to commit violence on women,” explains Melek Onder.
But the major problem, she acknowledges, is the patriarchy and the fact that there are very few women in power, compared to the men. Though the number has improved over the past 10 years. She admitted that while #womenforwomen is not from Turkey, it has given them a reach all throughout the world. Women in Poland, Greece and other countries have extended their support to the women of Turkey. And so she believes that the national and international pressure will stop Turkey from leaving the Istanbul Convention. And while the struggle against domestic violence doesn’t end there, it’s a start towards moving towards building a safer world for women.