Demonstrant:innen Istanbul

Ten Years Istanbul Convention – where is Turkey heading?

Ten years Istanbul Convention – where is  Turkey heading?

A politically fragmented country. The withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention and women uniting in solidarity under the slogan “We are not abandoning the Istanbul Convention”.



Capital: Ankara
Population: approx. 83,15 million
Languages: about 26 national languages, including the most commonly spoken second language Kumanji, one of the three Kurdish languages; the official language is Turkish

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Demonstrant:innen Istanbul
"What did you fear from the Istanbul Convention?" - Burcu Yıldırım/ Evrensel:

It is not a coincidence that the Convention was named after the Turkish city of Istanbul. Turkey had signed the Convention of the Council of Europe in May 2011, the first country to do so.1 The treaty is fundamental for preventing and combating violence against women. The treaty builds on the four pillars of prevention, protection, prosecution, and coordinated policies.2

When the treaty was signed in 2011, hopes were high that it would change the situation of women in Turkey. Gender-based violence is one of the biggest insecurities women face in Turkey. In recent years, the number of women killed by their family members, partners, and ex-partners has grown drastically. Alone in 2020, 409 women were killed; in the first half of 2021, the number is 180, rising day by day.3 The numbers do not reflect the reality; suspicious killings and reputed suicides are not counted.

Number of Femicides in Turkey in 2020

Violence against women and gender-based violence is systemic in Turkey. The Istanbul Convention is the only instrument through which women can be protected. The lack of legal assistance and prosecutions threatens the lives of thousands of women. With the strengthening of the conservative Islamic party AKP, the lives of women have changed drastically. The Convention is seen as a threat to the traditional family. The government used this excuse to debate the content of the Convention and review the decision. Officials publicly denounce women’s place in the public. Patriarchal values are upheld throughout society and are being nourished by a conservative government that is afraid of women.4

Not a day passes without the picture of killed women on the news. On the website of the platform ‚Kadin Cinayetlerini Durduracağız‚ (We will end femicide), on the right side, in a purple box, the number of femicides is displaced. The box shows more than numbers; upon clicking on it, the numbers become names. Names of women killed by their male relatives, their husbands, their partners, and ex-partners 4. It is the sheer form of violence that shocks alongside the rising numbers. Women are beaten to death, strangled, and burned. Last year, the death of a 27 years old woman shocked the whole country.5

On the 20th march, Turkey withdrew from the Istanbul Convention per presidential decree. Even though the Turkish law requires the parliament to approve such a move, the developments in recent years have given the president more and more power. Normally, the presidency need to defend the decision in front of the state council. The state council is postponing any objections to the withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention.6 The decision of the president will become effective on the 1st of July, 2021. The withdrawal is yet another sign of the recent developments in the country. There are no mechanisms that protect women’s rights. Every day, reports of killed women and suspicious deaths are shared on social media and the news. While politicians all over the world and civil societies have criticized the move, there are no signs of consequences. Women are left alone with their fate.

Since 2016, Turkey’s political system changed to a presidential system before Turkey had a parliamentary system.

On June 19th, women united in solidarity in Istanbul to protest against the withdrawal from the treaty. There was no sign of the fragmented political landscape of Turkey. On the contrary, different parties and organizations united with the same aim. Furthermore, they remembered Deniz Poyraz, a woman working in the HDP (Pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party) office in Izmir, killed days before by a man.7 The man had attacked the office of the party with a gun. The act was racially motivated. After the attack, the right-wing party leader openly justified the violence against the Kurdish party.8

Women are pushed more and more into the background. The trend has not stopped women from organizing and uniting to defend the Istanbul Convention and demand the Convention’s re-ratification. It is a picture of hope and solidarity. They demand women’s rights and LGBTQI rights. In a country where polarization is increasing day by day, the unification of women for women’s and human rights is a strong move no one can and should ignore.

Freya Scharrelmann


  1. Council of Europe: Turkey.

  2. Europarat (2019). Die Istanbul-Konvention, ein Wirksames Instrument zur Verhütung Geschlechtersspezifischer Gewalt. Ein Handbuch für Parlamentarier zur Konvention des Europarates zur Verhütung und Bekämpfung von Gewalt gegen Frauen und häuslicher Gewalt. Unter:

  3. Kadin Cinayetlerini Durduracagiz (2021). February Report 2021. Unter:

  4. Gottschlich, J. (2020). Immer mehr Femizide in der Türkei: Geschlagen, gewürgt, verbrannt. Unter:!5703468/

  5. Sancar, N. (2020). İstanbul sözleşmesi ve toplumsal cinsiyet konusu. Unter:

  6. Tekin, A. (2021). Kadınlar İstanbul Sözleşmesi için alanlara çıktı: Tüm şarkıları Deniz Poyraz için söylüyoruz. Unter:

  7. Mor Çatı (2021). Mor Çatı İstanbul Sözleşmesi’nden çekilme kararının iptali için Danıştay’da dava açtı: İstanbul Sözleşmesi’nden vazgeçmiyoruz!

  8. Devlet Bahçeli’den Deniz Poyraz iddiası. Unter: Think thank IPAR, August 2020, « Pêcherie artisanales et droits humains au Sénégal ».

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1 Anmerkung zu “Ten Years Istanbul Convention – where is Turkey heading?

  1. Samantha Phillips

    Excellent article drawing our attention to this landmark downward change in Turkish attitude towards women.


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