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Increase in femicides in Turkey amount to a war on women, rights group warns

Government plans to withdraw from international convention on gender-based violence

FEMICIDE in Turkey has reached a level resembling “a war record,” according to women’s groups, which accused the government of “political murder” over its plans to withdraw from an international convention on gender-based violence.

Activists from the Liberation of Women initiative were among those who formed a “purple chain” in front of the Sureyya opera house in Istanbul’s Kadikoy district on Tuesday, despite a heavy police presence.

They held placards bearing the images of women killed or disappeared over the past year, including Uzbek woman Nadira Kadirova, who allegedly committed suicide in the flat of ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) MP Sirin Unal, and Kurdish student Gulistan Doku, who went missing on January 5 following an argument with her ex-boyfriend in Dersim.

Turkey does not record the number of femicides, but according to unofficial statistics, 474 women were killed by their partners in 2019 alone. The figure was likened to “a war record” by women’s rights activist Esra Can, who said the number of unreported cases is probably much higher.

The deaths are the result of the “misogynistic and male-state policy of the AKP,” according to Ms Can, who alleged that thousands of women have been killed since the party came to power.

Women’s rights groups warn of a culture of impunity with reduced sentences for gender-based violence and many murders remaining unsolved.

Despite the rise in femicides, the government announced earlier this month that it planned to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, a move that the We Will Stop Femicides Platform warns will pave the way for more violence against women.

AKP deputy chairman Numan Kurtulmus denounced the signing of the convention in 2011, which the Turkish parliament ratified the following year, as “really wrong” claiming that it had “played into the hands of LGBT and other marginal elements.”

Seen as a step forward for women, the Istanbul Convention obliges signatories to tackle gender-based crime, provide protection and services for women and ensure that perpetrators are prosecuted.

But conservative and Islamists in Turkey remain hostile, insisting that gender equality undermines the institution of the family.

This view is reflected by the government, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claiming that it is impossible to discriminate against women, despite Turkey being one of the most unequal countries in the world according to the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Index.

On Tuesday, scores of women were detained in police operations targeting women’s organisations in the largely Kurdish city of Diyarbakir. They included Jin News editor Ayse Guney and Free Women’s Movement chair Ayse Gokkan.

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