Iranian asylum seekers detained for attending peaceful Istanbul Convention protest in Turkey

Four Iranian asylum seekers were detained yesterday for participating in a demonstration against Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention, the Council of Europe’s (CoE) binding treaty to prevent and combat violence against women, in the western Denizli province, the Evrensel daily reported.

Esmaeil Fattahi, Leili Faraji, Zeinab Sahafi and Mohammad Pourakbari Kermani were detained more than a week after they participated in the demonstration, which took place on March 20.

According to Article 34 of the Turkish Constitution, everyone has the right to attend peaceful demonstrations and protests. However, during their interrogation at the Foreigners Office of the Denizli Police Department the asylum seekers were allegedly asked whether they had attended the demonstration and told it was not legal.

The detention of the Iranian asylum seekers has caused concern as they were already worried that the close diplomatic ties between Turkey and Iran could cause Turkey to deport them. Although Turkey has an international obligation of non-refoulement to a country where a person faces the death penalty and/or torture, several Iranian activists and journalist have been previously deported to Iran.

During the demonstration, Fattahi had said they had struggled against the regime in Iran that had deprived women of their rights and were now fighting to protect women’s rights in Turkey. “The women’s movement is international and has no geographical boundaries,” she said.

The Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, widely known as the Istanbul Convention, was signed by 45 countries and the European Union in 2011 and requires governments to adopt legislation prosecuting perpetrators of domestic violence and similar abuse as well as marital rape and female genital mutilation.

Turkey was the first member state to ratify the CoE convention, which was opened for signature in Istanbul during Turkey’s chairmanship of the organization 10 years ago.

In a move that attracted widespread criticism from several countries, international organizations and rights groups, Turkey withdrew from the Istanbul Convention, through a presidential decree issued by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on March 20.

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