Turkish authorities not effective in fighting domestic violence, victim interview reveals

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A Turkish woman who was repeatedly subjected to violence by her husband talked to Deutsche Welle Turkish service about the incompetence of the police in protecting her and her children and the ineffectiveness of government policies regarding violence against women.

Aysel, identified only by her first name, went to the police four times asking for help but to no avail. She said her husband not only beat her but went as far as locking her in the house and deliberately burning her arms.

Aysel said she had left her children at home the first time, but the police told her they could not collect them for her so she had to go back. The next time she was able to get a 40-day restraining order, but her husband was allowed to come back home to collect his clothes.

“He told me I was all alone, and there were no police,” she said, adding, “He asked me who would protect me now.”

Aysel claimed that this turned into a pattern, where each time she would get a restraining order but he would come home with the knowledge of the police.

“They could at least make him use ankle bracelets. That way they would know if he came back home or not,” she said emphasizing that although restraining orders are issued there is no follow-up on the situation.

Aysel said her husband also appeared in court one time. “I thought finally, we will get closure. I had hope, but he was sent to prison on Wednesday and released Sunday.”

Aysel stayed in a women’s shelter for some time. She said nearly all the women have similar stories, where their husband’s would be detained but released shortly thereafter.

She emphasized that she had no social life and could not even register her children in school because she was afraid her husband would find them. “He will never leave us alone, because he was never punished for what he did.”

Femicide and violence against women has become a serious problem in Turkey. According to the Women’s Association Against Femicide 27 women were confirmed to have been killed by close male relatives and 23 women died under suspicious circumstances in the first half of 2020.

Despite the increasing number of deaths and women who have filed against their partners due to violence, Turkish authorities are considering withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention.

The İstanbul Convention is a Council of Europe treaty designed to prevent violence and domestic abuse against women. This is the first European treaty specifically targeting violence against women and domestic violence.

The convention was opened for signature in Istanbul in May 2011 and entered into force in August 2014. So far 45 Council of Europe member states have signed the convention, while 34 of them have ratified it, with Turkey being the first among the 34 ratifying countries.

After signing the convention Turkey added Article 6284 to its Civil Law, which defined the rights of women who feel threatened in their homes.

Hilal Kaplan, a journalist close to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in May wrote that Article 6284’s definition of violence was too broad, that it has invited state officials into the domestic sphere.

The article has shortened the path to obtaining a restraining order against husbands, a move that is strongly criticized by conservatives as breaking the family apart.

The convention has recently turned into a matter of debate, criticized by some pro-government, conservative journalists who argue that it promotes homosexuality in society and encourages women to leave their husbands.

Turkey’s decision to ratify the Istanbul Convention was “wrong,” ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Deputy Chairman Numan Kurtulmuş said on July 2.

President Erdoğan last year drew attention to the matter, saying he had heard some discontent from conservative communities regarding the convention.

Discussions concerning withdrawal from the convention has been met with an outcry from activists and international human rights associations such as Amnesty International.

“Turkey’s withdrawal from the Convention would have disastrous consequences for millions of women and girls in the country and to organizations providing vital support to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. Even the discussion of a possible withdrawal is having a huge adverse impact on the safety of women and girls,” Amnesty International Women’s Rights Researcher Anna Błuś said.

“Rather than becoming the first Council of Europe Member State to withdraw from the Convention, Turkey should ensure the treaty is fully implemented and take immediate action to better protect and promote the rights of women and girls.”

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