Turkish court drops case against women’s rights group fighting femicide

Protesters take part in a demonstration in support of We Will Stop Femicide Platform outside the courthouse in İstanbul on Sept. 13, 2023, during the last hearing of a trial seeking to ban the platform. (Photo by YASIN AKGUL / AFP)

A Turkish court on Wednesday rejected a prosecutor’s attempt to shut down a leading women’s rights group that fights against femicide on charges of violating administrative laws and “morality,” Turkish Minute reported on Wednesday, citing Agence France-Presse.

The rare court victory for a Turkish rights group came as Ankara vows to repair ties with Western allies after May elections in which President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan extended his rule into a third decade.

Cheers from We Will Stop Femicide Platform members and supporters were heard in Istanbul’s main courthouse when the presiding judge dropped the case after more than a year of hearings.

“You won’t be able to stop us, but we will stop femicide,” the group declared on social media after the verdict.

“We are very happy, but [the trial] should never have happened in the first place,” We Will Stop Femicide Platform representative Nurşen İnal told AFP.

Riot police cordoned off the courthouse and detained two supporters of the group ahead of the closely watched hearing.

Prosecutors had asked the court to close the group for “acting against the law and morality” in hearings that had stretched out for more than a year.

The group called the charges political and said it was never presented with an explanation as to which laws it was supposed to have violated.

Change in tone

The We Will Stop Femicide Platform has been campaigning against the murder and abuse of women in the mostly Muslim but officially secular nation since 2010.

It became a lightning rod for criticism from Islamic conservatives after speaking out against Erdoğan’s 2021 decision to pull Turkey out of a European convention aimed at combating violence against women.

More conservative members of Erdoğan’s ruling party also accused the group of damaging traditional family values by speaking out in defense of LGBTQ rights.

Erdoğan himself branded the LGBTQ community “perverse” and repeatedly denounced its supporters during his May re-election campaign.

The We Will Stop Femicide Platform says 403 women were murdered in Turkey last year and 423 in 2021.

The group’s prosecution alarmed human rights groups and followed a string of other hugely controversial jailings of Erdoğan opponents and reporters.

But some analysts are sensing a change in tone in Turkey after the May vote.

Turkey this year reaffirmed its commitment to resume long-stalled negotiations to join the European Union.

Erdoğan is also slowly repairing relations with historic rivals Armenia and Greece.

His push to join the European Union — at a standstill since 2018 — is unlikely to make major headway in the coming years.

The bloc’s enlargement commissioner said on a visit to Ankara this month that Brussels needed to see tangible progress on Turkey’s commitment to “democracy and the rule of law.”

But initial talks are starting on expanding a customs union the sides first signed nearly three decades ago.

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