Women’s Rights in Turkey: 2021 in Review

The year 2021 witnessed an increase in rights violations against women in Turkey, with rising numbers of femicide cases and the March 10 withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention, a Council of Europe treaty designed to prevent violence and domestic abuse against women.

According to the We Will Stop Femicide Platform (Kadın Cinayetlerini Durduracağız Platformu), 280 women were murdered in 2021. Among them, 124 were killed by their husbands, 37 by their boyfriends and 21 by their former husbands. Only 11 of the women were not killed by a man closely related to them. The number of suspicious deaths has also increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amid calls from women’s rights organizations and world leaders, such as US President Joe Biden, for the reinstatement of the Istanbul Convention, the Council of State, Turkey’s highest administrative court, rejected appeals requesting the cancellation of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s executive decree withdrawing Turkey from the convention.

Here is some of the most important news from 2021 in the field of women’s rights:

Turkey pulled out of landmark treaty protecting women from violence

Demonstrators take part in a protest against Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention, the world’s first binding treaty to prevent and combat violence against women, in Ankara, on July 1, 2021. Turkish president sparked outrage in March by pulling out of the Istanbul Convention. The 2011 pact, signed by 45 countries and the European Union, requires governments to adopt legislation linked to the prosecution of crimes including marital rape and female genital mutilation. Adem ALTAN / AFP

Turkey pulled out of the world’s first binding treaty to prevent and combat violence against women by presidential decree in March.

The 2011 Istanbul Convention, signed by 45 countries and the European Union, requires governments to adopt legislation prosecuting domestic violence and similar abuse as well as marital rape and female genital mutilation. Conservatives had claimed the charter damages family unity, encourages divorce and that its references to equality were being used by the LGBT community to gain broader acceptance in society. More…

International community and organizations reacted negatively to Turkey’s withdrawal from Istanbul Convention

World leaders, international and regional organizations and right groups reacted negatively to Turkey’s decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, the Council of Europe’s (CoE) binding treaty to prevent and combat violence against women. More…

Turkey set clock back 10 years on women’s rights: Amnesty International

Turkey set the clock back 10 years on women’s rights by withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention and has also set a “terrifying precedent,” said Amnesty International. Agnes Callamard, secretary-general of Amnesty International, said the withdrawal “sends a reckless and dangerous message to perpetrators who abuse, maim and kill that they can carry on doing so with impunity.” More…

Minister criticized for claiming ‘tolerable level’ of domestic violence during pandemic

Turkey’s Minister of Family and Social Services Derya Yanık attracted widespread criticism due to remarks suggesting that Turkey has experienced “tolerable levels” of domestic violence during the coronavirus pandemic. The minister said the pandemic led to an increase in cases of domestic violence in the beginning, adding, “While there were 19,582 cases [of domestic violence] in January 2020, this number rose to a tolerable level in the February-March period and showed a significant drop in April 2020.” More…

AKP politician lambasted for again claiming Gülen-linked women conceive in conjugal rooms

Özlem Zengin, a senior official from Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), came under fire once again due to remarks claiming that women who were jailed as part of a government-led crackdown on the Gülen movement deliberately conceive in conjugal rooms to create the perception that women in Turkey are jailed with their babies. More…

Turkey’s top court ruled gross negligence on part of authorities in femicide case

The Turkish Constitutional Court ruled that authorities had not taken the necessary precautions to protect a woman identified as S.E., although she had filed several complaints against her husband.

“S.E. was a victim of gross negligence, as the authorities did not do everything in their power to keep her husband away or follow up on complaints. S.E.’s death is not the result of a simple mistake. This decision will be important in preventing other deaths as a result of the authorities’ incompetence,” the decision said. More…

44 women journalists subjected to police violence, 13 detained in 2021

Violence against female journalists increased in Turkey, with 44 female journalists subjected to police violence and 13 detained while covering events in the field in the first half of 2021, said the Coalition for Women in Journalism (CFWIJ). According to CFWIJ violence against female journalists increased by 158.82 percent in 2021 in comparison to the same period of 2020. More…

Ex-soldier walked free after sentence suspended in rape case

In the sixth and final hearing of his trial, former soldier Musa Orhan was given a suspended sentence of 10 years by the Siirt 1st High Criminal Court on conviction of sexual assault. Orhan was accused of raping İpek Er, an 18-year-old Kurdish woman who later died by suicide. More…

‘Murder every day’: Turkish women fearful after treaty exit

Ozan KOSE / AFP

Turkish women began to feel more vulnerable and legally unprotected after Turkey withdrew from the Istanbul Convention in March. And though there had been no detectible surge in violence, rights advocates said there had been a jump in unexplained deaths. More…

 

793 women subjected to rape, sexual harassment in custody in Turkey since 1997: report

According to a report by the Legal Aid Bureau against Sexual Harassment and Rape in Custody, which provides free legal support for women subjected to rape or sexual harassment during detention in Turkey, a total of 793 women had applied for assistance since the bureau was founded in 1997. More…

Study revealed 60 percent of Turks witnessed violence against women

A report titled “The changing family structure in Turkey” and released by İstanbul Commerce University said almost 60 percent of Turks have witnessed violence against women in their immediate environment. More…

Female worker revealed inhumane working conditions at Dardanel fish company

A female worker revealed inhumane working conditions at Turkey’s Dardanel fish company, sparking outrage among unions and activists. The worker said they were treated in an undignified manner and were humiliated and belittled by their superiors. More…

Woman faced detention over alleged Gülen links immediately after giving birth: report

A woman who gave birth in the early hours of the new year in the Turkish capital of Ankara faced detention due to her alleged links to the Gülen movement. “My sister delivered a baby at the Ankara Keçiören Medical Park Hospital tonight. Her name is Hacer Yıldırım. The baby is in intensive care because of amniotic fluid in the lungs. Police officers are waiting at the door to detain her,” Yıldırım’s brother Ramazan Gözel tweeted. More…

Turkish authorities issued detention warrant for police officer accused of unlawful strip-search

Female police officer Songül Eken Kılıç was detained for conducting an unlawful strip-search of architect Mücella Yapıcı when she was detained during the Gezi protests of 2013. Yapıcı filed a complaint saying she was mistreated and subjected to harassment in detention, alleging that she was made to strip naked and squat. Strip-searches have frequently been used by Turkish security forces against people suspected or convicted of political crimes. More…

Top court issued landmark ruling to investigate gov’t officials for negligence in femicide case

Turkey’s Constitutional Court issued a landmark decision in the case of government officials accused of negligence in the murder of academic Serpil Erfındık, who was killed by her husband on December 15, 2013, ruling to relaunch the investigation into them. The top court stated in its first decision holding government officials responsible for a femicide that the officials had violated Erfındık’s right to life by failing to effectively implement protective and preventive measures against violence against women in Turkey. More…

I wish I would die, pregnant inmate mistreated in prison said in voice recording

Arzu Nur Özkan, an eight-months-pregnant former teacher, said the mistreatment she endured in prison made her wish she could die. Özkan said she was mocked by prison doctors and that her multiple health problems were not taken seriously. More…

 

 

Women’s rights activists demanded reinstatement of Istanbul Convention after 2 more femicides

Women’s rights activists demanded reinstatement of the Istanbul Convention, an international treaty to combat violence against women, after two more women were killed on the same day. The number of known femicides had reached 296 by October 2021 according to the We Will Stop Femicide Platform. More…

Pandemic could be increasing underage marriages among migrants: Save the Children

According to a report published by the UK-based charity Save the Children, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased poverty, which could lead to an increase in underage marriages among migrants in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The report said revisions to Turkey’s civil law had also caused an increase in such marriages. More…

Majority of poor women in Turkey only able to perform unpaid labor at home

According to a report titled “The COVID-19 Pandemic and Poverty,” women in Turkey are often only able to perform unpaid labor at home rather than hold outside jobs and as a result suffer the most from poverty.

The pandemic has not only increased poverty among women but also increased their work, the author of the report said, adding that there has been a 9.1 percent increase in poverty among women in Turkey and that single mothers in particular suffer from the effects of poverty. More…

Brother of young woman found dead in AKP deputy’s home demanded justice

Nadira Kadirova (R) and Şirin Ünal

The brother of Nadira Kadirova, a young woman from Uzbekistan who was found dead in the home of ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy Şirin Ünal, called on Turkish authorities to effectively investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of his sister. Muhammed Ali Kadirov said they had appealed to the Constitutional Court 10 months ago to restart the investigation into Kadirova’s death, which had been ruled a suicide by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. Kadirov said the court had yet to make a decision. More…

AKP deputy said women also to blame for male violence and femicide

Hülya Atçı Nergis, a deputy from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), said in a controversial remark that women also bear some guilt for violence perpetrated by men. “Women raise the men who eventually go on to kill other women,” she said on a local television program. “Men are the ones who are always blamed, but in this regard, don’t women have any fault?” she said. Nergis had also said in early March that more men were killed than women. More…

Female student subjected to unlawful strip-search filed complaint amid government’s persistent denial

A female student who was subjected to an unlawful strip-search in detention filed a complaint with the prosecutor’s office after top government officials denied that strip-searches were taking place in Turkish prisons.

According to the testimony of the student, who was not named, the incident took place in Uşak Prison on August 31, 2020. She claimed she was made to take off all her clothes, and when she resisted taking off her underwear, she was yelled at by the prison guards. More…

Sex crime convictions increased 10-fold in Turkey in 10 years: report

The number of people convicted of sex crimes in Turkey saw a sharp increase from 562 in 2009 to 5,800 in 2019, a 10-fold increase in 10 years, according to data released by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat). More…

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