Feminists are arrested as femicides increase in Turkey

While the Turkish government has arrested more than 80,000 people, closed nearly 100 media outlets and 3,000 schools since the failed 2016 coup, LGBT activists and Turkish feminists are among its last targets for repression, the Nouvel Observateur reports. 

Meanwhile, the number of femicides in the country is on the rise.

The number of femicides in Turkey much higher than officially reported, according to Hatice Coruk from the Kadın Kültür Evi Derneği women's association. She places blame on the entire justice system.

 "We have to be more mistrustful whenever a femicide is classed as a suicide. It is increasingly a cover for femicide," Çoruk says.

Leyla Soydınç from Morçatı (Purple Roof) Women's Shelter Foundation, an Istanbul-based women's association, also sees a structural problem. "In a justice system dominated by men, many of the crimes committed [against women] go unpunished."

Three hundred femicides were reported last year, but another 171 suspicious deaths were almost certainly femicides, according to the association.

Meanwhile, feminist associations, and feminists themselves, are also under attack.

Beliz, a student, and feminist, at Istanbul’s Boğaziçi University in Istanbul, at the age of 20, is facing three criminal charges.

Since the abortive coup d'état of 2016, Erdoğan has decided to take the country back in hand. And in particular, to take control of education. The emergency law he passed following the failed putsch allowed him to fire thousands of teachers and replace them with civil servants under orders.

To bring the liberal bastion of Bogaziçi to heel, in January 2021 he appointed as rector Melih Bulu, a former Istanbul provincial chapter deputy chairman of his Justice and Development Party (AKP). This particular presidential decree was published in the Official Gazette on a Friday.

But despite the weekend break, in this too independent, too liberal, too secular university, the teaching staff and the students took this action very badly. The protests that followed the rector's appointment have never really stopped since.

Until a day in February, when police pointed machine guns at students and made hundreds of arrests.

As for feminist associations, their fate is hardly more enviable. A few days after the closure of the LGBT club, the association of victims of sexual harassment was dissolved at Boğaziçi

Amnesty International has decried the attacks on feminist organisations: “mass NGO closure is attempt to 'permanently silence' civil society criticism,” the organisation said.

Aylin, a young feminist activist from the Maison des Femmes, explains that “All NGOs are at the mercy of the regime. They cut our budgets, close our associations for a mistake they invent.’’

“It's a never-ending fight, but we won't let go," she says.

On the night of March 20 Ankara left the Istanbul Convention, a Council of Europe treat that is widely regarded as the gold standard in international efforts to protect women and girls from violence.

Lawyers for feminist associations have denounced an upsurge in femicides after Turkey slammed the door of the convention. It was as if, they say, the government had given men a blank check to beat their wives.

“Civil liberties are at an end under this government,” complains one young student.