Femicide still rising in Turkey, as at least 36 women killed in July

While debates rage on over Turkey’s potential withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention on gender-based violence, at least 36 women were killed by men in Turkey in July, according to a report released on Saturday by the campaign group We Will Stop Femicide.

There were also 11 deaths of women that were deemed suspicious in July, the group said on Twitter.

According to the group’s figures, the number of femicides in Turkey rose compared to last month and year-on-year. In June, 27 women were confirmed killed by men in Turkey. In July 2019, 31 women were confirmed murdered by men in Turkey.

The latest report said that the deaths come amid growing pressures over the COVID-19 pandemic, debate over women’s rights and the Istanbul Convention, and an ongoing failure to implement laws and tackle violence.

“Unless fair trials are made, murderers receive deterrent punishments, and preventive measures are implemented, violence will continue to grow,” it said.

The report found that 11 of the women murdered in July 2020 were killed by their husbands, five were killed by male partners, five were killed by men they knew, four were killed by ex-husbands, two were killed by former partners, two were killed by their fathers, two were killed by their sons, and two were killed by other relatives.

It was unknown who killed three of the 36 confirmed murdered women.

Half of the women murdered this month were killed in their homes and 24 of them were killed by firearms, according to the report.

The latest figures come as women’s rights campaigners fear that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government may be set to withdraw Turkey from the Council of Europe treaty known as the Istanbul Convention, which is designed to protect victims of domestic and gender-based violence.

The convention was opened for signatures on May 11, 2011, in Istanbul. On March 12, 2012, Turkey became the first country to ratify the treaty.

But Turkey’s conservative media has long claimed the convention encourages divorce and immorality, and AKP officials have recently started to discuss the possibility of withdrawal - an initiative kick-started by AKP Deputy Chairman Numan Kurtulmuş.

“Just as we fulfilled the requirements and signed it, we can fulfil the requirements and leave,” Kurtulmuş said on July 2.

In its latest report, We Will Stop Femicide defended the Istanbul Convention by saying that, if implemented properly, it provided measures to analyse data on gender-based violence and develop policies and solutions to tackle the issue.

The report highlighted that, while conservatives had accused the convention of seeking to undermine traditional family structures, many of the women had been killed in their homes and by family members and that the convention’s aim was to stop the widespread normalisation of violence against women.

Femicides and violence against women are longstanding and growing issues in Turkey. A total of 474 women were killed in 2019, the highest rate in a decade in which the numbers have steadily increased.

Last week, the brutal killing of Pınar Gültekin, a 27-year-old student, triggered protests in Turkey. Marches in four Turkish cities last week mourned Gültekin’s death and called on the government to uphold the Istanbul Convention.

Members and supporters of the AKP are divided on whether Turkey should remain in the convention.

The Women and Democracy Organisation (KADEM), whose vice president is Sümeyye Erdoğan, the daughter of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, publicly stated its support for the treaty in a 16-point statement published on its website on Friday that was designed to allay conservative concerns over the convention.

“If murders (of women) have really increased here, there are many sociological and psychological variables that should be looked at. Making the convention a target like this means ignoring the real causes,” KADEM said.

According to Yücel Kayaoğlu writing in Türkiye newspaper in mid July, at a Central Executive Board (MYK) meeting on July 13, Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül backed moves to withdraw Turkey from the convention, while a number of leading names in the party voiced their opposition to Turkey’s withdrawal, including Family, Labour and Social Services Minister Zehra Zümrüt Selçuk and AKP group deputy chair Mehmet Muş,

Erdoğan concluded the meeting by saying that the treaty must ultimately be scrapped, the Türkiye contributor said.