European leaders criticized what they described as a “confusing and worrying decision by Turkey” to withdraw from an international agreement to protect women from violence and urged President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to reconsider it.
On Saturday, Erdogan’s government withdrew from the Istanbul Agreement, which it signed up to in 2011 after it was drafted in that city, Turkey’s largest city. Turkey has stated that national laws, not external solutions, will protect women’s rights.
The agreement, which is monitored by the Council of Europe, is committed to preventing, prosecuting and eradicating domestic violence and promoting equality. Femicide has increased in Turkey in recent years, with thousands of women taking part in Istanbul and other cities on Saturday to protest the government’s decision to withdraw from the contract.
Germany, France and the European Union expressed anger at the decision, and this was the second time in four days that European leaders criticized Ankara for human rights issues after Turkish prosecutors shut down a pro-Kurdish political party.
“We can only express our deep regret and our incomprehension about the decision of the Turkish government,” said Josep Borrell, the head of foreign affairs of the European Union, on Saturday evening.
He added that the decision “risks jeopardizing the protection of women and girls in Turkey and their fundamental rights and sends a dangerous message to the whole world. Therefore, we can only ask Turkey to reverse the decision.”
In a tweet posted on Twitter today, Sunday, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, who spoke to Erdogan the day before the Turkish decision, said: “Women deserve a strong legal framework to protect them”, and urged all signatories to ratify the agreement.
The agreement split the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and even Erdogan’s family themselves. According to a legal group, officials last year raised the idea of withdrawing from the agreement in a dispute over reducing domestic violence in Turkey, where murders of women have tripled in ten years.
It is noteworthy that many conservatives in Turkey and the Justice and Development Party say the agreement undermines the family structure and encourages violence.
Paris, for its part, said Turkey’s withdrawal represents a new set of human rights setbacks, while Berlin said that culture or traditions cannot be “an excuse to ignore violence against women”.
Diplomatic pressure comes after Europe and the United States said last week that the move to shut down the third largest party in Turkey’s parliament, the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), is undermining democracy in Turkey.
In the phone call on Friday, Erdogan, von der Leyen and Charles Michel, President of the European Council, discussed a calming dispute over marine resources in the Eastern Mediterranean. A European Union summit this week will look at relations with Turkey.
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