Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a decree within the early hours of March 20 withdrawing Turkey from the Council of Europe treaty — dubbed the Istanbul Conference — on stopping and combating violence in opposition to ladies and home violence. The conference units complete requirements for safeguarding ladies in opposition to all types of violence.

The withdrawal prompted widespread protests from ladies’s teams and an uproar on social media, criticizing that it indicators an enormous setback for girls’s rights in a rustic with excessive charges of gender-based violence and femicides. Simply in 2020, a minimum of 300 ladies have been murdered in Turkey.


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Following the general public outrage over the withdrawal, authorities representatives unconvincingly responded that girls’s rights are assured in nationwide legal guidelines and that there isn’t any want for worldwide legal guidelines. The Directorate of Communications defended the choice with the declare that the conference was “hijacked by a gaggle of individuals trying to normalize homosexuality,” and that that is incompatible with the nation’s social and household values.

Turkey was the primary state to ratify the Istanbul Conference and have become the primary to tug out. What lies behind the withdrawal?

Erdogan’s Rationale: To Stay in Energy at All Prices

In August 2020, officers within the Justice and Improvement Social gathering (AKP) signaled that Turkey was contemplating withdrawing from the Istanbul Conference after spiritual conservatives started an intense lobbying effort in opposition to the conference, lambasting it for damaging “conventional Turkish household values.” Though they claimed that the treaty destroys households and promotes homosexuality, conservative ladies’s teams supporting the AKP defended it. The row even reached Erdogan’s family, with two of his youngsters turning into concerned in teams on both facet of the controversy. Resulting from these inner tensions inside the AKP and the symbolic achievement with the reconversion of the Hagia Sophia right into a mosque in 2020, the controversy was postponed.

Though opinion polls had proven that 84% of Turks opposed withdrawing from the Istanbul Conference and a majority of conservative ladies have been in favor of it, Erdogan determined to tug out of the treaty, thereby disregarding not solely the worldwide legislation anchored within the structure, but in addition the legislative energy of parliament. This transfer comes amid considerably eroding help for the president and his casual alliance with the ultra-nationalist Nationalist Motion Social gathering (MHP). The withdrawal from the conference provides Erdogan three political benefits that can assist him retain energy.

First, Erdogan and his AKP intention to reenergize their conservative voter base, which has been dissatisfied with the financial downturn — a actuality that has solely been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. The ruling AKP authorities can not curb the excessive degree of inflation, and unemployment and poverty charges stay excessive. Leaving the conference is a symbolic gesture to his base, however it can convey short-term reduction, as did the reconversion of the Hagia Sophia.

Second, with a possible electoral defeat in thoughts, Erdogan is in search of new allies. He thus made an overture in January to the Islamist Felicity Social gathering (SP), which is in an oppositional alliance with secularist, nationalist and conservative events. With its 2.5% of the vote within the 2018 parliamentary elections, the SP shares the identical Islamist roots because the AKP and is in style amongst ultraconservative voters, who enthusiastically again the withdrawal from the Istanbul Conference.

In his assembly with the SP, Erdogan used the withdrawal as a bargaining chip for a attainable electoral alliance sooner or later. He’s not solely aiming to strengthen his personal voting bloc, but in addition to interrupt the oppositional alliance, which has more and more gained confidence since its success within the 2019 native elections and been efficient in difficult Erdogan’s more and more authoritarian rule.

Third, to bolster his picture as a willful chief, the Turkish president has intensified the extent of repression by suppressing democratic civil society organizations that dare to problem his rule. This time, he has focused ladies’s rights advocates, who continuously criticize the federal government for not strictly implementing the protecting measures of the Istanbul Conference.

Political Conditionality as a Mandatory European Response

Whereas rising the extent of repression in home politics, Turkey intensified its diplomatic appeal offensive to reset Turkish relations with the European Union. Towards this background, Brussels shouldn’t solely condemn the choice, but in addition revise its EU-Turkey agenda by imposing political circumstances concerning human rights and the rule of legislation, which have as soon as once more been breached with Ankara’s withdrawal from the conference.

This strategy is important for 2 causes. First, the EU can ship a motivating message to democratic segments of civil society and the opposition by underlining that the Istanbul Conference is a matter of human rights and that its sole goal is defending ladies from violence relatively than undermining Turkey’s nationwide values and traditions. Second, calling Ankara out can be in Europe’s personal curiosity. The withdrawal can have spillover results on different member states of the Council of Europe.

Contemplating the most recent makes an attempt by the Polish authorities to interchange the Istanbul Conference with another “family-based” treaty that additionally finds help in different Central European governments, the backlash in opposition to ladies’s rights in Europe just isn’t a fable, however relatively a actuality.

*[This article was originally published by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), which advises the German government and Bundestag on all questions related to foreign and security policy.]

The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Pkhype.com’s editorial coverage.