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Here is what you need to know about the increasing Femicide cases in Turkey

Mara Gaioli, GHRD

Group of demonstrators who went down in the streets in Istanbul to protest against femicide in Turkey[1]

In year 2020, Turkey took over the news because of the shocking numbers of Femicides happening in the country. During the summer of 2020, following the brutal killing of a 27-year-old woman, Pinar Gultekin, who was strangled to death and then burnt in a garbage barrel and later her killer filled it with concrete in an attempt to cover up the traces. This event resurfaced the question about number of increasing Femicides in the country. Although the numbers have been increasing year after year, but in 2020 the figures of Femicides reached to all time high.  

Violence against women is not uncommon in Turkey. According to We Will Stop Femicide, a women-rights based organisation in Turkey, in 2019, 474 women were murdered, mostly by partners and relatives. This data was recorded the highest in a decade in Turkey. Due to the COVID-19, in Turkey, has intensified the risk of gender-based violence (GBV) for women and girls, including Femicides. Every month between 16 to up to 36 femicides were recorded in the country[2].

Human rights defenders speculate that COVID-19 is not the only reason why the cases have been rising. Turkish government – under the leadership of the ruling party AKP – has been debating its potential withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention (The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence). Turkey was the first state to sign the Convention back in 2011. Signatories of this Convention are obliged to take necessary measures to prevent violence against women. It criminalises gender-based violence in all forms. However, the Turkish government perceives that the Convention to be antithetical to Turkish traditional family values.

Demonstrators protesting  in Istanbul displaying pictures of victims and holding signs from the ‘We Will Stop Femicide’ organisation.[3]

What has happened in the similar case in the past?

Mounting support to GBV in Turkey by Women’s rights organisation managed to push for the promulgation of national law No. 6284 in 2012. This law regulates several measures against people who commit violence, such as restraining and protection orders; and gave women more rights, from financial empowerment to construction of self-identity. But, it appears to be loosely implemented. Zeliha, 32 years old, serves as an excellent example of the poorly regulated Law in Turkey. She filed 46 complaints against her ex-husband; all of which received no response, and she ended up being killed.

A group of demonstrators tried to protest in Izmir following the killing of Pınar Gültekim.[4]

What has been the reaction so far?

The deputy chair of the AKP Numan Kurtulmus said on an interview that ‘there are two issues in this convention which we do not approve of’, ‘first is the gender issue, and the other is the sexual orientation issue. There are also other issues but these two have been the concepts which have played into the hands of and create spaces for the LGBT and marginal elements to work within’. It is precisely this mentioning of gender and sexual orientation that the conservative party deems to be the core of the problem. They consider it a form of legitimising diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, which are regarded as strongly incompatible with Turkish societal values.

Conservative circles claim that promoting gender equality and providing protective mechanisms for women are tearing families apart and does not fit with Turkish cultural norms. In 2014, President Erdoğan even said that ‘women and men could not be treated equally, it’s against nature’. But not everyone within the government is in favour of withdrawal. The chairwoman of the pro-AKP Women and Democracy Association (KADEM) Saliha Okur has publicly defended the country’s membership to the treaty.[5]

Meanwhile, the NGOs and women rights defenders are expressing dissent via petitions, rallies, protest and other against the government’s attempt to withdraw its name as a signatory of the Convention.


[1] Independent <https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/turkey-femicide-protests-challenge-accepted-pinar-gultekin-izmir-a9656646.html>

[2] Data from the platform ‘We Will Stop Femicide’ available at <http://www.kadincinayetlerinidurduracagiz.net/kategori/veriler>

[3] Aljazeera <https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/7/22/protests-in-turkey-over-brutal-murder-of-young-woman>

[4] Deutsche Welle <https://www.dw.com/en/about-dw/profile/s-30688>

[5] Ahval, ‘As Turkey weighs withdrawal from Istanbul Convention, women prepare to protest’ (18 July 2020)

<https://ahvalnews.com/turkey-womens-rights/turkey-weighs-withdrawal-istanbul-convention-women-prepare-protest>

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