Istanbul Convention stirs debate among Turkey’s conservatives

Istanbul Convention stirs debate among Turkey’s conservatives

A nationwide debate on whether the Istanbul Convention is a useful tool to reduce violence against women or a threat to the unity of the family will likely continue in the near future.

Turkish politics has long been part of this discussion, as the opposition has stood by the convention while the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has followed a rather cautious stance. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is also the chairman of the AKP, has reportedly asked party colleagues to look into the opposing aspects of the debate.

Ultraconservative and religious sects have been pressing for Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention, arguing that it destroys the unity of the family and paves the way for the recognition of LGBT groups.

Those who support the convention argue that the convention is a tool to prevent growing domestic violence in Turkey and contains no provision promoting the LGBT way of life whatsoever. They accuse ultraconservative groups of not respecting gender equality as described by the Istanbul Convention, saying that’s the main reason they object to it.

There are inclinations that the discussion will turn out to be more heated in the coming days after daily Akit, the voice of ultra-religious groups, targeted some conservative women’s groups linked with the ruling party who defend the convention.

Abdurrahman Dilipak, a leading columnist, openly slammed these groups in a strongly worded recent piece; he later received support from fellow columnists in the same newspaper. There were reports that the AKP was planning to sue Dilipak over his insulting remarks, but no official statement has been made so far.

An indirect response to Dilipak came on July 31 from the pro-government Women and Democracy Association (KADEM), which issued a detailed statement as to why it endorses the Istanbul Convention by refuting the arguments voiced by ultra-religious groups.

What makes this women’s association more significant is the fact that its executive board includes Erdoğan’s daughter Sümeyye Erdoğan Bayraktar and close relatives and associates of top AKP officials.

KADEM has long supported the convention, but it has had to soften its rhetoric as a result of growing pressure from ultra-religious groups. It seems a recent intervention from these groups, particularly at a moment when the country’s agenda was totally overwhelmed by the brutal murder of a 27-year-old university student, has remobilized KADEM in defense of women’s rights.

KADEM’s statement doesn’t appear to have made much impact on Dilipak and like-minded groups, as the Akit columnist said he would continue to highlight wrongful moves from wherever they come, regardless of who is the leader of the country.

All eyes will surely be on Erdoğan in the aftermath of Eid al-Adha, as the AKP will reportedly prioritize how to decide the fate of the Istanbul Convention.