Turkey considering quitting treaty on violence against women

Women protest for women rights and against child abuse in Istanbul. (Reuters)
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Updated 06 August 2020

Turkey considering quitting treaty on violence against women

  • The AKP will decide in the next week whether to initiate legal steps to pull out of the accord

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party is considering whether to pull Turkey out of an international accord designed to protect women, party officials said, alarming campaigners who see the pact as key to combating rising domestic violence.

The officials said the AKP is set to decide by next week whether to withdraw from the deal, just weeks after the vicious murder of a woman by an ex-boyfriend reignited a row over how to curb violence against women.

Despite signing the Council of Europe accord in 2011, pledging to prevent, prosecute and eliminate domestic violence and promote equality, Turkey saw 474 femicides last year, double the number seen in 2011, according to a group which monitors murders of women.

Many conservatives in Turkey say the pact, ironically forged in Istanbul, encourages violence by undermining family structures. Their opponents argue that the deal, and legislation approved in its wake, need to be implemented more stringently. The row reaches not just within Erdogan’s AKP but even his own family, with two of his children involved in groups on either side of the debate about the Istanbul Convention.

The AKP will decide in the next week whether to initiate legal steps to pull out of the accord, a senior party official told Reuters.

“There is a small majority (in the party) who argue it is right to withdraw,” said the official, who argued however that abandoning the agreement when violence against women was on the rise would send the wrong signals.

Another AKP official argued on the contrary that the way to reduce the violence was to withdraw, adding that a decision would be reached next week. The argument crystallized last month around the brutal killing of Pinar Gultekin, 27, a student in the southwestern province of Mugla, who was strangled, burned and dumped in a barrel — the latest in a growing number of women killed by men in Turkey.

Opponents of the accord say it is part of the problem because it undermines traditional values which protect society.

“It is our religion which determines our fundamental values, our view of the family,” said the Turkish Youth Foundation, whose advisory board includes the president’s son Bilal Erdogan. It called for Turkey to withdraw from the accord.

“This would really break Turkey away from the civilized world and the consequences may be very severe,” Gamze Tascier, a lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People’s Party, told Reuters.

The Women and Democracy Association (KADEM), of which Erdogan’s daughter Sumeyye is deputy chairwoman, rejects that argument. “We can no longer talk about ‘family’... in a relationship where one side is oppressed and subject to violence,” KADEM said.

Many conservatives are also hostile to the principle of gender equality in the Istanbul Convention and see it as promoting homosexuality, given its principle of non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

Critics of the bid to withdraw from the pact say it would put Turkey further out of step with the values of the EU, which it has sought to join for decades.

“This would really break Turkey away from the civilized world and the consequences may be very severe,” Gamze Tascier, a lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People’s Party, told Reuters.

Turkey would not be the first country to move toward ditching the accord. Poland’s highest court is to scrutinize the pact after a Cabinet member said Warsaw should quit the treaty which the nationalist government considers too liberal.

Turkish women’s groups were set to protest on Wednesday to demand better implementation of the accord, taking to the streets after an online campaign in the wake of Gultekin’s killing where they shared black-and-white selfies on Instagram.

Turkey does not keep official statistics on femicide. World Health Organization data has shown 38 percent of women in Turkey are subject to violence from a partner in their lifetime, compared to about 25 percent in Europe.

The government has taken measures such as tagging individuals known to resort to violence and creating a smartphone app for women to alert police, which has been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times.


Lebanon and Israel to hold talks on disputed borders

Updated 31 min 43 sec ago

Lebanon and Israel to hold talks on disputed borders

  • "UNIFIL stands ready to extend to the parties all the support at its disposal and facilitate efforts towards a resolution of this issue," the force said
  • The US will act as a facilitator during the talks, which are due to be held in the border town of Naqoura

BEIRUT: Lebanon and Israel will hold UN-mediated talks on their disputed maritime and land borders, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri announced Thursday.
The United States will act as a facilitator during the talks, which are due to be held in the southern Lebanon border town of Naqoura, Berri told a news conference without providing a date for the negotiations.
Berri said a framework agreement had been reached to start the negotiations, and read out a September 22 copy of it.

UNIFIL commander Maj.-Gen. Stefano Del Col listens as Lebanese parliament speaker Nabih Berri, announces border talks with Israel. (AP)


"The United States were asked by both sides, Israel and Lebanon, to act as a mediator and facilitator to draw up the maritime borders, and it is ready to do this," he quoted it as saying.
"On the issue of maritime border, continuous talks will be held at the UN headquarters in Naqoura under UN sponsorship," he said.
"The US representatives and the US special coordinator for Lebanon are prepared to provide meeting minutes together that they will sign and present to Israel and Lebanon to sign at the end of each meeting," he added.
The UN peacekeeping force patrolling the shared border welcomed the news.

 


UNIFIL "welcomes today's announcement of a framework agreement to launch negotiations between Lebanon and Israel on maritime border demarcation between the two countries," it said in a statement.
"UNIFIL stands ready to extend to the parties all the support at its disposal and facilitate efforts towards a resolution of this issue."
Lebanon and Israel are still technically at war.
US envoy David Schenker on September 8 said he hoped to come to Lebanon and sign a framework agreement towards starting discussions "in the coming weeks".
The issue of the maritime border is particularly sensitive due to the possible presence of hydrocarbons in the Mediterranean.
In February 2018, Lebanon signed its first contract for offshore drilling in two blocks in the Mediterranean for oil and gas with a consortium comprising energy giants Total, ENI and Novatek.
Lebanon in April said initial drilling in Block 4 had shown traces of gas but no commercially viable reserves.
Exploration of Block 9 has not started and is much more controversial as Israel also claims ownership over part of it.