Anger, condemnation after Turkey exits treaty to protect women

Since last year, women have taken to the streets across the country calling on the government to stick to the convention.

Video Transcript

[PROTESTERS CHANTING]

ALEXANDRA BYERS: The landmark treaty protecting women from violence bears the name of Turkey's largest city. Now in Istanbul, there's anger that Turkey is walking away from the accord it was first to sign a decade ago.

OZLEM TEKIN: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

INTERPRETER: I wasn't feeling safe as a woman even before this. And after this, I feel like I'm in an unsafe environment. At least there was a law, a decision that I was leaning on. But now I feel like I don't have any support. I feel vulnerable.

ALEXANDRA BYERS: In 2011, more than 45 governments promised to take tougher action on domestic violence, marital rape, and female genital mutilation. But conservative groups and officials from the governing AK party have long argued it's inconsistent with Turkey's values, and undermines the traditional family unit. Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered his country's withdrawal in a presidential decree. The government says Turkey's laws are enough to protect women and their rights, but not everyone agrees.

AYFER MORGIC: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

INTERPRETER: Every day, women are killed in the street, in the bus, in the car. There are women who are beaten by their lovers in an elevator. When you go to the police, they say, it's OK, he's your husband. Forgive him for the sake of your children. But when that woman returns home, the same police officers go there a day after to take her to her funeral. How are they protecting us?

ALEXANDRA BYERS: Rights groups say violence against women and deaths are on the rise in Turkey.

IPEK BOZKUR: There has been an increase in femicide cases. Only last year, 300 women were killed. 170 cases were unidentified. So women are saying well, investigate why we are being killed, why there is an increase in violence.

ALEXANDRA BYERS: Turkey's not alone in turning its back on the Istanbul Convention. Conservative and populist governments in Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and Bulgaria have all moved to prevent the accord from being ratified.

REBECCA CHRISTIE: When you have a situation where people in charge think they can score political points by withdrawing even nominal protections for women and vulnerable populations, you have a situation where people who would like to target them believe they can do without any sort of penalty.

[PROTESTERS CHANTING]

ALEXANDRA BYERS: Protesters like these in Istanbul say they'll fight on, insisting their years-long struggle won't be erased by the stroke of a pen. Alexandra Byers, Al Jazeera.