As Jihad Watch reported Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has withdrawn his country from an international treaty that aims at protecting women from violence and abuse. This withdrawal was issued through a presidential decree on February 20. Writes Uzay Bulut
The move sent shockwaves to women’s rights advocates throughout the country, which has been reeling from systematic violence and murders against women.
The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence also came to be known as the Istanbul Convention, as it was opened for signature in Istanbul during the Turkish Chairmanship of the Organization in 2011.
Turkey’s ratification of the convention was particularly significant, as attacks and murders against women have become endemic throughout the country. For example, on December 29 of last year, four women (Aylin Sözer, Selda Taş, Vesile Dönmez, and Betül Tuğluk) were murdered in one day. Women’s rights activists in Ankara who protested the murders were detained by police.
According to the “We Will Stop Femicide Platform,” a women’s rights organization in Turkey, 300 women were murdered and 171 women were found “suspiciously dead” in 2020. The Platform’s annual report said:
It could not be determined why 182 of the 300 women were killed. 22 of them were killed for economic reasons and 96 were killed for trying to make a decision about their lives, such as wanting a divorce, refusing to make up [with their husbands or ex-husbands], or rejecting a proposal of marriage or relationship. The fact that the excuses for the killings of 182 women have not been identified is because violence and murders against women has been rendered invisible.
Of the 300 women killed in 2020, 97 were killed by their husbands, 54 by their boyfriends, 38 by their acquaintances, 21 by their ex-husbands, 18 by their sons, 17 by their fathers, 16 by their relatives, 8 by their ex-boyfriends, 5 by their brothers, and 3 by someone they did not know. By whom 23 women were killed could not be determined.
The organization noted that by whom and on what pretext the women were killed should be found, and that fair trials should be held concerning the murders. “Unless suspects, defendants and murderers receive deterrent punishments and unless preventive measures are implemented, violence will continue,” said the Platform.
Sadly, violence against women is widespread in many places across the world. But the fact that Islamic scriptures sanction this violence and dehumanize women in many of their teachings makes abuse against women even more commonplace and a normative aspect within Islamic societies.
According to Islamic scriptures, for instance, men are permitted to beat their wives.
Quran (4:34) – “Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great.”
Quran (38:44) – “And take in your hand a green branch and beat her with it, and do not break your oath…”
Islamic scriptures also teach that a woman is worth less than a man in matters such as inheritance and court testimony. Moreover, a Muslim man can marry as many as four women at a time and have sexual relations with an unspecified number of sex slaves as well.
The dominant teachings of Islam concerning women dictate that men are in charge. For instance:
Quran (4:34) – “Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them.”
Quran (2:228) – “and the men are a degree above them” “Them” refers to women.
As the website of the Religion of Peace notes:
According to the Quran, Hadith and Islamic law, a woman may indeed have physical harm done to her if the circumstances warrant, with one such allowance being in the case of disobedience. This certainly does not mean that all Muslim men beat their wives, only that Islam permits them to do so.
This permission is one of many teachings that rob women of their humanity and dignity. It largely normalizes violence and brutality against women. William Kilpatrick, the author of “Christianity, Islam, and Atheism,” points out how such abusive teachings largely affect Muslim communities:
Islamic sexual ethics devalue women. And this devaluation accounts for the high incidence of domestic violence in traditional Muslim households.
First among “family values” is male honor—an honor which largely depends on a man’s ability to control the women in his life. A wife or daughter who might jeopardize the honor of husband, father, or brother, risks severe punishment, even death.
A Muslim male’s control over women extends beyond honor killings to female genital mutilation, a cruelty designed to depress libido and safeguard virginity. Other practices—forced marriage, child marriage, temporary marriage, polygamy, wife-beating, and easy divorce (for men) are part of the warp and woof of Islamic society.”
Turkey is not ruled according to Islamic sharia law, but Islam appears to deeply shape the way many men in Turkey view and treat women. Hatred and abuse against women have become an increasingly pressing problem in the country, to the point that many women who protest femicides get detained while murderers of women get released.
For example, the murder suspect of Gülsüm Şahin, who was strangled to death with a rope at her home in April 2017 in the city of Antalya, was detected and caught eight months after the incident from a DNA match. The suspect, who was taken into custody, was released on condition of judicial control.
Some other examples of how violence against women has become established in Turkey are mentioned in the Platform’s annual report:
Tuğba Erçakar was battered and threatened with death by the man she wanted to leave, and the perpetrator was released despite the battery medical report. The perpetrator was detained after being summoned to testify for the third time following the complaints against him.
Sema Kozak, who lives in Burdur, responded [in self-defense] with a mop handle to the man who assaulted her while she was working. Although Sema’s teeth were broken as a result of the attack, the mop handle was considered [by the judge] to be a weapon and Sema was fined 1680 liras.
Çağla Çiçekçi, stabbed by the man she broke up with in the city of Zonguldak, is struggling to survive in the hospital where she was taken.
Ceyhan Eneş, who lives in Mardin, was subjected to violence once again by the man against whom she had got a restraining order, after the period of restraining order expired.
Kevser El-Isa Hasan, who lives in Adana, was beaten by the man with whom she coinhabited and got injured with a sharp object on the pretext of jealousy. Kevser was able to survive because her neighbors called the police.
D.U., who lives in Mersin, was shot with a firearm in the middle of the street by the man she wanted to get a divorce from. The perpetrator who escaped could not be caught.
More recently, in January, a man poured hot water on and scalded his wife after she woke him up to have breakfast in the morning, according to news reports. The perpetrator was released after a short police custody. The injured woman said that her husband constantly threatened her with death, saying “If I kill you now, I will be jailed for 3 years only. Nothing will happen to me.”
When women are so frequently brutalized by men in Turkey, why did the Turkish government withdraw from an international convention that aims to prevent violence against women, protect victims and prosecute perpetrators? Why did the government make women even more defenseless and vulnerable in the face of male violence?
This withdrawal speaks volumes about the extent to which women are respected and protected in Islamic dictatorships.
Uzay Bulut is a Turkish journalist and political analyst formerly based in Ankara.