Turkish activists assembled to protest domestic violence against women, femicides, and women political prisoners’ rights during International Women’s Day.
Advocates of Silenced Turkey (AST), a non-profit human rights organization based in New York, organized a continent-wide women’s rights protest in 40 cities in four countries, including Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary, and Vancouver on March 6.
Protesters attracted people’s attention to women face physical and sexual violence, including inside Turkish prisons.
Hafza Girdap is an executive director of AST and women, gender, and sexuality studies scholar at Stony Brook University, part of the State University of New York system.
“We just want to draw attention to the violent discrimination against women, femicide, and also some very common enterprise-wide issues such as a denial of the right to employment to travel to education and many other basic rights,” she said.
Volunteers stood for advocating the rights of the women who are victims of discrimination, violence and persecution in Turkey, demanding new laws that recognize and protect women’s rights and well-being.
“We gathered with 10 volunteer friends with our posters and balloons at Nathan Phillips Square and walked to raise awareness,” said Zeynep Guven, a volunteer of the organization and neuroscience and human biology student at the University of Toronto. “We distributed an informational brochure to the pedestrians.”
According to the femicide report Kadin Cinayetlerini Durduracagiz on Turkey, more than 300 women were killed with more than 170 suspiciously found dead in 2020. It could not be determined why 182 of these 300 women were killed.
“Women’s rights violation in Turkey is an essentially political issue,” said volunteer Sumeyye Kara, a Turkish lawyer and student of the paralegal education program at Humber College. “As a result of the wrong policies of the government, it has been becoming a dark well.”
Human Rights Watch reports that more than 11 million women have faced sexual or domestic violence in Turkey. The law does little to protect women as accused men were most likely to be released during a court hearing.
Kara said the rules of law in Turkey are not a deterrent to stop violations against women. Despite the country being the first to ratify the Istanbul Convention in 2011, a treaty signed by member states of the Council of Europe to prevent violence and domestic abuse against women.
The Turkish government attempted in July 2020 to leave the Istanbul Convention, which was crafted to establish basic standards and obligations of states in preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.
“The traditions, the religious issues, but they are all related to the patriarchal mindset which influences the society which influences the institutions which influence the structural organizations and understandings in Turkey,” Girdap said.
Additionally, more than 5,600 women were sent behind bars as political prisoners, including 100 women who were pregnant or had just given birth. The number of babies who have been jailed with their mothers was reported as 780.
“I joined this protest to seek the rights of political women prisoners who were not brought to the agenda in Turkey and be the voice of them,” Guner said. “Our purpose was to attract people’s attention to the violation of women’s rights to legislation and basic needs.”
The protesters called on the Turkish authorities to ensure the freedom of arbitrarily jailed women and the protection of the rights of imprisoned women.