Turkey: Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his daughter argue about women’s rights

Erdogan wants to denounce an international agreement to combat violence against women. The issue divides his party – and is also causing tensions in the Turkish president’s closest family circle.

Derya Alsan, Dilek Yüksel, Hatice Sevinc, Pinar Gültekin – these are only four of a total of at least 36 women who were murdered in Turkey last month alone, according to the organization “We will stop femicides”. The case of Pinar Gültekin, in particular, caused horror beyond the country’s borders.

The 27-year-old student was killed by her lover. Her body was then set on fire, poured concrete over it in a garbage can and finally buried in a wooded area. Five days later, investigators found her remains and thousands of people took to the streets to demonstrate against violence against women. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also found clear words for the act. “I curse all crimes against women,” he wrote on Twitter. Instead, his party AKP is currently discussing whether Turkey should withdraw from an international agreement to combat violence against women.

Saying one thing, doing anotherThe Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention obliges signatory states to classify all violence against women and girls and all forms of domestic violence as crimes. The decision on whether to remain in the convention is due to be taken in Ankara in the middle of the month. Turkey will be the first country ever to ratify the convention in 2012. Erdogan himself signed it back then in the role of prime minister. His youngest daughter Sümeyye Erdogan probably played a major role in this.

After her studies in the USA, she worked for several years as her father’s political advisor and is still officially committed to women’s rights today. The current discussion about the Istanbul Convention is now dividing the AKP – and also the president’s closest family circle.

Headwind from AKP women and Erdogan’s daughterSümeyye Erdogan has been on the board of the conservative women’s organization Kadem for years. Actually, the association is on AKP line and thus a women’s movement in the sense of President Erdogan. Instead of working for equality between men and women, Kadem uses the principle of gender equality. According to this principle, men and women are equal in value, but different in creation. According to this ideology they cannot be put on an equal footing, they have to complement each other, but in the current discussion Kadem clearly positions itself against Turkey’s withdrawal from the agreement. “The Istanbul Convention offers women protection against violence. The discrimination to which they are exposed due to unequal power relations is incompatible with human and moral values and requires special protection,” says a recent statement.

With this statement Sümeyye Erdogan is taking a stand against her powerful father in the current debate. Former AKP MP Nursuna Memecan once led the Turkish delegation in the negotiations on the Istanbul Convention. She sharply criticizes the government’s plans. “Erdogan supported all our work back then and now there are plans to withdraw from an agreement named after Istanbul. This is a tragicomedy,” she said in an interview with Gazete Duvar. Erdogan’s former family minister, Fatma Betul Sayan-Kaya, called violence against women “a betrayal of humanity” in this context.Erdogan’s Son Against Istanbul ConventionWomen’s organisations – including Kadem, an association close to the AKP – have long been a thorn in the side of conservative Islamic voices. Attacks and attempts at defamation have occurred again and again. Now another of the president’s children has joined the discussion.

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