On the 10 year anniversary of the Istanbul Convention, Turkey wants out…

Here’s my big confession… I survived (almost) the whole pandemic on JUST ONE SHOW.

Granted, it is a show of 448 episodes. But still. I resisted this, at first. I’m not a binge-watchy type. I have stuff to do, a life to live!

Well, that was before the pandemic. Admittedly, I held on for two months, watching next to no TV. And then the pandemic did not end. So, I caved.

My days felt like structureless nothingness, but my evenings followed a strict schedule that entailed feeding and walking the dog, feeding and bathing myself, searching for a relatively-clean elastic-waisted thing to wear, pouring a glass of wine, switching the phone off, switching the lights off, switching the TV on, and… inviting a dozen bearded Turkish men on horseback into my living room. Every night.

Enter… Resurrection Ertugrul!

What started as a curious foray into pre-Ottoman pre-Turkey (circa 1200s) turned into a study of regional religio-political dynamics and gender roles of the 1200s. Also an examination into poorly-translated subtitles and awkward Turkish expressions of the era.

Granted, the show is loaded with Turkish propaganda (not into anyone’s propaganda, really) and religious whatever (absolutely NOT into that!), but I held on. I was gonna make it to the finish line — no matter what!

And now, 448 episodes later, I have practically earned Turkish citizenship with this time investment. And I appreciated the effort, despite a range of gendered cliches, to portray some strong women of that time.

But lately, Turkey’s women’s rights record is floundering. Maybe they are headed back to the gender roles of the Ottoman Empire?!

On this precise date, 10 years ago, the Istanbul Convention was formed. The purpose is to end violence against women. And — Turkey wants out.

Why?! No reason. Just cuz.

Women’s rights?! We’ve got this, say officials. We don’t need a big fat treaty. We’re cool.

Yes, President Erdogan actually took Turkey OUT of the world’s first binding treaty to prevent and combat violence against women. If Turkish authorities don’t reverse this decision, it will take effect on 1 July.

Turkish women don’t agree. And — they are pissed. Rightly so! They’ve been protesting strongly, saying they are not afraid, and will not obey! If today’s Turkish women are as strong as those in my show, Erdogan is in for a BIG FIGHT.

The goal is to prevent, prosecute and ultimately END violence against women. Please tell me why you’re opposed to that?!

The Convention says that states need to protect women, mitigate risks, prevent incidents of violence — and respond when they do happen. This means shelters, rape crisis centers, hotlines, counseling, medical care, other critical lifesaving stuff.

Meanwhile, in Turkey and elsewhere, conservative patriarchal forces are at work. Ending violence against women will undermine family structures, they say! Or, that’s what they imply, anyway. Is violence against women a fundamental part of a healthy family? I’d think not.

Turkey even saw an increase in femicides in recent years. We are actually getting WORSE.

The World Health Organization says that 38% of women in Turkey have experienced violence at the hands of a partner in their lifetime. Is that the kind of family life you want?!

Gender equality will foster homosexuality, they say! Because we need to keep discriminating against who people are and who they choose to love. None of this rubbish makes sense to me.

The reality is that countries, religions, and a bunch of old dudes are basically threatened by equality, afraid to lose their power, and — fundamentally — afraid of women.

And so we keep fighting.

I wonder what the strong women from my show would have said — I bet they would not be happy. A return to Ottoman-era Turkey is best left to the screen, not real life.

Women’s rights are not subject to opinions.

Women’s rights are not just rhetoric.

Women’s rights are not negotiable.

Fine words butter no parsnips!



Global women's rights expert, author, speaker, aid worker, feminist activist with 25 years of experience in 20 countries worldwide - and lots of stories!

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Lina AbiRafeh

Global women's rights expert, author, speaker, aid worker, feminist activist with 25 years of experience in 20 countries worldwide - and lots of stories!