Great Women's Gathering: The Istanbul Convention is ours!

A "Great Women's Gathering" is taking place in Istanbul. Thousands of women and LGBTI people are demanding the preservation and implementation of the Istanbul Convention, from which the country is withdrawing by presidential order on July 1.

Thousands of women from all parts of the country gathered in Istanbul on Saturday at the call of the Women's Platform for Equality (Eşitlik İçin Kadın Platformu, EŞİK) to demand the preservation of the convention named after the Bosphorus metropolis. The "Istanbul Convention" celebrated its tenth anniversary this year. It is the first binding instrument under international law at the European level to protect women, girls and LGBTI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex) people against all forms of violence. The agreement enshrines the human right to live free from violence, defines equality measures, and calls for funding for violence protection and prevention. Turkey plans to leave it on July 1 on the orders of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which would make it the first country to withdraw from the Women's Protection Convention.

"The Istanbul Convention is ours! We will not give it up" was the message of the "Great Women's Gathering" in the Maltepe district. It resembled a huge procession as the participants of the rally moved in several processions to the meeting place, engulfing Maltepe in a sea of purple flags - true to the motto, "When we strike, the world stands still." Hundreds of signs and banners read the demands of the women's movements: "AKP - Hands off fought-for rights!", "6284 for women" - a Turkish law enacted after the ratification of the Istanbul Convention in 2012 as a "protective cover for women", "Bijî Têkoşîna Jina" (ku. Long live women's resistance), "Apply the constitution" and "We will win fighting". The central slogan of the Kurdish women's movement "Jin, Jiyan, Azadî" (Woman, Life, Freedom) is also not missing. However, many of the rainbow flags carried by LGBTI people were confiscated by the police.

The meeting, which was attended by numerous personalities from politics, art and civil society, including parliamentarians from HDP and CHP as well as politicians from the DEVA party, started with an artistically designed feminist stage program. First to perform was the musician Kalben. Before the 35-year-old enchanted the audience with her breathtaking voice and her guitar, she said: "We want a life without violence, we want a peaceful life in a country where no new murderers are born. Gentlemen: neither we give up the equality of peoples, nor the Istanbul Convention, our lives and our security."

Book author and columnist Ayşen Şahin pointed out in a speech that international agreements have constitutional status in Turkey. Accordingly, she said, the president does not have the authority to terminate international treaties by decree without parliamentary approval. “Withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention thus constitutes a violation of the constitution. Through this illegal and invalid decision, we women feel emboldened in our anger and rebellion. We do not accept the withdrawal from the convention," Şahin said.

In the further course of the stage program the names of women who were murdered by men have been read out. After the naming of each femicide victim, the crowd shouted loudly and militantly "here". When Deniz Poyraz's name was mentioned, it literally shook. The HDP activist was shot dead by a Turkish fascist in an attack on the HDP headquarters in Izmir on Thursday. Several times in a row, the crowd repeated her name and shouted, "Deniz is here."

Women also appeared whose sisters, daughters or mothers had been killed by men and would probably still be alive today if the Turkish government had fought patriarchal violence instead of promoting it. Songül Kaya, for example, who lost her sister Dilek Kaya to femicide - her other sister Mutlu Kaya survived an attempted murder. Addressing the government, she demanded, "Take back the decision, apply the convention."

Actress Ayşegül Yalçıner signaled to the rulers in Ankara that women in Turkey would not even remotely think of giving up their fought-for rights. Yalçıner pointed to a massive increase in acts of violence against women and attacks on the LGBTI community, which has a particularly hard time in Turkey. The program of the women's meeting is continued with further contributions.