In response to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s statement that the withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention had no impact on the fight against violence towards women, Eren Keskin, co-chair of the Human Rights Association (İHD), criticised the President, accusing the state of legitimising violence.

The language employed by the Turkish government and its supporters correlates with an increase in violence after each statement, Human Rights Association (İHD) Co-Chair Eren Keskin said on Saturday.

Keskin’s remarks were in response to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s controversial assertion during an event marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women at a university in Istanbul.

“Our withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention has not had a negative aspect in terms of women’s rights,” Erdoğan said, arguing that Turkey’s withdrawal from the international treaty designed to combat violence against women and domestic violence was “abused by marginalized groups”.

Erdoğan’s assertion that pulling out of the Istanbul Convention did not affect efforts to combat violence against women triggered widespread criticism from women’s rights advocates. Participating in a panel as part of the 25 November activities in Van (Wan), Keskin expressed her dismay at Erdoğan’s comments.

“After every speech by the state, violence spreads even more throughout society. This is why we say violence against women is political. The more hate and violence the state language produces, the more it spreads to society as violence. After Turkey withdrew from the Istanbul Convention, we witnessed many examples. People thought that those who killed women were not punished. They thought that the killings of women were not considered crimes. The state language increases violence in proportion to how much it nourishes this violence,” she stated.

Keskin emphasised that the official discourse directly influences the occurrence of femicides in the country. Drawing attention to the 18 women killed in November alone, she stated, “The political understanding put forth by the President says to women, ‘stay at home, give birth to at least three or four children’. Women have already moved beyond these expectations. Regardless of what presidents and politicians say, the women’s movement has moved beyond and does not listen.”

Women’s rights activists and platforms, along with the left-wing opposition parties, have been advocating for the urgent re-ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combatting Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention. Signed in Istanbul on 11 May 2011 the treaty saw Turkey as its initial signatory. However, it was controversially rescinded under Erdoğan on 20 March 2021.