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Istanbul Convention: Erdogan and his daughter argue about women's rights


Erdogan wants to terminate an international agreement to combat violence against women. The issue divides his party - and creates tension even in the Turkish president's immediate family.

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Sümeyye and Recep Tayyip Erdogan (archive): For years, the Turkish President took advice from his youngest daughter



Derya Alsan, Dilek Yüksel, Hatice Sevinc, Pinar Gültekin - these are only four of a total of at least 36 women who, according to the organization "We will stop femicides", were murdered in Turkey last month alone. 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 in a garbage can and finally buried in a forest. Five days later, investigators found the remains.

Thousands across the country then took to the streets to demonstrate against violence against women. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also found clear words for the deed. "I curse all crimes against women," he wrote on Twitter. However, he did not follow any protective measures.

Instead, his AKP party is currently discussing whether Turkey should withdraw from an international agreement to combat violence against women.

Say one thing, do the other

The Istanbul Convention of the Council of Europe obliges the signatory states to classify all violence against women and girls as well as all forms of domestic violence as a crime. A decision on whether to remain in the agreement is to be made in Ankara in the middle of the month. In 2012 Turkey was the first country to ratify the convention. Erdogan himself signed it back then in the role of Prime Minister. His youngest daughter, Sümeyye Erdogan, may have played a key role in this.

After completing her studies in the USA, she worked as a political advisor to her father for several years and is still officially committed to women's rights. The current discussion about the Istanbul Convention is now dividing the AKP - and the President's closest family circle.

Headwind from AKP women and Erdogan's daughter

Sümeyye Erdogan has been on the board of the conservative women's organization Kadem for years. Actually, the association is on the AKP line and thus a women's movement in the sense of President Erdogan. Instead of advocating equality between men and women, Kadem falls back on the principle of gender equality. According to this, man and woman are worth the same, but different from the point of view of creation. According to this ideology, they cannot be equated, they must complement each other.

In the current discussion, however, Kadem is clearly positioning himself against Turkey's withdrawal from the agreement. "The Istanbul Convention offers women protection from violence. The discrimination they are exposed to due to unequal power relations are incompatible with human and moral values ​​and require special protection," says a current statement.

"Erdogan supported all of our work back then and now there are plans to withdraw from an agreement that is named after Istanbul. This is a tragic comedy"

Nursuna Memecan

With this statement, Sümeyye Erdogan is opposing her powerful father in the current debate. She receives support from several women from Erdogan's party.

Former AKP MP Nursuna Memecan once led the Turkish delegation in the negotiations on the Istanbul Convention. She sharply criticizes the government's plan. "Erdogan supported all of our work at the time and now there are plans to withdraw from an agreement named after Istanbul. This is a tragic comedy," 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".

Association of Erdogan's son against the Istanbul Convention

Women's organizations - including the AKP-affiliated Kadem association - have long been a thorn in the side of conservative Islamic voices. Attacks and attempts at defamation keep coming back. Now another child of the president joins the discussion.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan with his son Bilal and daughter Sümeyye (2014)


Sümeyye's brother Bilal Erdogan is also active in an AKP-affiliated association. He sits on the board of the youth organization TÜGVA. And recently it officially announced that the Istanbul Convention "has contributed nothing to society". Islamic conservative circles argue similarly. They see traditional family values ​​at risk as a result of the agreement. In Erdogan's move to withdraw from the convention, observers see an attempt to win precisely these voters on his side.

According to recent surveys, the AKP is currently around 30 percent and would therefore be far from previous successes. However, it is questionable whether Erdogan will use his courtship for conservative voters. The next elections are scheduled for 2023. The votes of young voters are likely to be decisive. More than seven million Turks will be able to vote for the first time in three years. According to current studies, however, only a comparatively few of them describe themselves as religious or conservative.

The current maneuver could put off both female and younger voters. Observers therefore speculate that Erdogan will avoid a clear decision to weaken women's rights.

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Source: spiegel

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