The year 2020 has witnessed an increase in rights violations against women in Turkey, with rising numbers of femicide cases amid discussions of withdrawing from the İstanbul Convention, a Council of Europe treaty designed to prevent violence and domestic abuse against women, according to a report in the Stockholm Center for Freedom.
According to women’s organizations 269 women were killed by men this year and 152 women died under suspicious circumstances. Activists, academics, opposition politicians and journalists have criticized the government for not taking the necessary steps to prevent these deaths.
Another issue that caused an outcry in 2020 was the unlawful strip-search of political prisoners and their visitors. Many victims came forward on social media after human rights activist and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu brought the issue to parliament and started a campaign on social media.
Here is some of the most important news from 2020 in the field of women’s rights:
At least 15,557 women murdered in Turkey since start of AKP rule
Violence against women has dramatically increased since the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002, and at least 15,557 women have been murdered in Turkey since then, according to a report prepared by human rights activist and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu in March 2020.
Pregnant women and new mothers imprisoned
According to unofficial numbers, there are more than 600 babies and young children staying with their mothers in prison. According to activists, imprisoning children with their mothers is against both human and children’s rights. Turkish authorities continued arresting pregnant women and women with infants in 2020 despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of these women were arrested on political charges, and some suffered from health problems.
Female officer raped in detention by Turkish police had to abort pregnancy
A female officer who had served in the Turkish army had to have an abortion after she was raped in police custody, Lt. Abdulvahap Berke told a panel of judges in an Ankara court.
Testifying under oath at the Ankara 17th High Criminal Court, Berke asked the panel of judges if they were aware of the terrible ordeal of a female officer who was raped by the police during detention in the aftermath of a failed coup on July 15, 2016, during which thousands of civilians and servicemen and women were detained without any effective administrative or judicial investigation and were subjected to abuse, torture and ill-treatment at unofficial detention sites.
Turkish women raise their voices against possible withdrawal from Istanbul Convention
Amid the fear of Turkey’s possible withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention, a Council of Europe treaty designed to prevent violence and domestic abuse against women, 155 Turkish women of letters published a joint statement on August 6 defending the convention, while women took to the streets across Turkey to protest the possible move.
30 female university students were strip-searched in detention prompting outcry
In September 30 female university students were detained by the Turkish police, subjected to an unlawful strip-search and interrogated without a lawyer present. The incident caused an outcry among activists.
Turkish Twitter users stand up against sexual harassment and humiliating strip searches in Turkish prisons
In the last months of the year scores of women came forward on social media and talked said they were subjected to unlawful strip-searches in Turkey’s prisons. They talked about their experiences in videos shared on social media, following a denial of the practice by ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy group chairperson Özlem Zengin.
Children of political prisoners mentally affected by government purge
This year families have said that their children were psychologically affected by the purge to the extent that some children were prescribed psychiatric medication after their parents’ arrest. Parents said the conditions after the COVID-19 pandemic led to cancellations of prison visits. Children who were not able to see their parents for months developed anti-social behaviors.
Female migrants subjected to sexual harassment, rape and beatings at the border
Refugees entering Turkey via the Iranian border have been facing human rights violations ranging from rape and sexual harassment to physical abuse and deprivation of proper healthcare. According to news reports many refugee women were threatened into keeping silent about abuse and rape. Women who have been interviewed by lawyers have refused to file complaints because men in positions of authority have threatened to deport them if they do.