Turkish police departments are giving incorrect and conflicting information to women who request assistance and protection against violent and abusive partners, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported citing the Deutsche Welle (DW) Turkish service.
According to an experiment conducted by DW correspondent Burcu Karakaş, procedures to protect women against violence are not being implemented correctly at police stations. Karakaş, who called and visited police stations posing as a woman seeking protection from an abusive boyfriend, said most police stations directed her to other police stations and even to the prosecutor’s office instead of providing protection.
Karakaş said she first visited police stations in İstanbul, where she was asked about her degree of closeness to the abusive man, after which she was sent to the family bureau in a different district. According to Karakaş, when she called police stations in other cities, they also directed her to the family bureau.
However, lawyers have emphasized that Article 6284 of the Civil Code, which defines the rights of women who feel threatened in their homes, does not stipulate that women should appeal to the family bureau.
“Restraining orders and injunctions can be requested by law enforcement and the public prosecutor’s office. Women can request injunctions from the court or police station that is easiest for them to access,” says Article 8 of the law.
Despite the law, Karakaş said in some police stations she was told to appeal to the prosecutor’s office. “They told me they could only submit certain documents to the prosecutor, such as an assault report, for a restraining order, but it was the court that ultimately issued it,” she said.
Lawyer Mine Akarsu from the Mor Çatı Women’s Shelter, which was founded in 1990 by feminists to protect and shelter vulnerable women in Turkey, said women can ask any police station to request a restraining order. “The police station is obligated to offer first-hand protection,” she said.
Some police stations asked Karakaş if she had an “emotional connection” with the man. Akarsu said this question was useless and the only thing which mattered was that the man inflicted harm on the woman, regardless of their relationship.
Akarsu said that Article 6284 was not being properly implemented and that this was partly due to the withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention, the Council of Europe’s (CoE) binding treaty to prevent and combat violence against women.
“I believe that Turkey’s withdrawal from the convention has paved the way for wrong and unlawful practices among law enforcement,” she said.
Lawyer Selmin Cansu Demir said Article 6284 was added to the Civil Code after Turkey signed the convention. “This means that withdrawing from the convention has a huge impact on how this law is enforced,” she said.
The convention was opened for signature in İstanbul in May 2011 and entered into force in August 2014. So far 45 Council of Europe member states have signed the convention, while 34 of them have ratified it, with Turkey being the first among 34 ratifying countries.
In a move that attracted widespread criticism from several countries, international organizations, and rights groups, Turkey withdrew from the Istanbul Convention, through a presidential decree issued by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on March 20.