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People act like femicides only happen in Turkey, top court president says

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Mehmet Akarca, president of the Supreme Court of Appeals, has said rights groups in Turkey act as if femicides don’t happen anywhere else, claiming that femicide figures in Turkey are less than half the European average, local media reported on Friday.

Akarca’s remarks praising the top court by arguing that it was taking steps to combat violence against women more efficiently came during the court’s 2021 annual performance meeting and despite record-high femicides taking place in the country.

“In terms of femicide, Turkey is below half the European average, but there is a perception that femicides are committed only in Turkey. I wish they didn’t happen at all. We also think this [number of femicides in Turkey] is too much. We don’t accept this, either,” Akarca said.

The top court’s president added that if the workload in the coming months could be reduced, the top court could propose an amendment for lawmakers to pass that would allow cases of crimes against women to go directly to the court, without having to first exhaust other domestic remedies.

According to the 2021 report by women’s rights organization the We Will Stop Femicide Platform, 280 femicides took place in Turkey last year, with 33 of the women having appealed to the police at least once before they were murdered and had restraining orders against the men who ended up killing them.

Two hundred seventeen women were found dead under suspicious circumstances, the platform also found.

Another activist-run resource, the Counter Monument (Anıtsayaç), recorded 414 femicides in 2021.

At least one woman has already been murdered in the first week of 2022.

Gender-based violence is a serious problem in Turkey. According to a report published by Sezgin Tanrıkulu, a human rights defender and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker, as of 2020 nearly 7,000 women had been victims of femicide during the 18 years the Justice and Development Party (AKP) had been in power.

Despite the alarming data, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan issued a decree on March 20 withdrawing Turkey from the Council of Europe (CoE) Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention, an international accord designed to protect women’s rights and prevent domestic violence in societies, sparking outrage in Turkey and the international community.

Turkey, the first member state to ratify the CoE convention, which was opened for signature in İstanbul during Turkey’s chairmanship of the organization 10 years ago, ironically has also become the first state to announce its withdrawal from it.

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