Turkish women rally against domestic violence as ruling party contemplates leaving key rights treaty

Demonstrators wearing protective face masks hold up placards with names of women during a demonstration for a better implementation of the Istanbul Convention in Istanbul on Wednesday.

(CNN)Women poured into rallies across Turkey on Wednesday over fears of Ankara's potential withdrawal from a European treaty on gender-based violence.

Chanting their support for the treaty, women chanted, "The choice is ours, the decision is ours, the night is ours, the street are ours."
In recent weeks, the Council of Europe Convention on combating and preventing violence against women has stirred public debate. The agreement is commonly known as the Istanbul Convention, after being signed in the Turkish megacity in May 2011.
    Women at the rallies Wednesday held posters reading, "The istanbul Convention is born out of women's blood," and "We will not allow femicides."
    Women chant slogans and wave signs during the demonstration in Istanbul on Wednesday.
    The heated public discussions come amid an increase in the country's domestic violence cases over the past few months.
    Last month, the killing of 27-year-old Pinar Gultekin by her ex-boyfriend sparked outrage, galvanizing Turkey's women's movements.
    In 2020, 205 women in Turkey have been killed. In 2019, 417 died in domestic violence cases, according to activist reports.
    Meanwhile, a small but organized effort has lobbied Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to withdraw the country from the Istanbul Convention. The detractors cited "the erosion of family values" and traditional "gender roles," and the importation of "Western values." They also claim the convention promotes "LGBT lifestyles."
    "There are two issues in this convention which we do not approve of. First is the gender issue and the other is sexual orientation issue," AKP deputy chair Numan Kurtulmuş said in a televised interview. "There are also other issues but these two have been the concepts which have played into the hands of and creates spaces for the LGBT and marginal elements to work within."
    Activists dismiss those concerns as a pretext for eliminating gender-based protections.
    "Because they aren't able to openly say they want women as their domestic slaves and the freedom to beat women at will, they latch on to LGBTI+ rights as a more 'socially acceptable' pretext to attack the convention, hoping rampant homophobia will do the trick," said activist Feride Eralp, a member of the Women are Stronger Together platform.
    The Istanbul Convention addresses systemic violence against women and the state's role in preventing circumstances leading to femicide and domestic abuse.