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Istanbul Convention: Turkey officially withdraws from treaty protecting women

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By Euronews with AP, AFP
A protester holds a flag during an April demonstration against Turkey's withdrawal in Istanbul.
A protester holds a flag during an April demonstration against Turkey's withdrawal in Istanbul.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Emrah Gurel
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Turkey has formally withdrawn from a landmark international treaty protecting women from violence.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had ended the country’s participation in the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention through a surprise overnight decree in March.

The decision prompted widespread demonstrations and condemnation from women’s rights groups and western countries.

A court appeal to stop the withdrawal was rejected this week, and Turkey formally departed the Istanbul Convention on Thursday.

Erdoğan has rejected the criticism and insisted the move will not be a step backwards for women in Turkey.

On Thursday, the President unveiled an "Action Plan for Combating Violence against Women", which includes goals such as reviewing judicial processes, improving protection services and gathering data on violence.

"Some groups are trying to present our official withdrawal from the Istanbul convention on 1 July as going backwards," Erdoğan said.

"Just like our fight against violence towards women did not start with the Istanbul Convention, it won’t end with our withdrawal."

In March, the Turkish Presidency’s Directorate of Communications issued a statement saying the Istanbul Convention was "hijacked" by people "attempting to normalise homosexuality".

Erdoğan has always defended traditional family and gender values and says combating violence against women was also a fight to "protect the rights and the honour of our mothers, wives, daughters."

Experts have suggested his decision is an attempt to rally conservative support ahead of Turkey's next presidential election in 2023.

But the decision to withdraw has received tremendous backlash from women's and LGBT rights groups, who say the Istanbul Convention -- the first international treaty to set legally binding standards to prevent gender-based violence -- is crucial for protecting women in Turkey.

Amnesty International Secretary-General, Agnès Callamard, has called Turkey’s withdrawal "shameful".

"Turkey [has] turned its back on the gold standard for the safety of women and girls," she said in a statement.

"The withdrawal sends a reckless and dangerous message to perpetrators who abuse, maim and kill: that they can carry on doing so with impunity."

According to the "We Will Stop Femicide" group, 189 women were murdered in 2021 in Turkey, and 409 last year, including dozens who were found dead under suspicious circumstances.

Fresh protests against the decision were planned on Thursday across Turkey.