Turkey's political opposition and the Istanbul Convention
The Istanbul Convention was ratified via a unanimous vote in the Turkish parliament in 2011 and now the decision of a single person has overruled such parliamentary consensus. The Istanbul Convention is an example of women’s power to transform the world. Thus, the government has cleared the way for a plethora of human rights abuses with a single swipe of a pen. What a pity that the opposition parties have also opted for violating the rights of Kurds and women in order to increase their power.
Nobody warned you
that the women whose feet
you cut from running
would give birth to
daughters with wings
Nigerian born-poet Ijeoma Umebinyuo writes on the experiences of black men and women, women and girls, the oppressed, herself, and everybody. She has lent her voice to women’s struggle for equality for hundreds of years.
The Istanbul Convention was ratified via a unanimous vote in the Turkish parliament in 2011 and now the decision of a single person has overruled such parliamentary consensus. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan withdrew Turkey from this vital international document. The Istanbul Convention is an example of women’s power to transform the world. It cannot be declared null and void with a single signature.
It is a vicious cycle. Women will, of course, endure. Still, everything is not over yet. Regardless of their bumps and bruises, democracy, equality, and human rights will remain eternal. The Istanbul Convention is an integral part of human rights law and it cannot be annulled without destroying the consciousness of humanity. We can regard the Istanbul Convention as an addendum to human rights agreements that generally defend the rights of men, the elite, and average people. In this respect, the Convention represents a new threshold for the consciousness of humanity. The ruling elite of this country have tripped over this threshold and are now lagging behind. Civilization will continue to be shaped by those who have passed such a threshold. Those who cannot measure up to the consciousness of humanity, adopt the violation of human dignity as their legacy instead.
Writer and journalist İrfan Aktan captured the spirit of this problem in a single sentence: “The government’s aim is to imprison all segments of society which have the potential to resist and unite. They are trying to corral them into a feeling of loneliness.”
The government has cleared the way for a plethora of human rights abuses with a single swipe of a pen. Expect them to pour down like heavy rain. President Erdoğan’s policy of “crushing the opposition into pieces” has prevented the opposition from focusing its attention on a single issue. He is running the show and it can be seen in all areas of political life: Seizing ownership of Istanbul’s Gezi Park, decisions regarding the construction of hydroelectric power plants all around the country, the insistence on the construction of Kanal Istanbul, the Central Bank, filing suit for the closure of the minority-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention, and stripping off the deputyship of HDP MP Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu.
The government filed a lawsuit against the HDP based on an indictment that makes it seem like every HDP voter will be banned from politics in the future. Unfortunately, there are political parties which rejoice and plan to take advantage of this development. Such parties sing the government’s song and rise by stepping on the backs of women and Kurd, stripping them of their political rights. They do not care in the least about Turkey’s future and the general public’s perceptions. They step in line behind the coalition government, the furious minority, which corresponds to only 7 percent of the vote but uses every ruling mechanism. What a pity that the Felicity Party (SP) has also opted for violating the rights of Kurds and women in order to increase its vote.
Withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention means restricting all the accumulated civil rights of women. The SP of the religious spectrum has bargained not only with the AKP for the withdrawal, but also with the opposition to nominate former president Abdullah Gül as the opposition candidate for the upcoming presidential elections. The SP’s approach means eliminating the democratic opposition for the benefit of the government.
Thus, we can conclude that the SP has conducted a double-sided bargain; one side of it included withdrawal from the Convention, and the other side was nominating a weak candidate who would increase Erdoğan’s chances of reelection. It is not a coincidence that MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli forced the opposition to nominate its presidential candidate and shortly afterward, SP leader Temel Karamollaoğlu mentioned Abdullah Gül’s candidacy. The SP leader also made a one-sided announcement to the public that the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu had “accepted all conditions.”
Even if this one-sided announcement’s content comes were true, it is against the needs of society and the reality facing the country. SP leader Temel Karamollaoğlu has not answered the Women’s Platform for Equality of Turkey’s (EŞİK) call for an online meeting. Karamollaoğlu took from the AKP what he wanted; namely, the decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention. He immediately attempted to give the AKP what that party had asked for, namely, Abdullah Gül’s candidacy. Karamollaoğlu mentioned Abdullah Gül’s name even though he had said only a couple of weeks ago that it was not correct to nominate a candidate when the election date was not set.
It has been said for months that any decision regarding the Istanbul Convention is a decision on women’s right to live and on Turkey’s future. If this decision is to be supported by the opposition policies designed by Karamollaoğlu, then what will be left of Turkey in the future? They can appoint the chief imam of the Ayasofya Mosque as the minister of family affairs to complete the cycle. Maybe this is their plan. We will see whether they will be able to implement it.
Society’s expectation for the opposition is not naming a candidate for the presidential elections. Nobody needs a savior; on the contrary, we expect a system that will free us from ‘saviors.’ The Turkish public demands democracy, mass opposition, and a road map through which political parties can come to an agreement. We demand a system that is contrary to the present anti-democratic order and an opposition block which will draw the road map before the elections. Only then can the opposition make a difference.
The agreement and consolidation of the opposition can convince the electorate. The opposition does not need to face the public by naming a single candidate; the public is in need of an opposition team with financial, social, political, and communication programs. This country is not in need of the reign of “the National Vision,” (Milli Görüş) a religious-political movement that started in 1969, like Temel Karamollaoğlu suggests. The candidacy of a person like Abdullah Gül is a joke. This is a suggestion by an Islamist for a joint opposition candidate to topple an Islamist with another Islamist who happens to be the previous of holder of the seat. This is truly like a joke, but a bad joke that tramples on the Kurds and the women of the country and violates their rights.