Following the withdrawal of the signature from the Istanbul Convention at midnight, many women’s organizations, bar associations and political parties filed a lawsuit at the Council of State for the nullity of the decision. The State Council hearings have been continuing since April 28 and the hearing to be held on June 23 will also be the last hearing before the judicial recess. We talked to feminist lawyer Canan Arın, one of the founders of Mor Çatı [Purple Roof], about these hearings, where the prosecutor of the Council of State repeated her request for the nullity of the President’s decision, and the political environment behind the attacks on the Istanbul Convention.
Selime: The hearings of the cases brought before the Council of State against the decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention have already turned into a historical event. For the first time, a hearing is being watched in mass at the Council of State, and the hall has turned into a place of action. You are one of those who filed lawsuits and you follow the hearings. What do you think about this trial?
Canan Arın: It is a very important experience for women and it is also important as it shows that women will not obey dictators at any price. A thousand or more than a thousand lawyers across Turkey attended the hearing. The court board is very kind to women. I think the real reason behind this kindness is that no one has accepted the injustice of the sentences given to Osman Kavala, Mücella Yapıcı and other Gezi defendants. It caused great indignation in the society. They are very tolerant of women just to lighten it up a bit. Otherwise, it is not possible to applaud the speeches at the hearings and to turn the hall into a fairground. Such a thing should not be done. I think it is a show, for the sake of appearances, that the prosecutor’s opinion is on our side. They will say to Europe that look how independent the legal system we have and despite the will of the dictator-one man, the prosecutor can give a different opinion. They’ll show it, but I’m not sure what the result will be. I think the decision might go against us.
Selime: Considering the course of the trials, to what do you attribute their unfavorable decisions?
Canan Arın: This is the will of the one-man who made the decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention. There is no concept of judge anymore in Turkey, they are all very afraid. They dismissed most of the former experienced, sophisticated judges, and judges consisting of the ones who were once pro-AKP lawyers occupied the courthouses and everywhere. Therefore, the majority of judges do not know the law. Apart from these, my years of experience and the years of experience of many lawyers like me is this: If a judge is very friendly and kind to one side and rebukes the other from time to time, it means that she/he will decide against the side she/he is kind to. Anyway, I don’t think these judges can make any decisions against the will of one-man. There have been some rumors as well, as they are changing the judges. But I don’t know if there will be a decision in favor of the election to show off to Europe. If the decision is made, then everything will be turned upside down. Because the Council of Europe did not act honestly on this issue. All the women living here said that this decision is against the law, so do not make a decision immediately. A decision could have been made in the way that we could at least wait for the case result. Then, all of a sudden, after Turkey’s withdrawal, Poland, Hungary, etc., queued up, then Bulgaria gave up before accepting it. They all want to withdraw for the same reasons. Of course, the decline in women’s rights in Turkey is not unique to Turkey. We are not independent of the world; it is a global regression. In the 2000s, the women’s movement was rising all over the world, it also rose in Turkey. Now it is regressing all over the world. The best opposition in Turkey is the women’s movement and women in the world are also making good opposition. Latin America is amazing. Therefore, patriarchy is shaken at its core. That’s why they are increasing the pressure on women because they are afraid of. I think that this pressure will gradually increase in Turkey. That’s why they put forward the concept of family. The concept they call family is a concept that fully supports the patriarchy. Then they made LGBTI+s a problem. However, the Istanbul Convention is a human rights convention. In other words, if you burn a LGBTI+ person with a lit cigarette, it will hurt, she/he has two ears, two eyes, a nose, a mouth, and two legs. She/he is not different from me, but her/his sexual orientation is different. There is nothing to concern anyone about this. She/he is not using my body, she/he is using her/his own body. Whatever she/he does, none of their business! But by putting all this forward, they are trying to increase the pressure. Therefore, the Council of State may reject the case. After that, there is the Council of State’s Plenary Session of the Chambers or something. Or, as I said, it accepts, and then a legal impasse occurs. Because what will the Council of Europe do then? We will apply again, saying that this decision is unlawful.
Selime: At the CEDAW session, Minister Yanık said, “We may have withdrawn from the Istanbul Convention, but our focus has not changed in the elimination of violence against women, only our tools and methods have changed.”
Canan Arın: The speeches made on behalf of the government at international meetings are really very distorted, very misleading. In the direction of telling them what they want to hear. Speeches that have nothing to do with the facts and practices in Turkey. That’s why nobody trusts official reports at international meetings. They respect the reports of non-governmental organizations in that country and ask questions on the basis of those reports. Didn’t Minister Yanık ever feel ashamed or blush while giving this speech. Every day, a world of women are killed. Uncles and fathers are raping their own child/nieces, and the Supreme Court returns an acquittal. How do they defend these without shame? They raped a whole world of children at the Ensar Foundation, the Minister said, “It’s just once, it does no harm.” She could say this without any shame. I am ashamed on behalf of them, there is nothing to do. When I went to Geneva, they were presenting such an incredible report, I went and touched his arm: “Bro, tell me which Turkey you live in, give the address and I’ll come there, too.” It is an incredible disgrace, but no one believes their reports anyway. They know that it’s being told what they want to hear, it has nothing to do with reality. Every day, lots of delegations come to Turkey and learn the facts from us. So, they just damage their own reputation. Turkey’s official reputation is also damaged, but they also damage their own reputation. Nobody takes their word.
Selime: You were also involved in the campaign to implement CEDAW in 1986, now you are filing a lawsuit at the Council of State against the withdrawal of the Istanbul Convention, watching the hearings. How does this process make you feel?
Canan Arın: It shows how terrible the resistance to women’s freedom, or just their equality with men in Turkey is. And that almost never decreases. It may decrease a little, as in the 2000s. But after that, there is an incredible resistance again with great speed and great acceleration. And it’s a pity, because what you call democracy starts at home first. If there isn’t democracy at home, there isn’t democracy in that country. If you think you’re superior to women just because you were born as a man, that’s pathetic. That’s why you can’t get anyone’s respect either. It’s sad, but your job is more difficult. I will resist to the bitter end. In Turkey, the worm has turned, they can no longer break this resistance. You see, even the women in the farthest corners of Turkey are aware of their rights and are doing their best to exercise that right. They get angry because the divorces have increased. Of course, it increases, everyone has one life and this life has no prova generale. Therefore, nobody wants to be exposed to violence, nobody wants to be unhappy. The purpose of life is to live happily and properly. Women are doing their best to live like this, and they will. I guess these men will get into line one day.
Translator: Gülcan Ergün
Proof-reader: Müge Karahan