Turkey drops bid to shut down leading anti-femicide group

Turkey drops bid to shut down leading anti-femicide group
The rare victory for the anti-femicide group 'We Will Stop Femicide Platform' comes as Turkey and newly-elected President Erdogan mend ties with Western allies.
3 min read
13 September, 2023
A spokesperson for the group said that the victory "offers a spark of hope about putting trust in the justice system" [Getty]

A Turkish court on Wednesday rejected prosecutor attempts to shut down a leading anti-femicide campaign group on charges of violating administrative laws and "morality".

The rare court victory for a Turkish rights group came as Ankara vows to mend ties with Western allies after May elections in which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan extended his dominant rule into a third decade.

Cheers from the We Will Stop Femicide Platform members and supporters went up in Istanbul's main courthouse when the presiding judge dropped the case after four hearings stretching over 15 months.

"This decision offers society a spark of hope about putting trust in the justice system," the campaign group's secretary general Fidan Ataselim told AFP.

"We will keep on fighting for women's rights all over Turkey,' she said.

Riot police cordoned off the courthouse and detained two supporters of the campaign group ahead of the closely watched hearing.

Prosecutors had asked the court to close the group for "acting against the law and morality" in hearings that had stretched out for more than a year.

The group called the charges political and said it was never presented with an explanation as to which laws it was supposed to have violated.

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Change in tone

The We Will Stop Femicide Platform has been campaigning against the murder and abuse of women in the mostly Muslim but officially secular nation since 2010.

It became a lightning rod for criticism from Islamic conservatives after speaking out against Erdogan's 2021 decision to pull Turkey out of a European convention aimed at combating violence against women.

More conservative members of Erdogan's ruling party also accused the group of damaging traditional family values by speaking out in defence of LGBTQ rights.

Erdogan has branded the LGBTQ community "perverse", and repeatedly denounced its supporters during his May re-election campaign.

The We Will Stop Femicide Platform says 403 women were murdered in Turkey last year and 423 in 2021.

The group's prosecution alarmed human rights groups and followed a string of other hugely controversial jailings of Erdogan opponents and reporters.

But some analysts are sensing a change in tone in Turkey after the May vote.

Turkey this year reaffirmed its commitment to resume long-stalled negotiations to join the European Union.

Erdogan is also slowly repairing relations with historic rivals Armenia and Greece.

His push to join the European Union - at a standstill since 2018 - is unlikely to make major headway in the coming years.

The bloc's enlargement commissioner said on a visit to Ankara this month that Brussels needed to see tangible progress on Turkey's commitment to "democracy and the rule of law".

But initial talks are starting on expanding a customs union the sides first signed nearly three decades ago.