A prominent Turkish anti-femicide campaign group went on trial on Wednesday accused of activity against law and morals, with several hundred women rallying outside Istanbul’s main court in protest.
Prosecutors had filed a lawsuit in April against We Will Stop Femicide Platform, one of the country’s leading feminist organizations. If convicted, the group could be shut down.
Protesters outside the court waved banners bearing slogans such as “You will never walk alone!” and “We will stop women’s murders”, alongside the families of women murdered by men.
We Will Stop Femicide Platform has been campaigning against the murder and abuse of women since its foundation in 2010.
Group representative Nursen Inal slammed the trial, saying it was politically motivated.
“We believe this court case is an attack against women’s struggle for their rights,” she told AFP.
The hearing adjourned on Wednesday and will resume on October 5.
The association was a vocal critic of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan‘s decision last year to pull Turkey out of the Istanbul Convention, which requires countries to set up laws aimed at preventing and prosecuting violence against women.
Social conservatives in Turkey claim the convention promotes homosexuality and threatens traditional family values.
We Will Stop Femicide Platform says 160 women have been killed in Turkey this year and 423 in 2021, with many murders committed by family members.
“We are under pressure from the government because we publicize, name by name, each and every woman’s murder,” Inal said.
“This contradicts the government’s thesis which says women’s murder is on the decline.”
In April alone, 24 women were murdered, the group said — adding that 16 others had died in suspicious circumstances, even though some of these deaths were officially registered as suicide.
We Will Stop Femicide Platform’s secretary-general Fidan Ataselim told the court on Wednesday that the group kept a record of femicides because official data is hard to access.
“Nobody is talking about women’s suspicious deaths. There is an increase in femicide under the pretext of suicide. We will shed light on covered up murders,” she said.
Ipek Bozkurt, lawyer for We Will Stop Femicide Platform, said femicides were “political” — and so was the lawsuit.
“This is a move against the platform which strongly condemned the withdrawal from the Istanbul convention. Therefore in our defense, we will explain to the judges why this case lacks legal grounds,” she said.
Almost 300 lawyers from across Turkey expressed an interest in defending the group.
Aysun Kilic, from the bar association in the northwestern province of Kocaeli, said We Will Stop Femicide was conducting a careful, up-to-date study about murdered women.
“This is actually the duty of the state,” she told AFP.
“While this is the case, we find the lawsuit unlawful, dangerous for women’s rights and an attempt to undermine a study on women’s killings. This case is harming us and our fight for women’s rights,” she said.
Melek Onder, another spokesperson of the group, remained defiant. “This legal action empowers us rather than weakens us,” she told AFP.
“It’s impossible to shut down this platform when women are still becoming victims of femicide,” she said.
“We are not desperate at all because we know that they cannot stop our struggle.”