Erdoğan and his hardline allies have won Turkey – women and LGBTQ+ people will pay the price

For civil society and rights defenders, five more years of the Turkish president and his radical backers are a daunting prospect.

On Sunday, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was declared the winner of Turkey’s presidential run-off elections. According to numbers reported by the state-owned Anadolu news agency, more than 27 million voters cast their ballots in favour of Erdoğan, who has been at the country’s helm for more than two decades. He entered the second round in the lead in the polls, and was expected by most to emerge victorious. Although Erdoğan captured slightly more than half of the vote, more than 25 million people also mobilised to vote against him.
The elections were being held under deeply unfair conditions, with an opposition set up to fail. Istanbul’s mayor, Ekrem İmamoğlu, was recently sentenced to more than two years in prison and banned from holding public office for insulting members of the supreme election council. This left the opposition unable to nominate its maybe most promising candidate. This was all amid biased media coverage, relentless smear campaigns against the eventual opposition candidate, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, threats, manipulation and a crackdown on civil society, such as the arrest of 126 Kurdish lawyers, activists and politicians at the end of April in Diyarbakır.

The dangers facing women and LGBTQ+ people in Turkey have already increased in recent years. Femicide and gender-based violence are on the rise. Erdoğan compared abortions to murder in 2012, and although he failed to introduce a law that would have banned abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, women across Turkey still struggle to access safe terminations. Women’s rights groups speak of a “de facto abortion ban”. Women’s Day marches have increasingly been met with police violence and the Istanbul Pride parade has been banned since 2015. Feminist and women’s rights groups have been increasingly sidelined. Many civil society organisations fighting against discrimination and gender-based violence have been shut down since the 2016 military coup attempt.

In 2021, Erdoğan unilaterally withdrew Turkey from the Istanbul convention, an international treaty to fight gender-based discrimination and violence. Women’s rights groups reported that police officers had refused to assist victims of domestic violence, citing the withdrawal from the convention.


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