ISTANBUL – In two surprising statements at midnight, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan withdrew Turkey from an international treaty on the prevention of violence against women and removed the head of the central bank, who is likely to please his followers but further away from Western partners must alienate.
Mr. Erdogan threatened the idea of withdrawing from the treaty known as the Istanbul Convention for more than a year when he condemned conservative and nationalist supporters to increase his popular popularity. Opposition parties and women’s groups were opposed amid growing violence against women in Turkey, and women’s groups announced a rally on Saturday afternoon.
The president, who has increasingly called for greater control over the Central Bank, seems to have opposed the rise in interest rates by central bank chief Naci Agbal before dismissing him.
Mr. Erdogan gradually concentrated more authority in his own hands during his 18 years in power and his latest actions come amid a spate of attacks on political opponents apparently intended to strengthen his political base.
The communications director of mr. Erdogan, Fahrettin Altun, defended the decision on the treaty by insisting that the president would continue to be a campaigner for women’s rights.
“With the leadership of our President @RTErdogan, we are determined to continue our struggle for women to participate more in social, economic, political and cultural life,” he tweeted. “Women are not objects, but subjects of life.”
The Islamic government of Mr. Erdogan sought to recreate the debate on women’s rights by supporting traditional family values on equality and emphasizing the role of women in life as mother and father of children.
Women’s groups protested that violence against women and deaths of women in domestic violence during the 18 years in power of Mr. Erdogan soared, blaming it on his support for traditional conservative values and impunity for offenders before the law.
Mr. Erdogan will not run for re-election until 2023, but his popularity has declined amid an economic downturn. Opposition parties are gaining strength, and at this stage they are likely to struggle to win a presidential election, even with their nationalist allies.
‘Erdogan’s toolbox is Janus’s face,’ said Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish research program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, referring to the Roman god usually depicted with one face looking at the past and another to the future. “Distract, divide, and condemn the opposition – it’s not a linear path to him.”
But the latest moves are a departure from a more conciliatory stance by Mr. Erdogan and his officials vis-à-vis the United States and European partners.
With the arrival of President Biden in the White House, Turkey adopted a more subdued tone towards the United States and shared its long-standing alliance and strategic interests.
Relations between the two countries are at a particularly low level, with Turkey subject to sanctions for the purchase of the Russian S400 missile system, and facing heavy fines against the state bank Halkbank for its role in violating sanctions against Iran. Mr. Biden has not yet met with Mr. Erdogan has not spoken since taking office, but his administration officials have already raised human rights concerns.
Mr. Erdogan also reiterated his desire to join the European Union. But his latest actions were announced on Friday just after a video conference with senior EU officials in which they called for a de-escalation of tension and the moves appear to be a calculation.
The Council of Europe said on Saturday that Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention “is deplorable because it jeopardizes the protection of women from women in Turkey, across Europe and beyond.”
The withdrawal from the international treaty was announced early Saturday in a concise line in the presidency’s Official Gazette, the website on which the government places bills passed by parliament, as well as presidential resolutions and ordinances. The removal of Mr. Agbal was announced in a separate decision.
The central bank chief had only been running since November, when Mr. Erdogan appointed him in an effort to stabilize the declining lira and an increasingly uncertain economy. His appointment was welcomed in international markets as a sign of consistent management.
Many in Turkey have denounced a week of authoritarian decisions.
Atilla Yesilada, an economic and political commentator in Istanbul, describe the move as a contemptible act of repetition, as well as a harbinger of early elections. ‘
Burak Ulgen, a writer, tweeted: ‘The abolition of the Istanbul Convention means to beat the men on the back and tell them’ please continue, you can kill women. ‘The blood of all the women killed in this land is on your hands. ”
The ordinances follow recent attacks on political opponents of Mr. Erdogan who aimed to please his political supporters.
On Wednesday, Turkey’s chief prosecutor lodged a complaint with the Constitutional Court to close HDP, the largest pro-Kurdish party, accusing it of being linked to a Kurdish militant group. This prompted a quick warning from the State Department that such a move would “undermine the will of Turkish voters unnecessarily.”
On the same day, the Turkish parliament voted to strip a prominent HDP legislator and human rights lawyer from his seat and ordered him removed from the chamber. And on Friday, a leader of the country’s Human Rights Association was detained during a morning raid on his home, one of similar 20 arrests in Istanbul and Ankara.
Mr. Erdogan’s actions against the HDP and human rights defenders who are sympathetic to the Kurds are seen as a political calculation to increase the stance of his alliance with the Nationalist Movement Party, which has been supporting his rival Iyi Party for the past few months. lost. . The tactic also appears to be an attempt to divide the opposition.