Large groups of women on Tuesday held marches to mark International Women’s Day, protesting the widespread issues of male violence and sexism in the country, despite bans and heavy-handed police intervention in İstanbul and Ankara, according to local media reports.
The women on Tuesday attempted to gather on İstiklal Street in Taksim, İstanbul, and Olgunlar Street in Çankaya, Ankara, to hold a “Feminist Night March,” which marks the continuation of the world-famous “Reclaim the Night” movement.
As in previous years, authorities declared Taksim and the surrounding areas as well as the areas near the Madenci statue on Olgunlar Street off-limits for demonstrations. Police officers cracked down on those who gathered to prevent them from holding women’s day marches in both provinces, firing tear gas to disperse groups of demonstrators, local media reports said.
A total of 38 women were taken into custody in the events in İstanbul, including a group of demonstrators who were detained as they tried to board a ferry across the Bosporus to join the march, according to Turkish media reports.
Amid a heavy police presence, a group of protestors in the city whistled, set off flares and chanted, “We are not afraid, we won’t bow down,” as they gathered near Taksim Square.
“Together we will win,” and “Down with the male-dominated capitalist system,” read the banners held by the demonstrators.
They were able to breach police barricades and reach Cihangir Street in Beyoğlu. There, the women read in Turkish and Kurdish a public statement titled “Feminist Rebellion Will Not End!”
“While attacks against women and LGBTI+s are on the rise from all sides, if we continue our struggle, if we can resist, and hope, against those who are … trying to make us acceptable women, annul the İstanbul Convention, usurp [women’s] right to alimony, … openly organize homophobia and transphobia … it’s thanks to feminism,” they said.
Another group of demonstrators also made a public statement following a march on Sakarya Street in Ankara, saying that they were “here with our feminist struggle in the face of attacks from all sides against all of our achievements.”
“We are here, side by side, with our excitement, enthusiasm, hope, but mostly anger and rebellion!” the women added.
Demonstrators in Turkey use the March 8 Women’s Day events to press for strong measures to prevent violence against women by former partners or family members. At least 73 women have been killed by men in Turkey since the start of the year, according to the We Will Stop Femicide Platform.
However, according to experts and activists, the number of unrecorded cases in the country could be far higher as femicides are often filed under “suicides” or “accidents.”
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on July 1, 2021, officially withdrew Turkey from the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention, drawing similar protests and widespread international condemnation.
The move came after some members of Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has its roots in political Islam, advocated a review of the agreement, arguing it ran against Turkey’s conservative values.
Last week, Erdoğan promised a set of judicial reforms to curb acts of violence against women. The measures foresee increased prison terms when the victims of killings, injuries, torture or ill-treatment are women, he said. They would make persistent stalking a crime and allow authorities to assign free-of-charge lawyers for women victims of violence.