Turkish Riot Police Halt Women’s March Against Violence
Turkish riot police on Sunday fired tear gas and used their shields to halt an unauthorized march in Istanbul marking an international day calling for an end to violence against women.
The police action, launched after several orders for the crowd to disperse, prevented a thousand demonstrators moving along Istiklal avenue, the main shopping thoroughfare in Istanbul.
Protesters responded by yelling “We will not be silent”, “We are not afraid” and “We will not obey”.
After a tense face-to-face confrontation with police, which lasted nearly two hours, the marchers broke off into side streets to yell their slogans before eventually leaving the area.
Dissident daily Cumhuriyet posted a video on its Twitter account showing part of the confrontation between the police and demonstrators:
— Cumhuriyet (@cumhuriyetgzt) November 25, 2018
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Gursel Tekin reportedly spoke to the head of Kadikoy Police Department in order to ask permission for the women’s march. His request was denied on the grounds that Istanbul Governor’s Office only allowed certain locations for demonstrations.
Many Twitter users criticized the harsh police intervention at an event that called for stopping violence against women:
TR Police brutally attacks women in Istanbul (Taksim Square) with teargas to stop their protest! Do not stop women protesting violence! Stop massive violence to women (particularly within family), stop exploitation due to unequal conditions in professional life + in education! https://t.co/JQHkCYt4kj
— Mehmet Efe Caman (@MehmetEfe_Caman) November 25, 2018
On the other hand, Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement earlier in the day regarding the police violence in France targeting protests against rising oil prices on Saturday. The Turkish ministry called French police’s intervention “concerning.”
Turkish authorities give very few authorizations for public protests, following big anti-government marches that took place across the country in 2013.
Peaceful protests marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women were held in many other cities around the world over the weekend, most of them without police opposition.
“To be a woman in Turkey is to suffer violence from men in all areas of life, whether at work or at home,” one demonstrator, Yasemin Esmer, told AFP.
“We’re here to cry out our feeling of revolt. We are saying we are stronger when united,” said another, a student who didn’t give her name.
Violence against women is a recurrent issue in Turkey, where several hundred femicides are recorded each year.
An association, Stop Femicides, counted 409 murders of women or girls last year, and 328 in 2016.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has frequently condemned violence against women. But associations accuse his conservative, Islamic-rooted government of failing to take sufficient measures to stop it.