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Riot police break up Istanbul women's rally

March 8, 2019

Thousands of women defied a ban on marches on a central shopping street in Istanbul and were met with shoving, pepper spray, tear gas and dogs. The marchers said the government protects men who abuse and kill women.

Turkish police block International Women's Day march in Istanbul
Image: picture alliance/AP Photo/L. Pitarakis

Attempts to ignore a ban on demonstrations by staging a massive International Women's Day march on Istanbul's central pedestrian shopping street have been met with a heavy-handed response by Turkish authorities.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators, most of whom were women, gathered at Istiklal Street on Friday but were confronted with cordons and a large police presence. The marchers were there to denounce violence against women and demand greater rights.

'I was born free and I will live free'

Initially, police allowed the women to enter one small section of the street, at which point demonstrators unfurled large banners emblazoned with phrases such as "Feminist revolt against male violence" and "I was born free and I will live free."

Some chanted slogans like "Men are killing and the state is protecting them" and "We are not silent, we are not scared, we are not obeying."

Before long, the women were trapped between security cordons and a phalanx of police in riot gear. Police then began shoving against the marchers, firing pepper spray and tear gas into the crowd and terrorizing women with dogs.

Police also gave chase to those who fled down side streets. It remains unclear if anyone was injured or arrested.

Turkey: Domestic violence survivor shares story

Domestic violence on display

Many women in Turkey say President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamic government is one reason that violence against women is so prevalent in the country, claiming it protects the perpetrators of such violence.

The issue of domestic violence was also front-page news in Turkey on Thursday, one day prior to the march. The day marked the beginning of a major trial involving a Turkish pop singer, Sila, who says she was brutally beaten by her boyfriend Ahmet Kural, a famous actor.

According to the United Nations, 38 percent of Turkish women have been the victims of physical domestic violence at some point in their lives.

js/cmk (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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