Turkish police fired tear gas at female protesters in Istanbul. women’s rights news

Istanbul, Turkey – Turkish police fired tear gas and rubber bullets on Thursday to push back thousands of people who took to the streets of Istanbul to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

The protests, part of a week of nationwide mobilization, came amid calls by Turkey to rejoin the Istanbul Convention, a landmark agreement to protect women that covers 45 countries and was signed in 2011 in Turkey’s largest city. Were.

While Turkey was the first country to sign the convention, in July it also became the first to withdraw with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government claiming that the initiative was aimed at “people trying to normalize homosexuality”. kidnapped by a group of

Turkish women have twice staged mass protests over the withdrawal, first in March when Erdogan announced his intention to withdraw, and again in July, when the move became official.

Erdogan has argued that existing laws in Turkey already provide adequate protections for women, but women’s rights groups in the country say the convention has provided a roadmap for important legislation that the government has never fully implemented. Not implemented since.

At least 285 women have been murdered by men in Turkey so far in 2021, according to the We Will Stop Femicide Platform, a non-governmental organization that tracks such incidents and lobbies to prosecute the killers. Is.

On Thursday, Turkey’s interior minister acknowledged that statistics from its own ministry on the killing of women in the country showed the year was higher than the previous year – with 251 women killed by November 15, compared to 268 in 2020 Gone – but the government was working to bring that number up. Down.

“These are not just statistics, it’s a matter of human life, and we need to address this issue quickly,” Suleiman Soylu said at a meeting to review the national domestic violence reporting system. “We view violence against women as a human issue, and we cannot tolerate a single loss of life.”

A woman pours milk into the eyes of a protester affected by tear gas fired by police during a rally in Istanbul to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women [Ozge Sebzeci/Al Jazeera]

However for many women in Turkey, the government’s claims are hard to believe, especially after the withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention.

“Women are filling the streets because in Turkey and around the world, male violence is on the rise,” Gokse, 25, of the Women’s Defense Network, an organization connecting women’s activists across the country, told Al Jazeera. Like many others in the protests on Thursday evening, she also took part in the march in Istanbul in July. “We are on the streets to call for women’s rights to defend themselves, justice for women who have died, the right to work, the rights of gay women.”

Gokse said the Istanbul Convention was the product of years of work by women’s rights activists, and although Turkey never fully fulfilled the obligations set forth in it, the withdrawal was a setback.

“Erdogan withdrew from the Istanbul Convention in one night on the pretext that it was spreading homosexuality,” she said. “Feminists wrote this convention, and they struggled to implement it. They went from court to court to enforce it and it still wasn’t fully implemented in Turkey. The decision to pull out was just Shouldn’t belong to one person.”

‘Victims of violence’

Hundreds of women gathered shortly after sunset, near the southern end of Istiklal Avenue, the city’s most famous pedestrian street, as Gokse spoke. The crowd soon swelled to several thousand, with three groups mobilizing from three different directions, under the watchful eye of hundreds of riot police, blocking the road leading north to Taksim Chowk, the city’s traditional venue for political rallies. was the end point.

“I came because I’m a feminist, and I believe women’s struggle is needed in this country,” 22-year-old Hilal Akan told Al Jazeera. “And I came because I believe the Istanbul Convention is necessary, and to support my sisters.”

“I don’t think they’ll let us march,” Akken said, looking at the road over a mass of riot shields and a double layer of metal barricades blocking the way. “They’ve already closed the exits and entrances to get here, and I think we’ll do a little march and then the police will intervene.”

A demonstrator clashes with riot police blocking the way for a march in Istanbul on Thursday. Police fired tear gas shells and fired rubber bullets [Ozge Sebzeci/Al Jazeera]

Such protests used to draw large, diverse crowds to mark occasions such as International Women’s Day, but since a failed coup attempt in 2016 police have dealt with such public displays of discontent with an increasingly heavy-handed .

Rapidly rising consumer prices and a devaluing Turkish lira sparked small protests across the country earlier this week, with police immediately intervening and detaining dozens of people in Istanbul on Wednesday night who were demanding the government resign. .

At the women’s rights protest on Thursday, participants raised slogans calling for Erdogan to step down, accompanied by placards and chants calling for the re-enactment of the Istanbul Convention, and daily cases of brutal violence against women. As many people see.

“Every day in our homes, in the streets, in our workplaces, we are victims of violence,” said a woman who told Al Jazeera only Nihal. “We have had enough.”

In protests on Thursday, several women carried placards with the number “6284”, referring to the name of the law passed by Erdogan’s government in 2012 to implement the Istanbul Convention.

Among other measures, the Law on Family Protection and the Prevention of Violence Against Women made it easier to obtain a restraining order and called for the construction of hundreds of special shelters for victims of domestic violence. Rights groups say that while some shelters were set up, they fell short in the hundreds that should have been made available. To maintain pressure on the government to pursue that law and other reforms, they say the Istanbul Convention needs to be upheld.

However, President Erdogan has criticized feminists “beginning every sentence with the Istanbul Convention” on their call to rejoin the agreement.

“We have completely removed the Istanbul Convention from our agenda because we already have the steps to be taken in this agreement,” he said in Ankara on 17 November.

A woman holds a placard that reads “We will make you sign the Istanbul Convention” at a rally in Istanbul, Turkey, on Thursday, marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. [Ozge Sebzeci/Al Jazeera]

As the protesters continued to march towards Istiklal Avenue on Thursday night, police pulled them back to march, but then, a few hundred meters from where the crowd had started, they suddenly stopped. Went. Hundreds of riot police crowded behind barricades in support of half a dozen water cannon trucks and dozens of buses carrying potential detainees. Groups of police worked carrying launchers for rubber pellet guns, and tear gas canisters, while others don gas masks and plastic zip ties to their belts.

The standoff between the police and the protesters lasted for nearly half an hour, as the protesters chanted “Open the barricades!”

Moments later, riot police made their move, throwing rubber bullets and tear gas canisters into the sidewalk, beginning a gradual push against the crowd until it dispersed nearly an hour later.


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