Istanbul, Turkey – On Thursday, Turkish police fired tear gas and rubber bullets, repelling thousands of people, many of them women, who took to the streets of Istanbul to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
The protests were part of a week-long national mobilization campaign, when people called for Turkey to rejoin the Istanbul Convention, a landmark agreement designed to protect women in 45 countries and was the largest in Turkey in 2011. City sign.
Although Turkey was the first country to sign the convention, it also became the first country to withdraw in July, and the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed that the initiative ” Was hijacked by a group of people trying to normalize homosexuality.”
Turkish women have held large-scale protests on the withdrawal of troops twice, once in March when Erdogan first announced his intention to withdraw troops, and once in July when the withdrawal was formally announced.
Erdogan argued that Turkey’s existing laws already provide adequate protection for women, but the country’s women’s rights organization stated that the convention provides a roadmap for important legislation that the government has never fully implemented.
According to the We Will Stop Femicide platform, a non-governmental organization that tracks such incidents and lobbied to prosecute the perpetrators, as of 2021, at least 285 women have been killed by men in Turkey.
On Thursday, the Turkish Interior Minister admitted that his own department’s statistics on the killing of women in the country showed that this year is expected to exceed last year — 251 women were killed as of November 15, compared with 268 in 2020 — but the government Efforts are being made to achieve this number.
“These are not just statistics. It is a matter of life. We need to solve this problem quickly,” Suleyman Soilu said at a meeting to review the national domestic violence reporting system. “We treat violence against women as a humanitarian issue, and we cannot tolerate even a loss of life.”
However, for many women in Turkey, the government’s claim of interest in protecting them is unbelievable, especially after they withdrew from the Istanbul Convention.
“Women are taking to the streets because male violence is increasing in Turkey and around the world,” Gokce, a 25-year-old from the Women’s Defense Network, told Al Jazeera, an organization that connects women activists across the country. Like many others in the protests on Thursday night, she also participated in the march in Istanbul in July. “We are calling on women on the streets to protect their rights, for justice for the murdered women, for their right to work, and for the rights of lesbians.”
Gokce said that the Istanbul Convention is the product of years of work by women’s rights activists. Although Turkey has never fully fulfilled its obligations, its withdrawal is shocking.
“Erdogan withdrew from the Istanbul Convention overnight on the excuse that it was spreading homosexuality,” she said. “Feminists wrote this convention and they worked hard to make it apply. They applied for it from one court to another, but it still hasn’t fully applied in Turkey. Withdrawing from it shouldn’t be just a decision by one person.”
Shortly after sunset, when Gokce was speaking, hundreds of women gathered near the southern end of Istiklal Avenue, the most famous pedestrian street in the city. Soon, the crowd swelled to thousands. Under the surveillance of hundreds of riot police, the three groups gathered from three different directions and blocked the route to Taksim Square, the end of the city’s traditional political gathering. .
“I came because I am a feminist and I believe that this country needs women’s struggle,” 22-year-old Hilal Akkan told Al Jazeera. “I came because I believe that the Istanbul Convention is necessary and to support my sisters.”
“I don’t think they will let us march,” Akkan said, and he glanced down the street at the riot shield and the double metal barricades blocking the way. “They have closed the exit and entrance to here, I think we will march, and then the police will intervene.”
Protests like this used to attract a large number of different people to commemorate International Women’s Day and other occasions, but since the 2016 coup attempted, the police’s attitude towards such public expressions of dissent has become increasingly severe.
Earlier this week, rapidly rising consumer prices and the depreciating Turkish lira triggered small protests across the country. The police quickly intervened on Wednesday night and detained dozens of Istanbul residents who called for the government to resign.
In the women’s rights protests on Thursday, participants also chanted slogans calling for Erdogan to step down, as well as placards and slogans calling for rejoining the Istanbul Convention, and ending the daily brutal violence against women in the eyes of many behavior.
“Every day, in our homes, on the streets, and in our workplaces, we suffer violence,” a woman who claimed to be only Nihal told Al Jazeera. “We have had enough.”
During the protests on Thursday, many women held placards with the number “6284” on them, referring to the name of the law adopted by the Erdogan government in 2012 to implement the Istanbul Convention.
Among other measures, the Law on Protection of the Family and Prevention of Violence against Women has made it easier to obtain restriction orders and called for the construction of hundreds of special shelters for victims of domestic violence. Human rights groups say that although some shelters have been established, they are far from the hundreds of shelters that should have been provided. They stated that in order to pressure the government to implement the law and other reforms, the Istanbul Convention needs to be retained.
However, President Erdogan criticized feminists for “Every sentence begins with the Istanbul Convention” because they called for rejoining the agreement.
He said in Ankara on November 17: “We have completely removed the Istanbul Convention from our agenda because we have already set out the steps to be taken in the agreement in our own law on the agenda.”
On Thursday night, as the protesters continued to walk along Istiklal Street, the police gradually stepped back and let them march, but then they stopped abruptly just a few hundred meters from where the rally began. Hundreds of riot police gathered behind the roadblock to transport potential detainees with the support of six water cannon trucks and dozens of buses. Crowds of police scattered with rubber projectile guns and tear gas launchers, while others put on gas masks and fastened plastic zippers from their belts.
The confrontation between the police and the protesters lasted for nearly half an hour. The protesters chanted “Open the roadblock!”
After a while, the riot police started to move, firing rubber bullets and tear gas canisters on the sidewalk, and began to gradually push the crowd until the crowd dispersed almost an hour later.