Mar 08 2019

Turkish women protesters defiant in face of police intervention

Updated adding reports on police intervention into the march

Women march in Istanbul has started on Istiklal Avenue, one of the central points on the city’s European side. Thousands of women flocked to central Istanbul to celebrate International Women’s Day with the aim of demanding greater women's rights and denouncing violence against women. Police have responded by firing plastic bullets and tear gas at the crowds of demonstrators. 

 

A strong police presence was deployed to oversee the crowd, as is ever the case in the famous square, and some women have been subjected to physical violence during police interventions near Taksim Square. 

 

 

In some places the police presence was supplemented by police dogs. 

"The batons and tear gas are not enough for them, now they're setting dogs on women approaching from side streets," Twitter user Rıfat Doğan said in a tweet including a picture of the dogs.

The entrance of Istiklal Avenue, which runs off Taksim square, had been blocked with police barricades, yet thousands were able to reach the starting point of the march, protesting the police blockade with whistles as they went.

As the women attempted to proceed on the march's yearly route along Istiklal Avenue, they were blocked by heavy-handed police interventions that went largely unreported on Turkish media channels.

Police blocked all the side streets leading to Istiklal Avenue to stop the crowds from carrying out their march. When women tried to unblock the road, police responded with violence using tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd. 

Footage filmed at the march showed police firing many rounds of plastic bullets at chest height into crowds approaching Istiklal Avenue from side streets, before advancing in formation behind riot shields towards the main body of protesters on the square.

This year is the 17th year of the phenomenal march, which has brought thousands of women together on Istiklal Street every year since it started.

Last year in Istanbul, over 10,000 women, dancing and chanting under banners and placards, walked down Istiklal Avenue, chanting “end male-perpetrated violence.” A deep purple dominated the colourful crowds who held placards saying “women are free” and “we are strong and united.”