Tens of thousands of women took to the streets in many provinces in Turkey on March 8, marching to mark International Women’s Day.
Women at the marches demanded an end to violence against women and protested against the charter changes set to be voted on April 16 in a referendum, which could result in a shift in Turkey’s current parliamentary system to an executive presidency.
In Istanbul only, over 10,000 people, mostly women, walked down the İstiklal Avenue, chanting “end male-perpetrated violence.”
A deep purple dominated the colorful crowds in Istanbul who held placards saying “women are free” and “we are strong united.”
The march was organized by multiple women’s and LGBTI rights groups and was attended by women of all ages, students, members of the LGBTI community, and men.
For Nurten Karancı, who attended the march, being a woman in Turkey means a “fight to live, to survive.”
Last year, a woman was attacked on a public bus in Istanbul for wearing shorts, while another woman wearing a headscarf was attacked, kicked and insulted.
Women activists in Turkey have continuously demanded to bring an end to violence against women in a country where hundreds of them get killed every year, often by their husbands.
The Istanbul march took place peacefully as the thousands began walking from Taksim Square to Şişhane, which is on the other end of the avenue, on the European side of Istanbul, while a heavy presence of police and water cannon trucks were on standby.
In Ankara, women marched with music and tambourines.
Meanwhile, in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, hundreds of people staged a demonstration for women’s rights, by dancing and playing music.
One participant, Sabiha Akgül, said all women “should stand up and support each other. Hand in hand, they will find freedom.”
Activist Özlem Gül, in Istanbul, described the difficulty of being a woman in Turkey. “Being a woman in every way is very complicated, especially today. We have to fight against many things. We have to fight against the attacks on our bodies, our work, and our opinions,” she said. “We are on the streets, we won’t give up, and we will keep on the fight as women in Turkey.”
Meanwhile, police detained 35 women at a Women’s Day march in the Marmara province of İzmit, Doğan News Agency has reported. The police did not allow the march, saying that the rally was not given permission by the province’s municipality. A brawl later occurred between the police and the women.
Earlier on March 8, a mob attacked a Women’s Day stall at Istanbul Bilgi University, injuring one woman.