Turkish Gov't Bans Int'l Women's Day March Due to 'Security'
Mon, March 7, 2016
Turkish women defying a ban on marching for International Women's Day are met by police. (Photo: Video screenshot)
Turkish women, defying a ban issued by Istanbul’s governor prohibiting demonstrations marking International Women’s Day demonstrations, took to the streets en masse to call attention to the challenges faced by women in Turkey.
The demonstrations, three days ahead of the official March 8 commemoration, were met by a brutal police force, which fired rubber bullets into the crowd and shoved and arrested demonstrators.
“We have always said that we would never leave the streets for the March 8 demonstration, and we never will. Neither the police nor the government can stop us," protester Guris Ozen said, speaking to told Reuters. "You see the power of women. We are here despite every obstacle and we will continue to fight for our cause."
Women also defied the ban in Ankara, where protestors were similarly manhandled by police officers.
The official reason cited for the demonstration ban was security concerns, but with increasing frequency and brutality, Turkey’s Islamist ruling party – under the direction of President (and former prime minister) Recep Tayyip Erdogan – has cracked down on any and all institutions not in line with his Islamist agenda.
In the past, Erdogan has drawn ire for commenting that Islam defines the role of women as motherhood, adding “You cannot explain this to feminists because they don’t accept the concept of motherhood.” In an earlier comment, he told a delegation of women’s rights activists “I don’t believe in equality between men and women.”
His deputy prime minister, Bulent Arinc, was met with derision after saying that women should refrain from laughing in public because it’s immodest.
The current demonstrations sought to call attention to the dire position of women in Turkey, which was ranked 130 out of 145 states in the 2015 Global Gender Gap Index and last in Europe and Central Asia.
In addition, it has been reported that 40% of women in Turkey suffer from violent abuse from a spouse or family member. The report, compiled by Turkey’s Ministry of Family and Social Policy, had been long suppressed.
Violence against women in Turkey has skyrocketed since Erdogan came to power. According to the Turkish Ministry of Justice, from 2003, when Erdogan took power, until 2010, there was a 1,400 percent increase in the number of murders of women.
In 2014, there were at least 287 cases of women being murdered because they asked for a divorce.
According to the U.N., Turkish women are 10 times more likely to be victims of domestic violence than women in any other European country.
Professor Aysel Çelikel, head of the Support for Contemporary Living Association, or ÇYDD, cited the root cause behind the alarming rise in violence against women saying, “Women’s rights are going backward as much as [Islamist] conservatism is increasing in society.”
The sickening footage of women being abused by plain-clothed and uniformed police (see video below) is an indication of how far Turkish women will need to push back to obtain their rights.
In the words of one protester, "You see the power of women. We are here despite every obstacle and we will continue to fight for our cause."
Turkish women will need to dig in for a long and hard fight.
Watch women defy the ban on demonstrations in honor of International Women's Day. Note: The plain clothed men in the video footage are almost entirely police.