Around 1,000 women gathered near Istanbul’s main Taksim Square on Monday, International Women’s Day, to protest against what they see as a lack of action by authorities to prevent and punish violence against women.
They allege that Turkish femicide rates have surged in recent years.
The mostly female protesters were carrying purple flags and LGBTI+ signs and wearing purple masks reading, “We will win our freedom.”
Police in riot gear and water cannon trucks blocked entry to the square but there was no violence.
“Women are very strong, and they are afraid of this,” said Ipek Deniz, a 36-year-old nurse participating in the protests. “They should block murderers, not us.”
Turkey does not keep official statistics on femicide but a group that monitors murders of women says the femicide rate roughly doubled between 2011 and 2019.
So far in 2021, 51 women have been murdered and another 26 have died under suspicious circumstances.
Speaking at a congress of his AK Party’s women’s wing, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would establish a parliamentary commission to address issues regarding violence against women.
“We hear that there are those who call on girls to leave their father’s homes as soon as possible. Turkey will somehow solve the problem of violence against women. The real threat is this mentality taking root,” he told the assembled women.
In response, the protesters around Taksim Square chanted: “Femicide is political; life is ours, the choice is ours, the streets are ours, you can keep your family.”
“We are oppressed under the male power every day. Women’s murderers are rewarded by not being punished,” said Sumeyye Kose, a 21-year-old student.
“We are here protesting against increasing violence, against systematic LGBTI-phobia, against femicide. We will win,” she said.