ISTANBUL – Riot police set up barricades and fired pepper gas to block demonstrators from joining an International Women’s Day march in central Istanbul on Tuesday. At least 38 women were detained, media reports said.
As in previous years, authorities declared the city’s main square, Taksim, and surrounding areas off-limits for demonstrations. Riot police then put up metal barricades around Taksim and on side streets leading to the square as well as to a nearby pedestrian thoroughfare.
Police fired the gas to disperse groups of demonstrators who tried to break through police lines. At least one woman fainted, affected by the gas, according to Halk TV broadcaster.
A group of demonstrators meanwhile, were detained as they tried to board a ferry across the Bosporus to join the march, Cumhuriyet newspaper reported.
Demonstrators in Turkey use the March 8 Women’s Day events to press for strong measures to prevent violence against women by former partners or family members. At least 73 women were killed in Turkey since the start of the year, according to the We Will Stop Femicide Platform.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government withdrew Turkey from a European treaty on combating violence against women last year, drawing similar protests and widespread international condemnation. The move came after some members of Erdogan’s Islam-oriented party advocated a review of the agreement, arguing it ran against Turkey’s conservative values.
Last week, Erdogan promised a set of judicial reforms to curb acts of violence against women. The measures foresee increased prison terms when the victims of killings, injuries, torture or ill-treatment are women, he said. They would make persistent stalking a crime and allow authorities to assign free-of-charge lawyers for women victims of violence.