Dec. 10, Human Rights Day marked new human rights violations in Turkey. No one is surprised since police violence and human rights violations are constantly on our agenda. In Istanbul, again, a women’s protest, again, a police intervention, again… As you might recall, Las Tesis was a hot topic of discussion after their protest on Nov. 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The Chilean police anthem was used as a protest dance after the lyrics were replaced with feminist ones. A feminist group that combats sexual violence and the sexual abuse of children adopted police and government violence as this year’s theme, and protested against the judiciary and the president for being accomplices to these crimes. Women loved this dance protest. So, it quickly spread to the world, and women from many different countries translated the song to their own language and performed the dance — Turkish women included. But there was a police intervention only at the Kadıköy demonstration.
We can try to find a reason for this in a speech given by Istanbul Police Commissioner Mustafa Çalışkan at the promotion for his qualitative-quantitative academic research on data about violence against women: “There are an average of eight active cases of violence against women for every working police officer in Istanbul.” This must be a confession that protection isn’t granted to women who demand it under their legal rights to preventive and protective measures. Two questions: If the Police Commissioner had simply made available for academic research the data that he is legally required to release, wouldn’t he have way more time to do his job? And second question: How many working police officers were present for every woman who was at the protest in Kadıköy? I wish the respectable Police Commissioner would answer these questions. Answers to these questions would be nice, but there are more important questions that need answers.
Why did the police intervene into a gathering of women who were peacefully exercising their right to demonstration, who were protesting male violence, sexual assault, sexual abuse of children and femicide? Why were women battered with the police’s disproportionate use of force? And why were six women arrested? Why did women protesting male violence have to endure police violence? Fidan Ataselim, Ayşen Ece Kavas, Nisa Kör, Seda Elhan Barbaros, Yaprak Okatalı and Sevda Yeniköylü were handcuffed behind their back, taken to the police station and held until the next day when they could finally see a judge. When this part was complete, they were released on bail. It’s unacceptable that they were held almost 24 hours when they had done nothing wrong, and released not with dropped charges but on bail. Of course, their release is the best news. All of this torment only happened because of the intolerance towards women on the part of the Istanbul Police Commissioner and the police force.
Because on the same day, women from the same organizations performed the dance protest in Ankara, and there was no police intervention and no issue. The performance started with enthusiasm and ended with the applause of onlookers. So we should call what happened in Kadıköy what it is: a police incident. The governor and police’s excuses for police violence were that the women were chanting forbidden slogans, but that’s not convincing. The same words that were used everywhere else in the world were used in the dance protest. The only difference was the timing of the protest. The protest in Ankara started around 5 p.m. when the police has already intervened in the Istanbul protest, had handcuffed demonstrators and taken them to the police station. When the protest started in Ankara, the police violence at the protest in Istanbul was being condemned. The demonstration started with condemning police violence, continued with a rehearsal and three performances of the dance, and ended with the commemoration of women whose lives were taken by male violence. No problems arose since 20 or so police officers merely watched alongside almost sixty viewers.
However, tons of women were battered because of the incident that arose due to the intolerance of the Istanbul police. Women were arrested, so we expected courts to clear up this police issue and drop the charges. However, the ruling was that they would be released on probation.
Will the police, who made a special effort to justify the slogan “Stop killers, not women!”, pay for their incompetence and attack on a violence against women protest?
I wonder if the police ever wondered why women were blindfolded in Las Tesis’ demonstration? The women in Chile were protesting the prospects of naked and blindfolded police searches, sexist police violence and torture along with all kinds of male violence. Why do you think the Istanbul police took this protest personally? Like all women, I’m really curious about the answer to this question.