Crowds gather for Feminist Night March in Istanbul: ‘No equality and freedom for us, no peace for them’

Crowds gathered in central Istanbul to mark International Women's Day on March 8 despite police blocking all streets leading to Taksim Square. The crowd protested against patriarchy, and violence against women and LGBTI+ members during the march with their banners and slogans.

Osman Çaklı / Gazete Duvar

Women and LGBTI+s gathered in Istanbul’s central Beyoğlu district for the Feminist Night March to mark International Women’s Day on March 8 like every year. 

The police once again blocked all the streets leading to Taksim Square. Metro stations near Taksim Square were also closed in line with the decision taken by the Istanbul Governor’s Office.

The women encountered police barricades on every street of Istiklal Street and had arguments with the security forces to reach the protest site. The residents living nearby had to show residence information of where they live to pass the security forces.

The crowd gathered in front of Taksim Training and Research Hospital reacted to the street blockades with the slogan "We do not leave streets and squares and nights" while waiting for the crowd.

The crowd waited for about an hour for the police barricade on Sıraselviler Street to be removed and chanted "Open the barricade." 

The crowd did not forget the murdered women in Palestine as well. Carrying a poster of Leila Khaled, one of the symbols of the Palestinian resistance, the crowd chanted "Murderer Israel, collaborator AKP." Meanwhile, the police announced that the slogans chanted by the women were “illegal.”

The crowd carried a poster of Leila Khaled

In a press statement, the crowd said "We have been struggling not only for 22 years, but since we have known ourselves, with the strength we get from women who have struggled and resisted men for centuries,” while marching through Cihangir.

The long banner reads: "Our salvation is feminist struggle"

“This year, we found in feminism the way to fight against patriarchy and political oppression that draws its power from patriarchy, and in feminist solidarity the power to resist. Feminist struggle gave us not only the determination to overcome the hostility against women and LGBTI+, but also the belief that we can change the world every day, everywhere,” the statement read.

“After the Feb. 6 earthquakes, we saw how this order works most severely. Houses were destroyed, buildings were demolished, streets and squares were destroyed, but women's burden of rebuilding life did not disappear. Even when there were no houses, there was domestic labor exploitation,” it added, reminding the Feb. 6 quakes that shook southeastern Turkey in 2023.

The banner in front reads: "Women suffer the most from war, as well, #FreePalestine"

It also reminded that the streets, “which were closed to us,” were opened to religious cults spreading LGBTI+ hatred under the name of “Big Family Gathering.” “Even LGBTI+ movie screenings, festivals such as Queerfest, picnics and exhibitions are banned. With the sealing of Bayram Street, which has existed for years, transgender people and sex workers are banned from living and working in their homes.”

“A genocide is taking place in Gaza before our eyes. This genocide is being legitimized by feminism in the Western world. However, there is no feminism in occupation and genocide! On the one hand, Turkey says it supports Palestine, on the other hand, it continues to trade with Israel. While it says it condemns Israel, it drops bombs on women and children in Rojava. On top of that, refugee and xenophobia is constantly provoked. Migrant women are more insecure than ever,” it added.

"Feminist rebellion"

“We will never stop dreaming of a world without war, patriarchy, transphobia, homophobia, capitalist exploitation of labor, racism. For this: Our hope is feminist struggle! Our strength is feminist struggle! Our life is feminist struggle! Our salvation is feminist struggle!,” it concluded.

The crowd also carried Kurdish banners

After the statement, the crowd marched towards the police barricades blocking the street, which led to a scuffle between them and the police. The crowd dispersed after a while.

Turkey has made moves in recent years to lessen protections for women. In July 2021, the country formally withdrew from the Istanbul Convention (the Council of Europe’s Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence), a move that advocacy groups say was a major setback for women in the country. Turkey was the first country to sign the Convention back in 2011.

Some 315 women were murdered by men in 2023 in Turkey, while 248 women were found dead under suspicious circumstances over the same period, according to the We Will Stop Femicides Platform.

(English version by Alperen Şen)