Erin O'Brien / Duvar English - Protesters marching to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women were met with a police crackdown on Istanbul’s İstiklal Avenue on Nov. 25 evening. When largely peaceful demonstrators tried to advance down the pedestrian street, they were met with police barricades, riot police, and tear gas.
Femicide - when women are murdered violently, often by men - is at record highs in Turkey. According to the We Will Stop Femicides Platfor, a Turkish NGO, 353 women have been violently killed in Turkey this year alone. Last year, during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, that number was 410. The number of women murdered in Turkey has skyrocketed in the last decade - in 2008 when the platform first began publishing femicide numbers, 66 women were murdered.
Turkey ranked 133 of 156 countries - 1 being the best – on the World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Gender Gap Report, meaning women in only 23 countries on the list, including Yemen, Cote D’Ivoire, and Afghanistan, are in a worse situation than in Turkey.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)-led government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, while stating it advocates for women’s rights and family values, has demonstrated aversion to conventions and programs that advocate for the protection of women and LGBT+ communities.
Stating that it went against “family values,” the Turkish government withdrew from the Istanbul Convention (The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence), named for the city in which it was signed in 2011, on July 1, 2021.
Further, many perpetrators of domestic violence and femicide - such as Ümitcan Uygun, who was let off after he killed one young woman and went on to kill another - are set free or receive light sentences from local authorities.
Women who kill their abusers, on the other hand, are often punished harshly.
The protest on Nov. 25 evening called for an end to these murders and for an end to violence against women in Turkey. Protest organizers put out a call on social media to gather in Taksim’s Tunel area, on historic İstiklal Avenue.
Organizers committed to a peaceful demonstration, but the police presence was heavy throughout the day. From the early afternoon onwards, riot teams, special forces, and civil police blanketed the neighborhood of Beyoğlu, from Karaköy all the way up to Taksim Square.
The area where the protesters met - in front of the historic Tunel Funicular - was surrounded by police barricades. Taksim was walled off, and it was near-impossible to advance down İstiklal towards the gathering. In order to get through, one had to go through two police lines and elbow through hordes of officers with riot shields.
Military presence was also visible - there was at least one military vehicle and an officer in fatigues controlling a military drone remote.