Tear gas fired at women in Turkey who ignored ban on Istanbul march

Thousands demonstrated over women's rights and the death toll from February's deadly earthquake

Protesters scuffle with anti riot policemen at the end of the gathering to mark the International Women's Day in Istanbul, Turkey, Wednesday, March 8, 2023.  Women in Turkey and their allies converged on a central Istanbul neighborhood to demonstrate for women's rights and protest the human-made toll of the deadly quake that hit Turkey a month ago.  (AP Photo / Khalil Hamra)
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Women who braved a ban on an International Women’s Day march in Turkish city Istanbul were hit with tear gas by police who also made several arrests.

Thousands demonstrated for about two hours on Wednesday during a protest that focused on women's rights and the death toll that resulted in February's earthquake in Turkey and Syria.

Organisers had been forbidden from marching down Istiklal pedestrian avenue in Turkey's biggest city, where Women's Day marches have been held since 2003. The march was also banned in 2022.

Police blocked demonstrators' access to the avenue, detained at least 30 and used tear gas after the group ended their demonstration at 9pm local time, AP reported.

Local authorities who banned the march said the area was not an authorised demonstration site.

They also claimed the march could “provoke” segments of Turkish society, lead to verbal or physical attacks, be taken advantage of by terror groups and threaten national security — apart from curtailing freedom of movement in the cultural and tourist area.

Metro stations in the vicinity were closed.

Lale Pesket, 28, a theatre student, said the ban was unfair.

“We are not harming anyone but, unfortunately, we are faced with police violence every time,” she told AP.

"Our only concern is the emancipation of women. We want free spaces in a world without violence and better economic conditions, especially for women.”

'Control contractors, not women'

Protesters held banners reading “we are angry, we are in mourning” for the more than 46,000 people who died in buildings widely considered unsafe when the February 6 quake hit and the hundreds of thousands left homeless.

One banner read “control contractors, not women”, referring to contractors who are accused of ignoring building regulations and contributing to the devastation.

“Living as a woman in Turkey is already difficult enough and one of the reasons we are here is ... the earthquake ... and the people who were left under the rubble,” university student Gulsum Ozturk, 23, said.

Protest organisers also criticised the government for withdrawing from a European treaty — signed in 2011 in Istanbul and named after the city — that protects women from domestic violence, and “endangering the lives of millions of women”.

Turkey's We Will Stop Femicides Platform said 328 women were killed by men in the past year.

Updated: March 09, 2023, 5:31 AM