Women defied all forms of oppression and assaults by patriarchy last Thursday and took to the streets across the country to celebrate the Women’s Day
Women defied all forms of oppression and assaults by patriarchy last Thursday and took to the streets across the country to celebrate the Women’s Day.
In Turkey, being a woman has become a health hazard and a life-threatening condition, especially if one prefers freedom, with the rise of fascism guided by the government. Attacks against women are on the rise and women’s rights are being curtailed behind the excuse that the dominant religion favors “special place” for women in a Muslim society.
Faced with daily restrictions on accessing social areas, at work, family, and education, women showed their presence and strength on March 8th, the Women’s Day.
While women defied government restrictions and bans around many cities, police, determined not to let the women march on the streets, attacked in Istanbul to prevent any women’s march. Similar to 2013 Gezi Park attacks, police chased the demonstrating women with batons, tear gas and rubber bullets to surrounding small side streets where clashes continued. Instead of dispersing, women regathered and the demonstrations persisted against male dominance in hundreds of small streets and alleyways. Then it spread to other neighborhoods.
Istiklal Street is the most crowded, popular and central place in Istanbul, a huge metropolitan city of more than 12 million habitants. It is closed to traffic and tens of thousands come here every night to shop, dine or just hang out. As they have done last year, the women gathered in this popular street for demonstrations for this year’s Feminist Night March celebrations. Last year, even under the government’s State of Emergency they were allowed to march. This year, even a simple, peaceful march was not allowed although the State of Emergency has been lifted. This should be enough to give an inkling on the trend of women’s freedoms and rights in Turkey under the Islamist AKP party’s dictatorial rule.
To prevent any women’s demonstration, the police barricaded the street’s entrance and kept the women outside, until women could not take it anymore and started chanting outside the steel barriers. Those around showed support for the women by clapping. When the demonstration time arrived, the police started tear gassing the women. This dispersed the waiting women to side streets and to other neighborhoods where they regrouped and continued the resistance.
Now the demonstration was everywhere: Cihangir, Tophane, Karaköy, Galata and Eminönü regions were seeing women chased by the Turkish police on their streets demanding to be heard. This helped the women voices to spread wider than the original plan to march only on Istiklal Street. Women and men in these neighborhoods joined the demonstrators by showing support on the streets or opening windows from homes and walking out of shops to clap the freedom movement. The police attack on the freedoms, rights, women and gender advocates turned out to be a defeat for the government as the women were forced to spread their message to neighboring regions.
A declaration by the women stated: “Our revolution did not end even when we faced the police violence. It will never end.”
The statement by the organizers emphasized the strength of the movement, “Feminist March did not disband, will not disband. The Feminist Night March we have been doing on March 8 for the last 16 years was attacked by the police this year. Those who think the Feminist March will give up are sadly wrong. We were not only in Istiklal Street. We flowed over to Galata Bridge to paint the entire Istanbul purple. We extended the feminist revolution to cover everywhere else as well and we will continue this quest. “
The women vowed to gather again next year to resume the feminist tradition.
While women were under police assault in Istanbul, women in other cities defied the government intimidation and took to the streets to cry and demand their diminishing freedoms and rights. Even in remote cities women braved the attacks and showed they would not be pushed back out of society into the homes under the control of men. Artvin, Adana, Hatay, Samsun, Mersin, Tarsus, Trabzon, Eskişehir, Erzincan, Izmir, Kocaeli, Dersim, Antep, Malatya, Aydin, Manisa, Muğla, Çorum, Bursa, Denizli are only a partial list of cities and towns that rose up on March 8 to denounce the patriarchal oppression in Turkey.