Women's march in Istanbul marked by police violence and detentions on March 8

Protestors of the Feminist Night March gather in central Istanbul in Beşiktaş. Photo by Sevgi Yağmur Bulut, used with permission.

Since March 2003, Turkish women rights activists have established a tradition of holding a Feminist Night March every March 8 in Istanbul to mark international women's day. This year, the event, which traditionally takes places at the landmark central Taksim Square ended with several women being detained, as the city government refused to allow the demonstration.

Access denied: roads closed, subway stopped

On the evening of March 8, the city government of Istanbul stated that all roads leading to Taksim Square and nearby İstiklal Avenue would be closed due to ‘unauthorized demonstrations and calls for a march’. Ignoring the warning, women activists nevertheless maintained their decision to walk to Taksim, and started gathering in different locations.

The first meeting point was in Beşiktaş in central Istanbul, where supporters of the local organization We Will Stop The Femicide Platform met. They were carrying pictures of women killed by men, and banners with different messages such as  ‘Stop the femicide’, ‘You will never walk alone’. Some also displayed the sentence ‘I don't want to die’, which were the last words of Emine Bulut, a woman who was killed by her husband in front of her daughter, and became an emblem of the movement. As members of families in which a woman had died in the hands of men spoke, the crowd supported them with the slogan ‘You will never walk alone':

On the Asian side of Istanbul, in Kadıköy, another group of women met to sing songs and dance. As one netizen wrote:

Look at those women. No matter what their language, religion, orientation is, they are colorful and cheerful. You have already closed roads and pledged not to let them go to Taksim. These are the women you will drown in tear gas in a few hours. We are so beautiful without you.

Heading to Taksim

By 6 PM on March 8, demonstrators started to walk towards Taksim Square.

Blockade of March 8 in Taksim: Everywhere we are surrounded by barriers

As they tried to reach İstiklal Avenue which leads to the square, the police took action and sprayed them with tear gas, using their shields to push the group out of the streets.

Shields and kicks for those who want to walk to Taksim for #March8! The police intervened against women who wanted to go to Taksim for the Feminist Night Walk

Given that access was denied, groups of demonstrators changed direction, shouting ‘ So we are scattering all over Istanbul’ and went to nearby Karaköy square.

When the Feminist Night Walk was not allowed on İstiklal Avenue, thousands of women said “So we are scattering all over İstanbul instead.” Women walking towards Karaköy blocked the road.

If you have been asked how many people were in Karaköy, you can show those photos

Police violence: dragging people by their hair

Since some women insisted on getting access to Taksim Square, the police made arrests, and a total of 34 women were detained.

Some of the arrests were violent, as can be seen on images showing them being dragged by their hair:

Women are not leaving despite the police using tear gas

34 people were detained in Taksim on 8 March # FeministNightWalk. According to Filmmor [ a media organization for women], 34 people were detained after the intervention of the police, and were taken to the police headquarters to provide their testimony.

Women are detained and being dragged by their hair in Taksim

On March 9, the demonstrators were informed that all had been released.

Women detained on 8 March were released

‘Remember this crowd’

One of the most popular banners of March 8 read “Remember this crowd if you sink into despair, because you will never walk alone”, which emphasis solidarity among women and the hope for a better future. It also circulated on social media among women:

I will never forget March 8, 2020, “I will remember this crowd if I sink into despair.

The government, meanwhile, conducted its official ceremony of marking women's international day. While women were fighting the police on the streets, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan distributed flowers to selected women during ‘Turkey's Hero Women’ Program, saying:

Erdoğan: The future of a society that sees women as commodities cannot be bright. We do not want to experience a mentality of ignorance that buries girls alive. Yet some societies still act so.
Police attacked #FeministNightWalk. At least 30 women were detained. Women pushed to the ground floor while detained


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