The police in Turkey have arrested one woman and fired rubber bullets to disperse a gathering of hundreds of people in central Istanbul on Sunday to commemorate International Women’s Day, which is to be officially celebrated on March 8.
The group had gathered ignoring a ban on the rally imposed by the Istanbul governor due to security concerns. Police in plain clothes began pushing and shoving people and a number of women fled when the police started firing rubber bullets at the crowd.
“We have always said that we would never leave the streets for the March 8 demonstration, and we never will. Neither the police nor the government can stop us,” Reuters quoted a protester, Guris Ozen, as saying before the crackdown. “You see the power of women. We are here despite every obstacle and we will continue to fight for our cause.”
The group was trying to draw attention to issues being faced by women in Turkey, which has been ranked 77th out of 138 countries on the gender equality index by the United Nations Development Programme. The Turkish government frequently faces criticism for not being able to handle such issues effectively, which includes high rates of violence on women and very low rates of women participation in workforce.
According to Reuters, the square in the Kadikoy district, on the Asian side of Istanbul, was filled with hundreds of women, chanting slogans and carrying purple banners, which represents movements on women’s social and economic issues.
There were also clashes in Ankara, when dozens of women took to the street for the march. The recent years have seen Turkey prominently limiting the right to peaceful assemble and giving police and the courts greater power to arrest and prosecute them.