A group of 40 women who were detained as they tried to board a ferry across the Bosporus to join a march in Taksim neighborhood of İstanbul to mark International Women’s Day on March 8 have been indicted on charges that include “participation in illegal meetings and marches,” the ANKA news agency reported on Thursday.
The women had been aiming to hold a “Feminist Night March,” which marks the continuation of the world-famous “Reclaim the Night” movement, before they were detained in İstanbul’s Kadıköy district on March 8.
ANKA said that the indictment accused the women of “participating in illegal meetings and marches and not dispersing spontaneously despite a warning.”
According to the indictment, the protestors had started marching in Kadıköy “in a way that would block vehiclular and pedestrian traffic,” some holding placards that said, “Let’s create a feminist world,” and chanting the slogans “Be it the father, be it the husband, be it the state, be it the baton; revolt and freedom out of spite” and “Don’t stay silent, shout: Lesbians exist!”
Begüm Seliçi, one of the women facing the charges, told ANKA that they were surrounded by police during the Women’s Day events, and therefore, couldn’t disperse despite warnings.
“I don’t accept this indictment because it says that … we participated in illegal meetings and marches. Taksim was the place where the events weren’t allowed, [but] we were in Kadıköy,” Seliçi argued.
Stating that women are killed and subjected to violence every day in Turkey, she added: “Why are we living if we can’t raise our voices against all this even for one day? … We were just trying to get to Taksim, and this is our constitutional right. The lawsuit made us all very sad, very angry.”
Thousands of protesters have been marching along İstiklal Street in Taksim on the night of March 8 since 2003 to denounce violence against women in Turkey, where at least 280 women were killed last year, and demand equal rights for women. The “Feminist Night March” has witnessed confrontations between protestors and police in past years as the police wanted to prevent the protestors from holding the march.
As in previous years, authorities declared Taksim and the surrounding areas off-limits for demonstrations or marches to mark International Women’s Day in 2022, too.
Women’s rights organizations have for years been trying to raise awareness about the rise in violence against women that has taken place in the last 20 years. Femicides and violence against women are serious problems in Turkey, where women are killed, raped or beaten every day. Many critics say the main reason behind the situation is the policies of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, which protects violent and abusive men by granting them impunity.
In a move that led to national and international outrage, AKP leader and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan signed a presidential decree in March 2021 that pulled the country out of the Istanbul Convention, an international treaty, which requires governments to adopt legislation prosecuting perpetrators of domestic violence and similar abuse as well as marital rape and female genital mutilation.