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Turkey again bans Women’s Day march in central İstanbul

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A district governor’s office in İstanbul has as in previous years declared the central Taksim neighborhood and surrounding area off-limits for demonstrations or marches to mark International Women’s Day.

The Beyoğlu district governor’s office in a statement on Wednesday said no meetings, protests, marches or demonstrations can be held in venues or streets in the area including Taksim Square. It said the planned Women’s Day march has been banned out of concerns for public order and national security as well as to prevent crime and protect the rights and freedoms of others.

Every year thousands of women gather in Taksim Square for the “Feminist Night March,” which marks the continuation of the world-famous “Reclaim the Night” movement,  despite bans from authorities and police violence and detention.

The women’s rights organizations that organize the march said they are determined to hold the rally despite the ban just as they do every year.

In order to prevent the women from easily traveling to the area, the İstanbul Governor’s Office had closed the Taksim metro station, the Şişhane metro station’s İstiklal Avenue exit and the Taksim-Kabataş funicular railway as of midday Wednesday, and police set up barricades in the area to prevent the women’s access.

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 327 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.

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 21 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 affording them impunity.

In a move that led to national and international outrage, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan signed a presidential decree in March 2021 that pulled the country out of the Istanbul Convention, an international treaty that requires governments to adopt legislation prosecuting perpetrators of domestic violence and similar abuse as well as marital rape and female genital mutilation.

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