Activists gather to protest against violence against women in Istanbul on Sunday. Photo: AFP
Activists gather to protest against violence against women in Istanbul on Sunday. Photo: AFP

Riot police in Istanbul on Sunday reacted to marchers marking an international day calling for an end to violence against women by firing tear gas at them.

The police action, launched after officers repeatedly ordered the illegally assembled crowd to disperse, stopped about a thousand demonstrators from marching along Istiklal Avenue, the main shopping street in Turkey’s commercial capital.

Protesters responded by yelling “we will not be silent”, “we are not afraid” and “we will not obey.”

After a tense standoff with shield-wielding officers lasting nearly two hours, the marchers broke off into side streets to shout their slogans before eventually leaving the area.

Turkish authorities rarely give permission for public protests, following big anti-government marches that took place in 2013.

Peaceful protests marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women were held in many other cities around the world over the weekend, most of them without police opposition.

“To be a woman in Turkey is to suffer violence from men in all areas of life, whether at work or at home,” one demonstrator, Yasemin Esmer, told AFP.

“We’re here to cry out our feeling of revolt. We are saying we are stronger when united,” said another, a student who didn’t give her name.

Violence against women is a recurrent issue in Turkey, where several hundred femicides are recorded each year.

An association, Stop Femicides, counted 409 murders of women or girls last year, and 328 in 2016.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has frequently condemned violence against women. But associations accuse his conservative, Islamic-rooted government of failing to take sufficient measures to stop it.

Home is most dangerous place for women

Meanwhile, a new UN study says that more than half the women who were murdered worldwide last year were killed by their partners or family members, making home “the most dangerous place for a woman.”

In statistics released on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime calculated that of a total 87,000 female homicide cases worldwide in 2017, some 50,000 – or 58% – were committed by the victims’ intimate partners or family members.

Around 30,000, or 34%, were committed by intimate partners alone.

“This amounts to some six women being killed every hour by people they know,” the Vienna-based body said.

The vast majority – around 80% – of homicide victims worldwide were men, but “women continue to pay the highest price as a result of gender inequality, discrimination and negative stereotypes,” said UNODC chief Yury Fedotov.

“They are also the most likely to be killed by intimate partners and family… making the home the most dangerous place for a woman,” he said.

– With reporting from Agence France-Presse