Turkish women gather to celebrate International Women's Day in Ankara in March, 2020. Photo: AFP

Istanbul police fired tear gas Sunday to prevent hundreds of women marching on the city’s central avenue on International Women’s Day after authorities banned the march for the second year running.

Riot police were trying to disperse the crowds at the popular Taksim Square, close to Istiklal Avenue where the women wanted to march, an AFP correspondent said.

There was a heavy police presence and demonstrators were met by a wall of officers. The situation was calm until the women tried to enter the avenue and officers intervened.

The women marching chanted feminist slogans and some carried placards including: “Trans women are women,” “Abuse cannot be forgiven or excused” and “Long live the feminist struggle.”

Last year’s march was also banned and police fired tear gas at thousands of women on the central avenue, despite a peaceful demonstration in 2018.

The Istanbul governor’s office earlier on Sunday said all roads leading to Taksim Square and Istiklal Avenue would be closed.

The issue of women’s rights is often on the news agenda following high-profile femicides, and critics accuse President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted government of not taking violence against women seriously enough.

One killing that had a particular impact was the murder of 38-year-old Turkish woman Emine Bulut at the hands of her former husband in August 2019.

She was killed in front her 10-year-old daughter.

In 2019, 474 women were killed in murders linked to their gender, according to the women’s rights group “We Will Stop Femicide,” compared with 440 in 2018 and 210 in 2012.

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