Turkish women fill Istanbul to demand greater rights


Istanbul (AFP)

Thousands of Turkish women on Thursday thronged central Istanbul for a demonstration on International Women's Day to demand greater rights and denounce violence.

Protesters formed a sea of people, many clutching colourful umbrellas in the rainy weather, that filled to bursting city's main pedestrianised shopping street of Istiklal Avenue, an AFP correspondent said.

There was a heavy police presence, including female officers, and security forces had earlier in the day put barricades around Taksim Square at the end of the street. But the rally was allowed to proceed peacefully.

The women chanted slogans including; "We are not silent, we are not scared, we are not obeying" and "Women are strong together".

Women's rallies were also held in Ankara and the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir.

Women's activists have long accused the Islamic-rooted government under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of not doing enough to stop violence against women.

According to the Platform to Stop the Murders of Women group, 339 women were killed in Turkey in 2017 and 76 so far this year.

"The situation of women in Turkey is much below average. There is no freedom, not only for women but for anyone," said protestor Hale.

"Despite that we are hopeful. That's why we are here," she added.

"The world would move if women had freedom. But they don't let us be free. Everyday there is pressure, pressure. We have had enough," added Turkan Gezmis.

"The situation of women here is a disgrace. It is getting worse."

Some women have also been angered by what they see as interference in their private lives by Erdogan, who has repeatedly urged women to have several children to boost the population.

In a speech earlier Thursday, he defiantly repeated his plea for women to have "at least three children".

"When I say that this annoys some people. Why? Because these people are the enemies of the nation," he said in Ankara, during a speech to mark Women's Day.

Large scale protests are rare events in Turkey under Erdogan and women at the demonstration expressed pride that the peaceful rally had attracted so many people.

"If you have a look at the protests in Turkey these last 4 years, you will see that the women are the ones who gather for the biggest protests," said Gunes Yucel.

"And today again we are here!" she added.