Skip to main content

Knife-wielding group attacks women’s day event at Turkish university

Injuries caused by stab wounds were reported with students saying they had been threatened on Twitter before the incident
A still from footage showing the incident (Twitter)

ISTANBUL, Turkey - A group of 30-40 people wielding knives attacked students celebrating International Women’s Day on a university campus in central Istanbul, injuring some participants.

A tent set up to mark the event was attacked by the assailants and there were reported injuries caused by stab wounds at the private Bilgi University after the assailants jumped over turnstiles and entered the campus illegally. 

The university’s private security guards intervened after the attack began and the assailants fled.

Students at the scene claimed that the assailants shouted “Allah u Ekber” (God is great) before attacking them.

The participating students then started protesting against the university’s administrators saying such incidents had occurred previously but no security measures were put in place.

In a video, a student can be heard telling university staff: “We are talking about knives here. They dragged one girl by the hair and slammed her head on the ground… we were threatened on Twitter, we informed you…you didn’t take any steps and they were encouraged and came here.”  

Scores of small-scale rallies and marches were planned and being held in various cities across Turkey on Wednesday to mark International Women's Day, which takes place on 8 March each year.

Under the state of emergency, which Turkey has been under since 20 July following a failed coup bid, authorities have the power to ban any gathering.

There were conflicting reports about whether bans were imposed for Women’s Day marches across the country. A ban initially announcedin Diyarbakir was lifted later. The same appears to have been the case in most cases.

Turkey has a mixed record on women’s rights. It granted women the right to vote in municipal elections in 1930 and women enjoy considerably more rights in Turkey in comparison to most countries in the region.

Turkey is also grappling with problems such as honour killings and the issue of underage marriages (legally prohibited but frequent in the south and southeast of the country).

Attacks over dress

In the past few years, however, attacks on women in major urban centres have increased, particularly in opposition to the way they dress.

One of the major cases of recent times is that of Aysegul Terzi, a 24-year-old nurse who was attacked and kicked by a man on her way to work on a public bus for dressing “inappropriately”. She was wearing shorts.

Her assailant, Abdullah Cakiroglu, was initially sentenced to imprisonment but then released.

The final hearing in the case is also expected today, with a group of women’s right activists gathered in front of Istanbul’s Caglayan court complex to show solidarity.       

The campus attack came around the same time as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent out Twitter messages in multiple languages congratulating women in Turkey and the world on the occasion of women’s day:

In a video prepared for women’s day Erdogan also appears in a message calling violence against women a betrayal of humanity:

The president’s wife, Emine Erdogan, was also a keynote speaker at a Women’s Day event organised in Ankara on Tuesday where she hailed the role of women in society both in Turkey and across the globe.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.