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Turkey: Police break up 'violence against women' protest in Istanbul

Protesters chanted and held up banners, demanding urgent action against gender-based violence in the country
The protesters later wanted to walk to the main Istiklal Street and tried to cross police barricades but riot police fired pepper gas to disperse them (AFP)

Riot police fired pepper gas to disperse demonstrators who gathered in Istanbul on Thursday to protest violence against women, some chanting "government resign," nearly five months after Turkey withdrew from an international treaty on the issue.

The group of several thousand mostly women marched to the city centre's Taksim Square, blocked off with barriers amid a heavy police presence. 

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The protesters chanted and held up banners, demanding urgent action against gender-based violence in Turkey, Reuters reported.

"We are not silent, not afraid, not obeying," chanted the demonstrators, urging President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to rejoin the treaty. 

The protesters later wanted to walk to the main Istiklal Street and tried to cross police barricades but riot police fired pepper spray to disperse them.

The protest, held to mark the international day for the elimination of violence against women, coincided with other small anti-government protests this week over the sharp slide in the value of the lira currency.

More vulnerable

In July, Turkey formally withdrew from the international treaty to combat violence against women, known as the Istanbul Convention and negotiated in Turkey's biggest city in 2011, in a move strongly criticised by western allies.

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Erdogan had announced the withdrawal in March, saying Turkey would use local laws to protect women's rights.

Conservatives within the president's ruling party argue the treaty's principles of gender equality undermine traditional family values and promote homosexuality.

A total of 345 women have been killed since the start of the year, according to the We Will Stop Femicide Platform. There were 410 women killed in 2020.

Women campaigners told AFP women feel more vulnerable and legally unprotected since Turkey withdrew from the convention.