Turkish riot police clashed with women who gathered to celebrate International Women’s Day in Istanbul on Tuesday evening, firing pepper spray as they sought to disperse a crowd of several thousand in the city centre.
The Istanbul Governor’s office had said a day earlier it would not allow marches, protests or press statements to mark the event in the area around the city’s central Taksim Square.
Amid a heavy police presence, women whistled, set off flares and chanted “we are not scared, we do not bow down” as they gathered nearby.
“You see the state of the country and all the bad things women have to face every day. I walk in fear in the street every day. I actually came here to walk without being afraid,” said protester Dilara Akkaya.
Some tried to force their way through police barriers set up to block the area where they wanted to march; helmeted riot police then fired pepper spray and used their shields to push the protesters back. Reuters images show women pushing back against police shields.
“We are faced with the police even when we talk about a simple march. All we want to do is a simple march and press statement and we have to struggle with the police even for that,” said Elif Turkmen, one of the protesters.
Similar scenes have been seen at such gatherings in previous years, with Turkish authorities outlawing protests and police cracking down on those who do gather.