Police shoot rubber bullets and tear gas into a peaceful march on International Women’s Day

Turkish women on international women's day blocked by police
Support us and go ad-free

On March 8, women around the world celebrated International Women’s Day. But in Turkey, police opened fire on thousands of women marching peacefully in the centre of Istanbul. Police fired rubber bullets and used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse crowds.

Civil rights

As Kurdistan 24 reported, police used violence to:

disperse crowds in the latest sign of President Tayyip Erdoğan administration’s growing intolerance to any form of dissent or expression of civil rights.

Ahead of the march, riot police put Istanbul’s centre on lockdown. As thousands marched peacefully towards Taksim Square, “holding placards and shouting ‘We refuse obedience'”, police blocked their entry. Many of the women were there to demand “equal rights and an end to the rising political suppression in the county”.

In the violent scenes that followed, those marching ran from rubber bullets and tear gas. An anonymous attendee told Kurdistan 24 that police “attacked us with tear gas for no reason”.


The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), issued a statement to condemn the violence:

Everywhere in the world, women celebrated March 8 freely. But there was only one place where a police assault took place. Guess where? We are baffled by the government’s logic that it thinks it can frighten women this way.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

Independent photographer Fatih Pınar shared footage of the violence:

Footage from BBC Turkey showed police firing into crowds of demonstrators:

Meanwhile, other films showed the size of the demonstration and the panic caused by police action:


The human rights situation in Turkey is critical as Erdoğan continues to attack peace and democracy. His regime has shut down 180 media outlets and “independent journalism has been all but obliterated”.

Erdoğan’s regime has jailed journalists, human rights activists, and opposition politicians in their thousands. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) documented evidence of:

excessive use of force; killings; enforced disappearances; torture; destruction of housing and cultural heritage; incitement to hatred; prevention of access to emergency medical care, food, water and livelihoods; violence against women; and severe curtailment of the right to freedom of opinion and expression as well as political participation.

Marking International Women’s Day in Turkey is vital. According to the NGO Umut (Hope) Foundation, in 2018, “477 women were killed and another 232 were injured at the hands of violent men”. Yet, Turkey made over $5m in profit exporting flowers to other countries to honour the day.


Erdoğan has also led a vicious campaign against the Kurdish population in both Turkey and Syria. As The Canary‘s Emily Apple reported, there are currently 15,000 political prisoners in Turkey. And Kurdish lawyers told The Canary that from 1 March, 5,500 prisoners are on hunger strike.

This International Women’s Day came as Leyla Güven – a Kurdish MP for the HDP – marked 121 days of an indefinite hunger strike. The strike calls for an end of the isolation of imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan. This includes ending his solitary confinement and allowing him access to lawyers and family visits.

Whether it’s writing to your MP, telling people about the hunger strike, boycotting Turkish products, or shutting down an arms company that is making money from selling Turkey weapons, there is something each and every one of us can do to highlight the violence of  Erdoğan’s government.

Featured image via screengrab

Support us and go ad-free

Get involved

  • Kurdish activists are asking people to contact their local MPs to draw attention to the hunger strikers and the isolation of Abdullah Öcalan.
  • Talk to people about the hunger strike. Speak out. If you’re involved in a group, ask them to write a statement in support of the hunger strikers. Kurdish people are depending on our solidarity.
  • Get involved with your local anti-arms trade group to try to prevent arms sales to Turkey.
  • Read Abdullah Öcalan’s writings.

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us