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Thousands of Turkish women defy ban to protest for equal rights

Thousands of women took to the streets of Istanbul, Turkey, to mark International Women's Day Friday despite a ban by the government, demanding equality and change of laws to protect women and help them gain their rights in the country and around the world.

Waving purple flags as a sign of International Women's Day, they filled the air with slogans and rallying cries despite a ban on rallies by authorities.

"The world would shake if women were free," "Resist for rebellion, resist for freedom," and "Woman, Life, Freedom," they chanted.

While the police had blocked access to the streets leading to the protest location several hours ahead, some women said they figured out their own ways to get there and participate in the protest.

PHOTO: Women shout slogans during a protest to mark International Women's Day in Istanbul, Turkey, March 8, 2024.  (Khalil Hamra/AP)
PHOTO: Women shout slogans during a protest to mark International Women's Day in Istanbul, Turkey, March 8, 2024. (Khalil Hamra/AP)

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"I have been here in this coffeeshop today at 1 pm to make it here at 7:30 pm," Irem, 35, told ABC News.

"Women's rights are basically nonexistent in Turkey right now," she added.

Turkey was the first country to join the Istanbul Convention in March 2012 which aims at preventing gender-based violence by setting legally binding standards to protect victims and punish perpetrators. However, 9 years later, in 2021, Turkey became the first and only country that left the convention in a decision made by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Islamic leaning government who believed the treaty eroded their conservative values.

PHOTO: A protester shouts slogans during a march marking the International Women's Rights Day near Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey, March 8, 2024.  (Yasin Akgul/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: A protester shouts slogans during a march marking the International Women's Rights Day near Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey, March 8, 2024. (Yasin Akgul/AFP via Getty Images)

Irem said the Turkish government has been backsliding in terms of women's rights and mentioned the rising number of femicide cases across Turkey over the past 10 to15 years.

According to We Will Stop Femicide, a prominent activist group in Turkey, 338 women have been murdered since March 2023, and 248 died under suspicious circumstances.

The campaign added that 212 of these women were killed at home, 134 of them by their husbands, 47 by their boyfriends, and 36 by their ex-husbands. Two of the victims did not know their murderers at all, according to the group.

PHOTO: A protester holds a sign during a march to mark International Women's Day in Istanbul, March 8, 2024. (ABC News)
PHOTO: A protester holds a sign during a march to mark International Women's Day in Istanbul, March 8, 2024. (ABC News)

Protestors called for more unity among women and for finding ways to get out of the situation and make things better for women and members of minority groups such as the LGBTOAI community.

Yagmour, a young protestor wearing an all-purple outfit and makeup, said she has attended the 8th of March protests in different cities of Turkey over the years. Despite her disappointment with the government's policies, she said she keeps up her hopes in women's power from around the world to pay attention to each other and also to the situation in Turkey.

"As women, it is important that we all stay together, no matter what nationality," she told ABC News.

Thousands of Turkish women defy ban to protest for equal rights originally appeared on abcnews.go.com