Editorial Note April 2019
The 17th Feminist Night March in Istanbul was banned for the first time this year, after being held every year since its inception 16 years ago. In 2003, some 100 feminists had launched the first night march in Istanbul, united around the theme that feminists were against the patriarchal structure of “war and occupation,” and marched for only a few blocks in one of the city’s central hubs. Year by year, as the reputation and support for feminism, and the struggle for equality grew increasingly stronger—especially among younger women—the night marches began to draw more and more women. The route also extended from a few city blocks to a 1.5-kilometer stretch, from Taksim Square to Tunnel Square. Recently though, feminism, women’s rights, and demands for gender equality have unfortunately been facing a backlash from the government and various populist male groups, and nowadays the hard-won gains of the feminist movement, as well as the right to assembly and the freedom of expression, are under serious attack.
In an environment where all protests regarding human rights violations have been halted, the Feminist Night March remained the only platform that functioned as a space where thousands of women can still raise their voice for their lives, bodies, and sexuality. This year’s main theme and slogan was “This is a feminist riot!”. This year, the Feminist Night march was announced in an innovative way; where the call for the march and the slogan “This is a feminist riot’” were projected onto the bridge on the Bosphorus with laser lights 4 days before the March. On the evening of March 8, 2019, feminists tried to enter Taksim Square, which had been blockaded by the police in the early hours that day, but could not begin the march since the barricades were not lifted. Holding banners and shouting slogans, over 40,000 women gathered at the starting point of the march, representing the resilience, diversity, and versatility of the dynamic feminist movement in Turkey. After an hour, the crowd relentlessly waiting to march for their rights was dispersed with tear gas, plastic bullets and dogs. Not deterred, the feminists identified a different route, and marched along the back streets leading from Taksim Square and ended the march in Eminonu, another neighbourhood 3.5 kilometres away.
The organizing committee has since published a declaration, stating “We have no intentions of backing down from this feminist revolt, or giving up our demands for equality, our dream of a freer life, our laughter, our desires, our existence, the rights we gained through long years of struggle, and our March 8th Feminist Night March. We know we are right. We know it is our right.” As the statement shows, despite all obstacles, women will persistently demand the full realization of their rights and remain determined in their efforts to achieve equality and freedom.
Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR) – New Ways