ISTANBUL – Protesters in cities across Europe and elsewhere marked the U.N. International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on Sunday, with tens of thousands turning out in Madrid and demonstrators in Istanbul greeted by tear gas.
Hundreds of women gathered in Istanbul’s Tunel Square to march on the city’s main pedestrian Istiklal Avenue. Dozens of police formed a barricade and prevented the group from marching, saying their demonstration was not permitted. Police fired several rounds of tear gas to stop the group.
The activists instead continued their demonstration in the square with a sit-in. They chanted slogans and dispersed peacefully.
Rights groups say violence against women is widespread in Turkey, and an online database called the Monument Counter says at least 337 women were killed by domestic violence in 2018.
Protests in Turkey have been especially restricted since 2013 after a wave of anti-government demonstrations, extremist attacks and a two-year state of emergency declared following a failed coup in 2016.
The women’s activist group Mor Cati said Turkey is more concerned with stopping protests than “preventing male violence.”
Activists marched in more than 40 cities and towns in Spain, with tens of thousands in Madrid joining a feminist group and shouting “no more victims, we want freedom” as they marched through the Spanish capital’s center.
Official figures show 44 women have died this year in Spain at the hands of their current or former partners. Since 2003, when Spain started keeping records, the total number of victims has been 999 — 972 women and 27 children.
Spain is training more than 600 judges on gender violence and preparing to reform the country’s laws on sex crimes following outrage over recent court decisions.
In Brussels for the E.U. Brexit summit, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani sported a red swipe under his left eye as he addressed the media. In Italy, his home country, the mark stands for support of the U.N. day.
Tajani said on Twitter that “Nothing can justify violence against women. My mother taught it to me. I taught it to my children.”