Turkish Police Detain Protesters At Anti-Violence Rally

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish police on Friday broke up a rally calling for an end to violence against women and for Turkey’s return to a treaty aimed at protecting them, detaining dozens of people.

The demonstrators tried to march along Istanbul’s main pedestrian street, Istiklal, to mark the Nov. 25 International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, defying an order by authorities banning the rally on security and public order grounds.

Police blocked off protesters from entering streets leading to Istiklal, surrounded groups of protesters and then apprehended them. An Associated Press journalist saw three busses full of detained protesters being taken to a nearby police station.

Istiklal was the site of a bomb attack that killed six people on Nov. 13 and police presence was especially heavy. Turkish authorities blamed the attack on Kurdish militants groups but those groups have denied involvement.

The Istanbul Governor's office announced Friday that it was banning live music, exhibitions and food stands being set up on Istiklal.

Last year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan withdrew Turkey from the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention, prompting condemnation from women’s rights groups and Western countries. The landmark convention was signed in Istanbul in 2011.

The decision to leave the convention came after some officials from Erdogan’s Islam-oriented party argued it was inconsistent with Turkey’s conservative values by encouraging divorce and undermining the traditional family unit. Critics also claimed that it promoted same-sex relationships.

Earlier this year, parliament ratified a bill increasing prison terms for crimes where the victim is a woman and made stalking a crime punishable by prison.

Speaking at an event marking the international day, Erdogan vowed to “constantly raise the bar” in preventing violence against women.

“We cannot give consent for even a single woman being subjected to violence,” he said.

Still, human rights groups say measures in place fail to adequately protect women or hold perpetrators to account.

At least 349 women have been killed so far this year in Turkey, according to the advocacy group, We Will Stop Femicide.

Authorities have banned similar rallies over the past years, leading to scuffles between police and demonstrators.