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Women in Turkey brave ban on Istanbul march, get tear-gassed

ISTANBUL (AP) — Women in Turkey braved an official ban on an International Women’s Day march in Istanbul, demonstrating for about two hours before police used tear gas to disperse remaining protesters and detained several people.

Thousands converged on a central neighborhood Wednesday for a protest that combined women's rights with the staggering toll of the deadly quake that hit Turkey and Syria a month ago.

Organizers had been forbidden — for the second straight year — from marching down the popular Istiklal pedestrian avenue in Turkey's biggest city where Women's Day marches were held since 2003. Police blocked demonstrators' access to the avenue. An Associated Press journalist saw officers detain at least 30 people and use tear gas after the group ended their demonstration at 2100 local time (1800 GMT).

Local authorities banned the march, saying the area was not an authorized demonstration site. They also claimed the march could “provoke” segments of Turkish society, lead to verbal or physical attacks, be misused by terror groups and threaten national security — as well as curtailing freedom of movement in the cultural and tourist area.

Metro stations in the vicinity were closed.

Lale Pesket, a 28-year-old theater student, said that was unfair.

“We are not harming anyone, but unfortunately, we are faced with police violence every time,” she said. "Our only concern is the emancipation of women, we want free spaces in a world without violence and better economic conditions, especially for women.”

Protesters held banners reading “we are angry, we are in mourning” for the more than 46,000 people who died in Turkey in buildings widely considered unsafe and the hundreds of thousands left homeless in the Feb. 6 quake.

One banner read “control contractors, not women,” referring to contractors who are accused of ignoring building regulations and contributing to the devastation.

“Living as a woman in Turkey is already difficult enough and one of the reasons we are here is ... the earthquake ... and the people who were left under the rubble,” 23-year-old university student Gulsum Ozturk said.

Protest organizers also slammed the government for withdrawing from a European treaty — signed in 2011 in Istanbul and named after the city — that protects women from domestic violence, and “endangering the lives of millions of women.”

Turkey's We Will Stop Femicides Platform said 328 women were killed by men in the past year.