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President and Justice and Development Party (AKP) Chair Recep Tayyip Erdoğan raised the topic of the Feminist Night March on the March 8 International Women's Day in a rally he held in the capital Ankara.
After showing footage from the march that allegedly shows feminists blowing whistles against the azan (Muslim call to prayer) from a mosque, Erdoğan addressed his rivals İYİ Party Chair Meral Akşener and the Felicity Party (SP): "You are together with these enemies of the azan.
Women on March 8 gathered on the Taksim square in İstanbul for the 17th Feminist Night March. The demonstration was dispersed by a police attack. On the following day, Erdoğan claimed that the women whistled the call for prayer from a mosque. Feminists denied the claim, saying they were protesting the police.
Feminist lawyer Meriç Eyüboğlu said in response to Erdoğan's claims that the women used their constitutional right and making sounds with whistles and musical instruments are a part of the feminist march.
Yet Erdoğan continued his claims in yesterday's (March 14) rally:
"These are the ones who burned our flag. They are the ones who cannot stand our azan.
"The CHP Spokesperson shamelessly says 'They blew whistles against the police.' Whom are you fooling? Do you think this nation is dupe?
"I asked the Governor of İstanbul that whether they get permission or not. I received the answer that the demonstration was unauthorized.
"There was no permission for the gathering. By entering the square (Taksim) and the street (İstiklal) from different routes, they engaged in an occupation movement.
"Didn't they burn our flags in Gezi (2013 Gezi Park protests)? Didn't they attack the shops of craftspeople? Didn't they burn buses, automobiles?"
We spoke with feminist lawyer Meriç Eyüboğlu on Erdoğan's claims regarding the Feminist Night March. Eyüboğlu has been involved in the organization of all of the night marches since 2003.
Eyüboğlu said the following on Erdoğan's statement that there was no permission from the Governorate:
"Just like what we have done for 17 years, we did not make an administrative application as we know that our march is not within the scope of the Law No. 2911 on Gatherings and Demonstration Marches. So we held a meeting with neither the Governorate of İstanbul nor the İstanbul Security Directorate.
"Because we are using our constitutional rights upon the Articles 25 and 26. Besides, the Law no 2911 says that marches that became a tradition are not within the scope of the article.
"So, being organized for the 17th time, the Feminist Night March became a tradition and there is not a need for an application. March 8 has been celebrated for 162 years. An event that has been taking place, a day has been celebrated for 162 years is unarguably traditional.
"Moreover, this is a use of a constitutional right. Everyone can hold a gathering and a demonstration march on the condition of being peaceful. Article 34 of the Constitution says that. Articles 25 and 26 which regulates the freedom of speech also allows this.
On Erdoğan making a connection between the Feminist Night March and the 2013 Gezi Park protests, Eyüboğlu said,
"The Feminist Night March has no connection to the 2013 Gezi protests.
"We see that they are putting everything in the same bag.
"The women's movement is one of the constituents of the social opposition. The women's movement is being treated the same way.
"We did not burn or bring down anything. I take it as abasement to say that this claim does not reflect reality.
For the last part, she answered our question on Erdoğan's claims that the feminists whistled the call for prayer:
"We have a pluralistic structure. Among us, there are non-religious women as there are religious ones. There women who believe in different religions.
"The İstiklal Avenue was closed that night for the Feminist Night March, which we always do.
"There was for sure a reaction against the police barricades. So making sounds with whistles, musical instruments was a part of that. But the format of our demonstrations has been like this for years. Noise and rumble is in the nature of our protests.
"This year, the slogan we put forward was 'feminist revolt' and we were screaming our revolt.
"There was not silence during the demonstration to hear the azan.
"And we didn't have an agenda that contains azan or mosque. A point that never came to our heads, that was not in our agenda is constantly being brought forward against us and I regard this as disrespect to all women who were there or on their ways to come there." (EKN/VK)