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Turkish women arrested over viral Las Tesis chant condemning violence against women

Seven protesters were detained over the demonstration [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 December, 2019

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Protesters in Istanbul chanted: 'You are the rapist.'
Turkish police on Sunday fired tear gas to disperse a protest against violence against women.

Hundreds of women had gathered in Istanbul's central Kadikoy district to perform "A rapist in your path", created by Chilean group Las Tesis. Seven protesters were detained over the lyrics of the song.

The coordinated dance and song went viral after being performed by a large crowd during protests in Santiago, Chile.

The song condemns the state for failing to protect women from violence.

In one section of the feminist chant, women chant "the rapist is you", to reject the idea that victims bear any responsibility when they are raped.

Since going viral, women in Beirut, New York, Paris, Madrid, Bogota, Delhi and Mexico City have all performed it during demonstrations.

Around 300 women gathered in Istanbul's Kadikoy district on Sunday to perform the song and dance, Hurriyet Daily News reported.

They first performed the song with lyrics translated into Turkish, but demonstrators were countered by riot police when they attempted to perform the song with the original Spanish lyrics. 

Police confiscated the megaphones used by organisers and told protesters the demonstration was illegal.

They then dispersed the protests using tear gas. Seven protesters were detained.

"We came to scream against patriarchal violence and they have attacked us," one protested told EFE news agency.

The Istanbul Governorate said in a statement on Sunday that the Las Tesis chants sang by protesters constituted a "crime". 

One lyric in particular drew the attention of authorities.

"You are the rapist. You are the killer. It's the cops, the judges, the state and the president," demonstrators chanted.

It is a crime in Turkey to "insult" the president or Turkish governemnt institutions.

Seven demonstrators were detained for allegedly provoking and resisting law enforcement, the governorate said.

Those arrested were charged with "opposition to meeting and march laws", "insulting the president" and "insulting state institutions".

While "insulting the president" has been a criminal offence in Turkey since its foundation, the charge has become increasingly common since Recep Tayyip Erdogan was elected president five years ago.

Human Rights Watch last year condemned the rising use of the charge, noting that its use has dramatically risen since 2014, when only 40 people were convicted for "insulting the president". In 2017, more than 2,000 people were found guilty of the charge.
Turkish women call for state protection from violence [Getty]

Violence against women on the rise

Sunday's protest mirrored events on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women late last month, when police fired tear gas to disperse around 2,000 demonstrators gathered to demand an end to "impunity" for abusers and killers of women.

Similar events occurred during the 2018 march.

Several horrific murders of women by their current or former spouses have put the spotlight on domestic violence in Turkey this year.

According to women's rights group We Will Stop Femicide, 391 women have been killed by men this year so far.

In 2011, 121 women were killed. By 2017, that figure was 409, while 440 were killed in 2018.

The killing of 38-year-old Emine Bulut in August sparked outrage across the country.

Bulut, who had divorced her husband four years earlier, was stabbed in a cafe in front of her 10-year-old daughter in the central Anatolian city of Kirikkale. She later died in hospital.

A video of the aftermath of the attack was posted online showing Bulut in the cafe, covered in blood, screaming to her daughter: "I don't want to die."

The tearful girl says: "Mum, please don't die."

Turkish women participated in protests to call for protection against such incidents after Bulut's death, but several more women have been killed in the months since, provoking further outrage and call for legal reform.

Just last week, Ceren Ozdemir, a 20-year-old student and ballerina, was stabbed to death.

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