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March 11, 2019 3:58 pm

Turkey’s Islamist President Erdogan Attacks Women’s Rights Activists as ‘Enemy of the Nation’

avatar by Ben Cohen

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters during a rally. Photo: Reuters/Umit Bektas

Turkey’s Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday redoubled his attack on the women’s rights activists who last week defied a state ban by marching on International Women’s Day.

Erdogan had previously decried the marchers at Friday’s demonstration for allegedly whistling and booing as the Muslim azan, or call to prayer, was played over public loudspeakers in central Istanbul. Thousands of mainly female protestors who defied the ban on the march were brutally dispersed by police, who fired tear gas while attacking the protestors with batons and guard dogs.

“The batons and tear gas are not enough for them, now they’re setting dogs on women approaching from side streets,” one Twitter user said on Friday.

Erdogan defended the treatment of the protestors in comments at a campaign rally on Monday in the southeastern province of Adana.

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“It’s our honor to be against the enemy of the nation, the enemy of the azan, the enemy of the land, and the enemy of the state,” Erdogan said in remarks quoted by Turkey’s Anadolu news agency.

“They directly attack our independence and our future, disrespecting our flag and our prayer,” the Turkish leader added.

One of the political parties behind Friday’s march denied that the protesters had intended to insult the call to prayer.

Faik Oztrak, spokesman for the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said the noise during the protests was against police intervention, insisting that “no one has any problem” with the call to prayer.

Human rights groups say that state restrictions on freedom of assembly in Turkey have become more stringent in the last year, with many of them citing as an example the 2018 ban on Gay Pride marches on the grounds of “security threats and public order.”

Women’s activists meanwhile accused Erdogan of making political capital out of the march ahead of local elections at the end of this month.

“Police violence against tens of thousands of women trying to take part in the march cannot be covered up with polarizing language, fake news, and hate,” a statement from the “March 8 Feminist Night march” said on Monday.

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