By Ali Kucukgocmen and Bulent Usta
ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Around 1,000 women gathered near Istanbul's main Taksim Square on Monday, protesting what they see as a lack of action by authorities to prevent and punish violence against women, in a country where femicide rates have surged in recent years.
The protesters, mostly women carrying purple flags with women and LGBTI+ signs and wearing purple masks reading "We will win our freedom," gathered on a main street after police closed off the entrances to Taksim Square on International Women's Day.
Women police stood with their arms linked at the end of the street, blocking entry to the square while behind them stood fences, police in riot gear and water cannon trucks.
"Women are very strong and they are afraid of this. They should block murderers, not us," said Ipek Deniz, a 36-year-old nurse participating in the protests.
The femicide rate roughly doubled between 2011 and 2019, according to a group that monitors murders of women, which also said that so far in 2021, 51 women have been murdered and another 26 have died under suspicious circumstances.
Turkey does not keep official statistics on femicide.
At the weekend, a video showing a woman being punched and kicked in the head by her ex-husband on the street in northern Turkey sparked outrage on social media. The suspect was then detained, media reports said, while the woman was admitted to hospital.
Speaking at a congress of his AK Party's women's wing, President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would establish a commission in parliament to address issues regarding violence against women.
"We hear that there are those who call on girls to leave their father's homes as soon as possible. Turkey will somehow solve the problem of violence against women, the real threat is this mentality taking root," he said.
The protester around Taksim chanted "Femicide is political" and "The life is ours, the choice is ours, the streets are ours, you can keep your family."
"We are oppressed under the male power every day. Women's murderers are rewarded by not being punished," said Sumeyye Kose, a 21-year-old student.
"We are here against increasing violence, against systematic LGBTI-phobia, against femicide. We will win," she said.
(Writing by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)