International Women’s Day 2020 saw demonstrators coming together around the world on Sunday to celebrate women and demand women’s rights. While most of these demonstrations remained peaceful, some drew violence from groups opposed to the movement. In some other cases, heated encounters even arose between protesters and law enforcement.
International Women’s Day Violence
In Pakistan, Women’s Day demonstrators were met in the streets by counter-protesters from hard-line Islamist groups. Reportedly, hard-liners took particular issue with the protesters chanting, “my body, my choice.”
“We don’t want women to make choices for their bodies. The choice rests with God,” one hardline demonstrator, identifying herself as Rubina, told NPR. She and other members of the Jamiat Hafsa women’s seminary turned up in robes, veils, and headscarves as a counter-demonstration to the Women’s Day event.
Authorities allowed both sides to hold demonstrations on the same main street in Islamabad, with a cloth barrier in the road separating them. According to NPR, towards the end of the demonstrations, hardliners tried crossing the barricade and attacked Women’s Day protesters with rocks and shoes.
Meanwhile, an explosion rocked a demonstration in the Cameroon town of Bamenda. Authorities speculated the blast to be a bomb set by separatist forces. PBS reports that nobody was killed or injured in the incident.
Clashes with Law Enforcement
Some International Women’s Day violence occurred between demonstrators and local law enforcement. For instance, in Kyrgyzstan, men wearing masks accosted protesters in the capital, Bishek. Later, when police arrived on the scene, they detained many organizers involved with the day’s demonstration.
“We were attacked by masked [men], but they’re detaining us, the victims!” one unnamed woman shouted while police forced her onto a bus in a video released by Radio Free Europe. While Bishek police say they detained people from both sides, local news reports stated that most of them were women, according to PBS.
Similarly, in Turkey, police denied demonstrators access to Istanbul’s Taksim Square, closing the roads leading to the area. A statement from the governor said these roads were “not classified as designated areas for assembly and demonstrations according to law,” reports NPR via Reuters.
At the same time, demonstrations in the Azerbaijan capital of Baku saw heated interactions between demonstrators and police. “We faced police brutality,” demonstrator Rabiyya Mammadova told Radio Free Europe. “Some have been detained and taken to [a police station]. One of the detainees was injured. He received a head injury inside a police van.” Police also reportedly forced demonstrators into a subway station at one point.
For some Women’s Day demonstrators, the emphatic resistance is an indication of how important the movement’s goals are. “This proves our point, and this movement is growing. And now we will have more people,” Pakistani organizer Anam Rathor told NPR. “The reason why they are throwing stones is because they are afraid of us and that makes us happy.”