Women performing the piece choreographed by Chilean feminist organization Las Tesis with Turkish lyrics to its song in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir and Antalya, protesting against sexual violence directed at women, were prevented, detained and prosecuted. Rights defenders and members of We Will Stop Femicide Platform (KCDP) Fidan Ataselim, Sevda Yeniköylü and Ayşen Ece Kavas were among the detained. While the lawsuit was filed against women performing the performance in İzmir, the KYK scholarship of the students participating in the demonstration at the Ankara Cebeci Campus was revoked.
Feminist organization Las Tesis organized a dance protest in front of the Chilean Ministry of Women’s Rights and Gender Equality on November 25, 2019. The song used at this protest quickly spread around the world with its original lyrics.
The first Las Tesis protest in Turkey took place on November 30, 2019 in front of Kadıköy Süreyya Opera, upon a call issued by the Socialist Women’s Assembly (SKM- Sosyalist Kadınlar Meclisi). The police did not intervene the women’s protest.
On December 8, 2019, there were Las Tesis Protests in Kuğulu Park, Ankara and Kadıköy Pier Square in Istanbul. Same lyrics were used in both performances but only the protest in Istanbul was subjected to police intervention.
As the hundreds of women were about the finish their performance in Kadıköy, which took place upon the call of the Women’s Assemblies (Kadın Meclisleri), the police confiscated the sound system of the protesters. As the protesters were disbanding while still shouting the slogans “We will stop femicide” and “You will never walk alone”, the police arrested six women, and rear-handcuffed them, under the pretense of their actions going against the law, namely strong suspicion of illegally meeting and demonstrating without arms, committing the crime of not dispersing despite the warnings by the authorities, disrupting the public order, creating probable dangerous situations and risks for individuals and their wellbeing. Among those arrested were We Will Stop Femicide Platform General Secretary Fidan Ataselim, Platform Representative Ayşen Ece Kavas and platform member Sevda Yeniköylü. Ataselim, who was emceeing the performance, was insulted, whereas Ayşen Ece Kavas was battered under arrest.
Tuba Torun, one of the lawyers of the women’s rights defenders, made the following statement: “The police intervention took place against the procedure to disperse the crowd spelled out in the laws, that is they did not warn the crowd three times or waited for 15 minutes between each warning. They pushed the crowd towards the road and encircled them between two roads. When the women demanded a corridor to be opened so that the crowd would disperse, the street they were marching towards was blocked from both sides, kettling the women and started to arrest them.”
Those arrested were accused of “acting against the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations, degrading the president of the republic and the judiciary organs of the state”, since the police considered the lyrics of the song performed as slogans.
The governor of Istanbul issued a statement that read the translation of the following part of the lyrics is considered a crime: “The rapist is you; the killer is you. It’s the police, the judges, the state, the president.”
After 24 hours of detention, the women arrested were transferred to 4th Anadolu Criminal Court of First Instance, from where they were released conditionally with judiciary control for the duration of their investigation, according to Code of Criminal Procedure (CMK) Art. 109. Following the objection of their lawyer, the judiciary control condition was removed. They are pending investigation.
On December 12, 2019, another Las Tesis protest took place in Ankara Güvenpark. Hundreds of women gathered upon the call of the Ankara Women’s Platform. The police did not allow the women gathered to perform the song in Güvenpark and forced them outside of the park using their shields. These women, later, gathered in front of Kızılay Mall, and performed the dance protest, which was also met with police intervention. 10 women were arrested after being dragged on the ground.
Since the protests of December 8 and 12 were subjected to police intervention, two protests took place in Izmir and Istanbul on December 15. The protest at Beşiktaş Barbaros Hayrettin Paşa Square was the same as the previous week’s but the police did not intervene in this one although they had high security measures in place. After the performance was over, women continued to sing and dance. The protest ended with shouting of the slogan “Not one [woman] less”.
In Izmir, hundreds of women met in Alsancak, and danced to Las Tesis song in Spanish and Turkish. They shouted the slogans “You will never walk alone” and “Let the father, let the husband, let the baton come our way! We will rebel and be free!’ (Gelsin baba, gelsin koca, gelsin cop. İnadına isyan, inadına özgürlük). The police did not intervene in the protest but as it ended, they issued an order for 25 women to give statements at the police station. These women were later accused of acting against TCK 301 (publicly degrading Turkish Nation, State of the Turkish Republic, Turkish Grand National Assembly, the Government of the Republic of Turkey and the judicial bodies of the State) and TCK 2911 (The Law on Meetings and Demonstrations). The women were released after giving their statement. In February 2020, an indictment was issued against 24 women and a lawsuit was filed.
The very same day with Izmir protest, women MPs of Republican People’s Party (CHP) protested the police intervention in Las Tesis protests at the parliament. CHP Istanbul MP Sera Kadıgil took the floor during budgetary discussions of the Ministry of the Interior and stated: “Thanks to you, the only country where you need parliamentary immunity is Turkey. Now, on behalf of all the women experiencing violence or killed, we, as the women MPs, have something to say!”
The MPs, then sang the song in Turkish. HDP MPs supported CHP’s protest. After the performance is over, the Minister of the Interior Süleyman Soylu made the following statement: “There is no reason why anyone should call the police, the judges, the president or the state a “rapist” or “murderer”. If there needs to be a dance, let us all dance. We all know that they dance a lot in Latin America, and we all know the situation over there. If the problem at hand will be solved through calling them these names, the parliament should also hear this. If this parliament is going to let them sing, then I, as the Minister of the Interior, will use my entitlements despite the constitution, despite the laws.”
On December 25, 2019 women gathered at Cebeci Campus of Ankara University, although they were pointed as a target by the Youth Union of Turkey (TGB). TGB announced that they “will not let the enemies of state stage a protest under the guise of a dance”. Police intervened in the protest, and arrested 8 students, 5 women and 3 men. The students were released later. The KYK (Kredi ve Yurtlar Kurumu) scholarship of the students participating in the demonstration at the Ankara Cebeci Campus was revoked.
Around hundred members of Antalya Women’s Platform gathered in front of the Attalos statue on Kazım Özalp Avenue on December 29, 2019. The women opened a sign that read “We want to live” and had the intention to dance but the police did not allow them to perform, pointing at the lyrics of the song. After the ban on their performance, the women held a moment of silence for the women who lost their lives, followed by a press statement.
The first hearing of the trial in which KDCP’s Ayşen Kavas, Fidan Ataselim and Nisa Kör, Seda Elhan Barbaros, Sevda Yeniköylü and Yaprak Okatalı were taken into custody during the Las Tesis protest on December 8, 2019 in Kadıköy, Istanbul, was held on November 2, 2020. Women are being prosecuted for the crime of “participating in illegal meetings and marches without arms and not dispersing spontaneously despite a warning”. The hearing at the 29th Criminal Court of First Instance of the Anatolian Courthouse was postponed to 23 February 2021 with the decision to send the video footage taken on the day of the incident to an expert .
The first hearing of 24 women against whom a lawsuit was filed for Las Tesis’s performance, which was held on December 15, 2019 in Izmir Alsancak, was to be held on November 10, 2020 at the Izmir 7th Criminal Court of First Instance. But it was postponed to 21 January 2021 due to the damage to the courthouse in the 6.9-magnitude earthquake that took place in Izmir on October 30.