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Turkish police detain women's rights protesters

* | 07.03.2005 07:38 | Gender | Repression

Turkish police have detained dozens of protesters after using pepper spray, batons and boots to break up a demonstration by women's rights supporters.

A group of around 150 people gathered in Istanbul on Sunday ahead of International Women's Day on March 8. Police intervened after protesters refused to disperse and detained 59 people, including 29 women.

Television pictures showed riot police charging protesters, beating them with batons and kicking them on the ground. One policeman beat a woman to the ground with his baton, then another ran up and kicked her in the face.

A police vehicle was damaged by stone-hurling protesters, and some demonstrators were injured in the melee.

Muslim Turkey has promised to do more to improve the plight of women as it legislates reforms required by the European Union before the government begins membership talks in October.

The European commissioner for enlargement Ollie Rehn said on Sunday Turkey must do more to improve women's right after talks with Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul in the capital Ankara.

Turkish women do enjoy greater freedoms than those in many other Muslim nations. For decades they have had the right to vote, access to education and the right to divorce.

But gender equality is not enshrined in the constitution, and religious tradition often prevents equal treatment.

Up to half of women face domestic abuse in a "culture of violence," Amnesty International has said. Dozens of women are murdered by family members each year in so-called honour killings.