ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Riot police fired pepper spray to disperse protesters who gathered in Istanbul on Thursday to protest violence against women, with some chanting “the resignation of the government”, nearly five months after the Turkey’s withdrawal from a treaty on the issue.

The group of several thousand people, mostly women, marched to downtown Taksim Square, blocked by barriers amid a heavy police presence. Police fired on gas and scuffled with protesters after urging the crowd to disperse.

The protest, organized to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, coincided with other small anti-government protests this week against the sharp drop in the value of the pound.

Protesters chanted and helped banners, demanding urgent action against gender-based violence in Turkey.

“We are not silent, we are not afraid, we do not obey,” chanted the demonstrators, who rushed to the police barriers.

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In early July, Turkey withdrew from an international treaty to combat violence against women, known as the Istanbul Convention and negotiated in Turkey’s largest city in 2011, a decision strongly criticized by Western allies.

Erdogan announced the pullout in March, saying Turkey would use local laws to protect women’s rights.

(Reporting by Yesim Dikmen, Mehmet Emin Caliskan, Huseyin Aldemir, Umit Bektas; written by Daren Butler; edited by Nick Zieminski)

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