“We stay on the street, with our purple needle!” On first encounter, it’s a somewhat weird slogan that is resounding through Istanbul’s biggest shopping street, Istiklal Caddesi, every Friday night. The purple needle (‘mor iğne’ in Turkish), explains Tuğba Tekerek of the action group Mor Iğne, has for years been a symbol used by the Turkish women’s movement against sexual harassment in the streets. The symbol was revived after a woman was harassed by a group of young men on Istiklal Caddesi last new year’s eve. Television cameras recorded the incident, and the fear in the eyes of the woman was seen in many Turkish homes, but the perpetrators didn’t even seem to be ashamed of what they were doing. And the police gave them only a 57 lira fine, which is about 30 euros.
For 10 kuruş (5 cents) per piece, you can buy a ‘purple needle’ from the action group, a 7 centimetre long needle with a purple ribbon on it. ‘Nice as an accessory’, says one of the women with a wink, ‘and of course you can prick men away with it.’ They sell about a thousand needles in two hours, only to women. Men read the protest signs and listen to the biting speeches of the women as well, even though of course some of them get so nervous about this confrontation with men’s behaviour that they can only stupidly laugh about it – at least, that’s my interpretation.