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International Women's Day Rallies See Some Violence


Women across the world marched for International Women's Day over the weekend.


UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: You work for us. You work for us.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: What do we want?


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: When do we want it?


UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting in Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Speaking Urdu).

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting in Urdu).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Speaking Urdu).

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting in Urdu).

KING: Those were women in the streets of Washington, D.C., New York, Mexico City and Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. In Spanish, they were chanting, "men, women, there is no difference. They kill women in front of our faces." And in Urdu, they were chanting, "my body, my choice."

Two of NPR's international correspondents are covering this story. Diaa Hadid is in Islamabad, and Carrie Kahn is in Mexico City. Good morning to you both.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Good morning.


KING: Diaa, I want to start with you because the rally in Islamabad was attacked. What happened?

HADID: Right. So there were two rival gatherings. There was the Women's Day rally. And across the road, there was another one held by ultraconservative Muslim groups. And they were protesting what they said was the vulgarity of the Women's Day rally. So police had set up barricades to keep the two apart. And for a few hours, everything went on well. And there was men, women, nonbinary trans people, secular and religious all at the rally and chanting and waving flags.

And then they began chanting this particular slogan that triggers conservatives. They started saying, "my body, my choice." And soon after that, dozens of men from the rival rally began hurling rocks, shoes and mud.

KING: And you were in the middle of this?

HADID: Yeah. I was interviewing a woman when it happened.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: I think there's something happening there. They started throwing stones from there, I think - other side.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: (Non-English language spoken).


HADID: So I went to take a closer look, and I was actually pinned down behind a concrete barricade because the rocks were flying over. But police, within minutes, pushed them back. And no one was seriously injured, thank God. But demonstrators had feared something like this would happen.

KING: Why? Why did they fear this would happen? Were there, like, concrete threats against the march before it started?

HADID: Yeah. Yeah, there was. You see, over the past three years, Women's Day marches have really swelled in size in Pakistan. And as they've grown, conservatives have protested, arguing them and being rude and not showing deference. Like last year, they held up a slogan saying heat up your own dinner. So in the lead-up to this march, yeah, lawyers tried to make the courts ban the rallies, and the leader of a religious group said his followers would attack the protesters.

And it wasn't just the men. There were women in a hard-line seminary who announced a countermarch. And I spoke to one of their senior teachers a few days ago.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: This is a march to stop that march. We are not going to let those women march the streets of our country, march the streets of our neighborhood with those vulgar chants.

HADID: So on Sunday, those conservatives did turn up at the counter rally. And the women in particular, they turned up wearing black robes, black headscarves, black face veils. And they lined up in a military-style formation, like the intention was to appear menacing. And then hours later, the Women's Day March was attacked.

KING: I want to bring in Carrie Kahn in Mexico City because, Carrie, you were also at a rally yesterday. How did that one go?

KAHN: There were rallies all over the country, from Tijuana and Tampico in the north to a huge rally in Guadalajara. And the largest, of course, was in Mexico City. And just a - women streamed into the streets, filling blocks after blocks of the capital's main boulevards all the way to the historic center.

And they were holding handmade signs, some saying I'm here marching for those who can't, those who have been lost to the violence, not one more victim. Many held photos of women relatives - daughters, sisters - who've been killed or went missing. And they're just outraged about how hard it is to be a woman in Mexican society, dominated by machismo here. One young woman I met held this really simple sign that just read, my skirt is not too small; your mind is.

KING: So I know you were out there talking to women about what had brought them into the streets. What were some of the things you heard?

KAHN: Well, one statistic that many keep citing is that in the last four years, the number of women and girls killed annually has quadrupled to where 10 women are murdered in Mexico a day. And I was actually in the northern industrial city of Monterrey, which is a little more prosperous, and I talked of a lot of professional women - engineers, a physicist, a lawyer. They just told me that they just feel so much discrimination in their - these nontraditional roles in Mexican society. And this is 25-year-old Daniela Diaz (ph). And she's an engineer, and she was there with her mom and her 15-year-old sister.

DANIELA DIAZ: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: She says she came to fight for her rights, to demand respect, to show other women that they have to take to the streets and not be afraid. She says women are just fed up. And I talked to a lot of mothers that were there with daughters, chanting and crying together. And one mother I interviewed, she just had tears running down her cheeks, and she was just saying she wished she had come out earlier - when she was younger and protested earlier so maybe her daughters could have lived in a better Mexico.

KING: You've been reporting that activists are calling on women to continue to mark International Women's Day today - so bringing it into the week. What's their plan? Are they going out into the streets again?

KAHN: No, no. They're calling for a national strike, and they're calling it a Day Without Women and are urging women and girls not to go to work, school, shops, not to leave the house. They just really want to draw attention to this violence against women and the role women play in Mexican society. And it's amazing that large industries, banks, corporations, from Walmart to L'Oreal, have told their women workforce that they don't need to show up to work today and they won't be docked pay if they decided not to come.

But I just wanted to say that yesterday's marches and today's strike, Noel, is really just this widespread participation that's unprecedented in Mexico. It just feels like a watershed moment in the country. And I'll just leave you with one more sign I saw. It read, we are not hysterical; we are historic.

KING: Wow. NPR's Carrie Kahn in Mexico City. We also had NPR's Diaa Hadid in Islamabad. Thank you both so much for this reporting.

KAHN: You're welcome.

HADID: Thank you, Noel.


VIVIR QUINTANA: (Singing in Spanish). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Diaa Hadid chiefly covers Pakistan and Afghanistan for NPR News. She is based in NPR's bureau in Islamabad. There, Hadid and her team were awarded a Murrow in 2019 for hard news for their story on why abortion rates in Pakistan are among the highest in the world.
Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.