“I wouldn’t do that. Too high risk.” This from a woman who films in war zones, at the Thessaloniki documentary film festival when I said I was joining the women’s march in Istanbul for International Women’s Day on March 8. A Google search showed riot police firing tear gas and making arrests at a head start women’s rally in Turkey’s capital, Ankara, the previous day.

While still in Camden, I had posted on the march’s Facebook page, seeking to join other women in Istanbul on the day of the march in making a sign to carry. How stupidly reckless of me, I thought now.

There were other things to do in Istanbul for sure: Eat lamb kebobs and Turkish delight, and, excited about decorating my new house on Sea Street, peruse ceramic tiles, carpets, and velvet fabrics in the Grand Bazaar. I could give up marching in the rally, and I could give up photographing the rally. But would I have to give up even watching it?

Hours after flying into Istanbul (my seat mate, a 60-year-old Greek woman making a connection to Tampa, leaning in and whispering, “Muslim men are hungry for sex. Be careful!”) I was in a mezze restaurant with a Turkish filmmaker, sharing the sizzling minced lamb platter of my dreams. I told her about my Google search. “That’s because there were signs about the Syrian war,” she said, insisting the 2018 women’s march in Istanbul was legal. But she conceded that to gather in protest in President Erdogan’s Turkey “you need courage.”

March 8 dawned to rain. Ahead of me at the hotel breakfast buffet was a Swedish member of the writers’ group PEN, in town to attend the trial of 26 opposition journalists. (Twenty-four received prison sentences of up to seven years. Turkey leads the world in jailing journalists.)

“Violence top problem for women in Turkey,” blared the Daily News’ front page headline, citing 339 women killed by domestic abusers last year, 47 in February.

The hotel owner, Lela, who runs a charity helping Turkish women victims of violence, confirmed that marchers would gather at Taksim Square at 7:30 p.m., then proceed along Istiklal, the city’s main shopping street. Just as I entered Istiklal at around 4 p.m., as in a movie, white vans pulled up everywhere, disgorging police — women as well as men — brandishing snub-nosed machine guns, who then fanned out to cluster at every corner. I approached a number of the police groups to ask if it was OK to take photos of the march. Young people in Istanbul usually speak English and the police were all fairly young. “English?” I asked, and with stony faces they all shook their heads no.

Metal barricades. Police tape. More vans.

No one except me seemed to notice.

I strolled the side streets packed with hookah cafes, fish markets, waiters in doorways waving menus and exhorting me to enter, and fresh orange and pomegranate juice kiosks.

Inside a bakery, I passed pyramids of baklava and Turkish delight enrobed in coconut, rose petals and pistachios on my way to an upstairs table overlooking Istiklal and dug into a caramel milk cake with mastic gum, my fork stretching it out like taffy. I approached a large table of sharply dressed middle-aged women. “Are you planning to march?” Their smiles dropped as they answered, “No.”

Midway along the length of Istiklal at 7:30 p.m. still only shopping bags, not one protest sign, in the hands of passersby.

An hour later I approached a man talking amiably with a group of police.

“Where march?”

“Here. Now.”

Then suddenly, a roar, and an advancing tidal wave filled the wide street and snaked back as far as my eye could see, lighting up the night with flares, purple balloons, colorful umbrellas, and a sea of at least 100,000 dark-haired people, the vast majority college age, maybe three-quarters women, waving purple flags and signs (purple being the color in Turkey for women, one told me), blowing whistles and shaking tamborines, dancing in circles, singing and chanting and hugging.

“I want to cry because tonight I can speak loud,” one told me. “This is the only night I can do this. Tomorrow I could get into trouble, and the day after that, but not tonight—too many people watching.”

A 19-year-old, with the women’s gender symbol painted on her cheek, said she was marching because, “I am a little mad, no I am a lot mad, because men are killing their wives, their girlfriends.” She said coming out tonight “is a risk, but we need to do it. I do this year after year after year and we will gather strength.”

One girl said, “We can study, but we can’t go far”; another waving a rainbow-colored streamer said that this was the only night she could hold the hand of her girlfriend and not be harassed by police.

“Pull up your hair, Rapunzel. He can take the stairs,” was the translation for one sign. “Somebody not some body” was in English because, said Miray, 19, “It’s beautiful and does not say the same thing in Turkish.”

Ekim, a 24-year-old college student whose name means October, translated her sign as, “Together, women are strong.” She asked me where I was from, and then why I came so far. I pointed to her sign and said that since my husband’s arrest for physical abuse summoned in me the courage to leave him, I have realized how important it is for women to stick together.

“Do you want to carry my sign?” she asked. I marched with it, tears streaming, and when I handed it back to her we hugged. “Have a good life,” she said with the kindest smile, and I said, “You too.”