‘The police are afraid, not the people’: LGBT groups defy Istanbul pride ban – and face violence from authorities

Police fired on people with rubber bullets if they attempted to join the group protesting against the cancellation of the parade

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 July, 2018, 4:49am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 July, 2018, 4:50am

Gay rights groups and activists pressed ahead with the Istanbul Pride parade on Sunday despite Turkish authorities banning the event for a fourth year in a row, resulting in a sometimes violent response from police.

Around 1,000 people gathered near the city’s famous Istiklal Avenue and Taksim Square where organisers had wanted to originally hold the parade, while activists unfolded a rainbow flag and read out a statement amid heavy security.

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But police then warned activists to disperse and used rubber bullets against some who tried to access Istiklal Avenue.

“People are not afraid, shopkeepers are not afraid. However, the governorship is afraid, the police are afraid,” one activist at the march said.

“They think that they can restrain freedom with the barricades they set up and the tear gas.”

Amnesty International in Turkey later said on Twitter that 11 people had been detained as it called on police to “immediately” release them. The human rights group also said tear gas had been used against some activists.

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The Istanbul governorate told the organisers that officials “could not take steps to secure their safety and did not find it appropriate for the Pride Walk to take place”, according to a statement from Istanbul LGBT+ Pride Week on Facebook late Friday.

The Istanbul governor’s office issued no public statement about the event.

“The governor cited the excuse of security in its decision to ban the march and in one word, this is comical. Our marches went on peacefully without being banned for 13 years,” the organisers said in a press statement on Facebook hours before the march.

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“We LGBTI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex) are here with our pride despite all vain attempts to prevent us and we do not recognise this ban,” they added.

The annual rally is the most important LGBT event in a Muslim country in the region.

The Ankara governorate on Thursday banned a screening of the 2014 film Pride – about campaigners for same-sex rights in Britain – organised by the Communist LGBT group, saying such events could “incite hatred and enmity”.

The governor’s office added that there could be “danger to public safety”.

The capital’s governorate in November issued a ban on LGBT events but gay rights groups said they would take legal action against the order.