Outrage as Turkey’s capital bans all LGBTI events

Ankara Pride 2012

Activists and human rights groups have condemned a decision to indefinitely ban all LGBTI events in Turkey’s first city.

The ban was announced on Sunday by the Ankara Governor’s Office, which claimed that the restriction is necessary to protect the public.

“Starting from Nov. 18, 2017, considering public sensitivities, any events such as LGBT … cinema, theatre performances, panels, interviews and exhibitions are banned until further notice in our province, in order to provide peace and security,” it said in a statement.

The governor explained that these events could cause “reactions and provocations against the groups and individuals taking part in their organisation due to certain social sensibilities”.

The blanket ban follows the prohibition last week of an LGBTI film festival co-organised by the German Embassy, the day before it was set to start in Ankara.

Turkish LGBTI associations Pembe Hayat and Kaos GL responded by announcing that they would take legal action against what they described as a “discriminatory and arbitrary” decision.

The groups said that, “there can be no legitimate and legal reason for the prohibition,” which they believe is overly broad in scope, “open to a wide range of interpretations,” and unconstitutional.

They added: “Suggesting that these screenings could be provocative or targeted by terror groups only serves to legitimise those people and institutions… It only goes to deprive us of our constitutional rights under the name of ‘protection.'”

ILGA Europe said it was alarmed at the news, especially considering that no time limit has been given for the restrictions. It called on the authorities in Ankara “to rescind this disgraceful ban, and instead devote their energy to protecting the right to freedom of assembly and association of civil society groups”.

The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks, also spoke out against the governor’s suppression. “Ankara’s blanket ban on events organised by LGBTI NGOs is a blatant human rights violation and must be reversed immediately,” he said.

While homosexuality is not illegal in Turkey, the LGBTI community continues to face discrimination, stigma and limitations on its freedoms. Istanbul Pride parades have been banned by that city’s authorities for the last three years, with officials also claiming to fear for public safety.

Muiznieks said that the latest prohibition reflects a “backsliding in the field of human rights protection in Turkey and of growing intolerance towards LGBTI persons by the Turkish authorities”.

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