Pic: Andrew Gardner / Twitter
Police have used rubber bullets and pepper spray to disperse defiant members of the LGBTIQ community in Turkey after Istanbul Pride was banned for the fourth year.
The pride was refused a permit because, said the organisers, police claimed they “could not take steps to secure their safety and did not find it appropriate for the pride walk to take place.”
On Sunday, hundreds of people ignored the ban and convened on or around Istiklal Avenue near Taksim Square, where Istanbul Pride has traditionally been held.
Police tried to stop participants from gathering by closing off streets but eventually agreed to allow activists a short time to meet in order to read out a statement. Protesters unfurled a large rainbow flag and danced and sang.
The crowd chanted, “We don’t obey, we don’t shut up, we are not afraid” and “Love! Freedom! No Hatred!” Officers in riot gear tried to disperse the group with rubber bullets, dogs and pepper spray. Reports indicate that between 5 to 11 people were detained.
According to Yuri Guaiana, Senior Campaigner at All Out, “Dozens of people were beaten by police and many have been arrested. One attendee was attacked by 10 police officers and a police dog.”
Istanbul Pride first took place in 2003, with just 30 activists, and grew to about 100,000 participants by 2014. The event was formally banned in 2016 “for the safety of our citizens, first and foremost the participants… and for public order.”
The pride ban has been condemned by human rights groups around the world. “Turkey has an obligation to ensure LGBTI people are able to fully enjoy their rights to peaceful freedom of expression, association and assembly free of discrimination,” said Boris Dittrich from Human Rights Watch. “Law enforcement authorities assigned to uphold public order should remember they are there to protect those participating in the march.”
While homosexuality is not illegal in Turkey, the LGBTIQ community faces increased discrimination, stigma and limitations on its freedoms. Last year, the city of Ankara indefinitely banned all LGBTIQ events, including “cinema, theatre performances, panels, interviews and exhibitions.”