Istanbul Pride: Eleven arrested as march goes ahead despite official ban

Around 1,000 people meeting for Muslim world’s most high profile Pride event met with heavy police protest including water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets

Bethan McKernan
Monday 02 July 2018 12:14
Instanbul LGBT Pride week

Members of Istanbul’s gay community have defied tear gas and rubber bullets to hold the city’s fourth annual Pride march, despite an official ban from the Turkish authorities.

Approximately 1,000 people gathered around Taksim Square in the heart of the city on Sunday evening, dancing and unfurling rainbow flags as part of a week-long celebration of gay rights.

The planned Pride walk through the city, however, had once again been denied permission from the Istanbul governorate. As marchers tried to access nearby Istiklal Avenue, they were met by a large police presence.

Eleven people were arrested in the ensuing stand off.

A statement on the organisers’ Facebook page on Sunday night said the group’s lawyers were in touch with at least five of those arrested, and that they are expected to be released on Monday.

Sunday’s crackdown marks the fourth year in a row that the liberal city’s Pride parade has been cancelled by authorities citing concerns over an inability to guarantee the event’s safety.

This year, the Istanbul governorate also said the Pride march was “inappropriate”, organisers claimed. The governor’s office has not issued a public statement on the matter.

Istanbul’s Pride celebrations – held since 2003 – are the most high profile in any Muslim-majority country.

Although homosexuality is legal in Turkey, LGBT+ individuals report frequent abuse and harassment.

In the capital Ankara, a showing of the 2014 film Pride scheduled for last week was also cancelled by city officials on public safety grounds.

Gay rights campaigners are currently fighting a ban in Ankara on LGBT+ events which came into effect last year.

CCTV footage shows man attacking woman on bus in Turkey for wearing shorts

Civil liberties are widely viewed as being under threat in Turkey since a failed military coup in 2016 and the resulting state of emergency.

According to the UN, more than 160,000 people have since been arrested and 50,000 remain in jail awaiting trial.

Following his re-election in June, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Turkish president, and his government alliance partner have agreed not to extend emergency rule when the current three-month period expires this month.

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