Turkey’s Police Foil Gay Pride March in Istanbul with Dozens of Arrests

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  • An attempt to hold the annual gay pride march in Turkey’s Istanbul has been broken up by police.
  • Istanbul gay pride march had been banned for a third year in a row.
  • Its organizers had planned to rally regardless of the ban.
  • March has been threatened by ultranationalists.
  • Its last unhindered edition, in 2014, attracted tens of thousands of people.

Turkey’s police have broken up a LGBT Pride March in Istanbul’s Taksim Square in which activists have rallied even though the event had been banned by the Istanbul Governor.

2017 marked the third consecutive year when the gay pride march in Istanbul was banned.

Before that the LGBT demonstration had taken place in Istanbul unproblematically for 13 years.

On one of the biggest LGBT events in Turkey’s mostly Muslim region, the 2014 Pride parade had drawn tens of thousands of people in Istanbul.

However, in June 2015, Turkish riot police broke up the march using tear gas and rubber bullets.

In 2016, the march was banned by the Governor’s Office as Turkey saw attacks claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The Istanbul Governor’s Office had announced on June 24, 2017, that it would not permit this year’s Pride March, citing security concerns and public order.

The gay pride march has been threatened by Turkish ultranationalist groups.

The Alperen Hearths, a right-wing youth organization linked to the religious nationalist Great Union Party (BBP), had vowed to forcibly prevent the march from taking place even if authorities allowed it.

In recent years, under the rule of Recep Erdogan, first as Prime Minister and now as President, and his moderately Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) Turkey has taken a turn towards rolling back secularism, and has gradually increased the role of Islam in public life – in spite of fierce opposition by urban secular-minded sections of the population.

Last week, it was announced that Turkish high schools will no longer teach the theory of evolution, and will scale down the teaching of secularism and the legacy of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of today’s Turkish republic.

A participant is arrested by Turkish police during the Istanbul LGTB Pride Parade which was canceled due to security concerns by the governor of Istanbul, in Istanbul, Turkey, 25 June 2017. Photo: Erdem Sahin/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

‘Asking Us to Hide’

Turkey’s police detained some 44 people at an LGBT Pride march in Istanbul’s Taksim Square on Sunday, Hurriyet Daily News reported.

Around 2,000 riot police in full gear blocked the entrance of the square and Istiklal Avenue from the side streets, checking the IDs of passers-by.

Police initially warned a small group of activists who began to gather around the square waving rainbow flags and carrying LGBT symbols, reminding that the march had been unauthorized.

They broke up the rally when the activists refused to disperse. The police firing teargas, rubber bullets and even police dogs to scare off the activists.

Meanwhile, some 20 people who attempted to prevent the march from taking place were detained.

Police later intervened to stop a group of activists who gathered on side streets around the Cihangir neighborhood with water cannon vehicles, detaining another 24 people. Among the detainees was Bram Janssen, a photo journalist for the Associated Press.

The detained were later taken to a security directorate in the Gayrettepe neighborhood, and the remaining group of activists subsequently dispersed.

Even as the event was forbidden, the Pride Committee had defied the ban stating that they would stage the march anyway this year.

“The true reason for the reactions toward a march that took place in peace for 12 years is hate,” the organizers said.

“Our security cannot be provided by imprisoning us behind walls, asking us to hide,” they added.

“Our security will be provided by recognizing us in the constitution, by securing justice, by equality and freedom,” they stated.



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