Marchers hold up a giant rainbow flag
Nearly 1,000 people joined in the Istanbul Pride march yesterday despite Turkish authorities banning the event for the fourth year in a row.
The marchers gathered in the city’s Istiklal Avenue and Taksim Square, where they unfolded giant rainbow flags and read out a press statement as police in riot gear patrolled the area.
The annual Istanbul rally is “the most important LGBT event in a Muslim country in the region”, says The Daily Telegraph.
However, violence erupted when police ordered activists to disperse and then fired rubber bullets against some who tried to access Istiklal Avenue.
Amnesty International tweeted that 11 people had been detained, and called for them to be released “immediately”. Tear gas was also used against some activists, the human rights group added.
“Peacefully gathering and marching are rights under domestic and international laws that the governor of Istanbul must uphold,” Amnesty International said.
The Istanbul governor told officials that they “did not find it appropriate for the Pride Walk to take place”, according to a statement from Istanbul LGBT+ Pride Week on Facebook late on Friday.
Istanbul Pride was banned in 2014, after having taken place without issue for more than a decade. The city’s governor has cited concerns about the “security of citizens and tourists” and “public order”.
This year, the organisers released a press statement on Facebook hours before the march, saying: “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.”
Meanwhile, one activist told reporters: “People are not afraid, shopkeepers are not afraid. However, the governorship is afraid, the police are afraid.”
Although homosexuality is legal in Turkey, LGBT individuals frequently cite abuse and harassment. Critics accuse President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Islam-oriented Justice and Development Party (AKP) of showing no interest in expanding minority rights and of being intolerant of dissent.