Sunday, June 25, 2017

Turkish police stifle Istanbul LGBT Pride rally

ISTANBUL -- Turkish police stopped activists for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex rights from gathering in large numbers for LGBT pride in Istanbul on Sunday, but smaller groups made impromptu press statements defying a ban imposed by the governor. The Latest on the banned LGBT march in Istanbul (all times local): 6:45 p.m.


Turkish police have prevented people from gathering in large numbers for LGBT pride in Istanbul as small groups continue to make ad hoc demonstrations despite a ban issued by the governor.

Organizers of the 2017 Istanbul LGBTI Pride called for the march in central Taksim Square, using a Turkish hashtag for "we march." The Istanbul governor's office on Saturday banned the event — for the third year in a row — citing reasons of safety and public order.

Police established checkpoints in the area on Sunday, preventing groups from entering Istiklal Avenue and turning back people who they deemed were associated with the march.

At least a hundred protesters gathered in a nearby neighborhood, beating drums and chanting slogans such as, "Don't be quiet, shout out, gays exist!" and "Love, love, freedom, State, stay away!" They carried a banner that read, "Get used to, we are here."

Police used tear gas to disperse the crowds and activists said plastic bullets were also used. Riot-control vehicles and buses were dispatched to the area. Turkey's official Anadolu news agency said "an estimated 20 people" were detained after protesters did not heed warnings to disperse because the march did not have a permit.

Police barricades, riot-control vehicles and buses were dispatched to the area where activists for lesbian, gay, bisexual people, trans and intersex rights say they plan to launch a pride march that the governor banned.



The governor's ban cited safety concerns and "serious reactions by different segments of society" as several nationalist and religious groups called for the march's cancellation.

But Pride organizers said in a statement Sunday that the threats themselves should be dealt with rather than limiting demonstrations.

The statement said: "Our security will be provided by recognizing us in the constitution, by securing justice, by equality and freedom."

LGBT activists have long lobbied unsuccessfully to have sexual orientation and gender identity covered by Turkish laws protecting civil rights and prohibiting hate speech.

Homosexuality has been legal in Turkey since the republic's founding more than nine decades ago.

The Turkish government says there is no discrimination against LGBT individuals and that current laws already protect each citizen. It also insists that perpetrators of hate crimes are prosecuted.

Turkish authorities allowed pride marches to take place for more than a decade since the first one was held in 2003. Up to 100,000 people attended Istanbul Pride in 2014.

But in 2015, police dispersed crowds using tear gas and water cannons after a last-minute ban. In 2016, amid a spate of deadly attacks blamed on the  Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or on outlawed Kurdish militants, the event was banned again but participants still tried to gather.

Pride organizers think the celebrations have been banned since 2014 because they coincided with the holy month of Ramadan and a rise in conservatism.