Metro Weekly

Turkey tear gassed an LGBTQ Pride march in Istanbul

Multiple LGBTQ people were detained after authorities banned a Pride parade and fired rubber bullets to disperse crowds

lgbtq, pride parade, istanbul pride
LGBTQ activists gathered for Istanbul Pride (left), only for police to respond with tear gas and rubber bullets — Photos: Twitter

Police in Turkey’s largest city fired tear gas at a Pride parade that had planned to march through central Istanbul on Saturday.

The parade had been banned by local authorities, as part of Turkey’s backwards slide on LGBTQ rights and the influence of conservative President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has made moves away from the Muslim-majority nation’s previously secular nature.

Despite the ban, hundreds of activists gathered for the parade, flying rainbow flags and chanted, “Rainbow is not a crime — discrimination is.”

Footage shared on social media shows participants being met by riot police, who used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the parade, Reuters reports.

At least 20 people were detained, including an Agence France-Presse (AFP) photojournalist, according to local reports, with police seen pushing and dragging parade participants to clear the crowd.

The official Twitter account for Istanbul Pride said that 47 people were detained, with some of them “also beaten.” However, all of those detained were “released on the same day.”

Istanbul previously allowed Pride parades to take place in the city, with the first being held in 2003, but local authorities have banned parades for the last seven years.

Despite the bans, activists have attempted to hold impromptu marches — and have subsequently been met with harsh pushback from authorities.

Police used rubber bullets and tear gas to break up at least two previous attempts at a parade, in 2016 and 2018 — with officials citing security concerns as reason for denying permits for Pride events.

Activists called that reasoning “comical” in 2018, noting that Pride events were held “peacefully” for 13 years “without being banned.”

Last year, Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, accused LGBTQ people of “sneaking up” on Turkey’s values and trying to “poison” the country’s youth.

He said that “throughout human history” LGBTQ people have been “trying to poison” young people in Turkey by “normalizing” heresy.

Erdoğan’s government has previously supported other anti-LGBTQ comments, including defending a religious leader who said homosexuality “brings illnesses” and “corrupts generations.”

Erdoğan’s comments represent a dramatic departure from his previous stance on LGBTQ rights. In 2002, prior to the country’s general elections, he said that it was “imperative” that the rights of gay people should be constitutionally guaranteed.

In 2019, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) said that Turkey was one of a number of European countries “moving backwards” in their treatment of LGBTQ people.

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