Police launch tear gas at Istanbul Pride parade in Turkey
Turkish police launched tear gas at LGBT+ activists on Sunday (June 30) who turned out to march for Pride despite a ban by authorities.
2019 marks the fifth year that the event has been banned.
According to reports, thousands of people gathered near Istiklal Avenue and Taksim Square where organisers—Istanbul LGBT+ Pride Week—originally planned to hold the parade.
Reports suggest there was a large scale police presence—including police water cannon vehicles—before tear gas was thrown.
While the parade had been banned by the governor’s office, police allowed people to gather where a public statement was made by Istanbul LGBT+ Pride Week.
On Friday, Amnesty International dismissed security concerns, saying: “It is… a naked attempt to erase the public collective presence of a group which, in the words of the governorate, is deemed to be ‘societally objectionable’.”
Last year police harassed and arrested Pride marchers through the streets but organisers were determined to reach Taksim square, in order to read a press release about the event.
Istanbul Pride tweeted “Despite all the police intervention, we are reading our press release on the streets of Taksim. We’re still here!”
Bütün polis müdahelelerine rağmen Taksim sokaklarında basın açıklamamızı okuyoruz. Alışın hala buradayız! #OnurYürüyüşü
— İstanbul LGBTİ+ Onur Haftası (@istanbulpride) July 1, 2018
The press release, in Turkish, decried police and state brutality against Istanbul Pride and affirmed that the parade would continue regardless.
“These walks have become more and more difficult every year, and since we’ve been faced with hate, we’ve been able to keep ourselves safe for the LGBTI+ and to open up our voices. Unlike these peaceful provocations, the state’s hate crimes have become visibly visible to police brutality.
“We are here this year, as we are every year.”
It went on to say that the LGBT community would not be divided or lessened by the violence and that Istanbul Pride would never give up on reaching and celebrating in Taksim.
“Today, with honor and respect, we ridicule those who are trying to draw boundaries around us.
We call on all of you to make fun of our identities, our weaknesses, our bodies, our bodies, our language, our desires, and everything that makes us who we are.
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“We are expanding our own movement and expanding our borders. We will expand limitlessly into the streets. You’re going to have to lock us up first, then you’re going to try to turn us away from our own people, and we’re not giving up on Taksim. [Square]”
Istanbul pride had taken place every year since 2003.
The last parade which took place without a ban in 2014 drew tens of thousands of participants in one of the biggest LGBT+ events in the majority Muslim region.
Although homosexuality has been legal throughout the period of the modern Turkish republic, LGBTI individuals point to regular harassment and abuse.