On Sunday, police stopped Istanbul Pride, a yearly LGBT march in Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul. Police officials reportedly used rubber and plastic bullets and sprayed tear gas to prevent the participants from parading, after the Istanbul Governor’s office ordered them on Saturday not to conduct the march, asserting security reasons. This marks the third consecutive year activists were banned from holding the rally.
The statement released by the governor’s office read, “no application that suits the methods was made to our governor’s office”, though the organisers of the march disagreed. Homosexuality has been legal in Turkey for almost a century, but the governor’s office reported “serious reactions against the march.” Activists found checkpoints and a large number of police near Istiklal Avenue.
The pride organisers reported 41 were arrested by the police. Far-right Alperen Hearths was amongst nationalist groups calling for prohibiting the parade. Last week, on June 19, Kürşat Mican of Alperen said, “We will not allow them to walk. Wherever they march, we’ll also go. We will close down that street and they will not be able to go there. If we want, our numbers can reach 200,000”.
In a statement by the organisers of the rally, on Sunday, they said, “Our security will be provided by recognising us in the constitution, by securing justice, by equality and freedom”. Turkish legislators have yet to enact laws shielding the LGBT community from hate speech and ensuring civil rights. In 2010, Selma Aliye Kavaf, then-Minister of Women and Family Affairs said, “I believe homosexuality is a biological disorder and this disease needs treatment.” ((tr)) After the unsuccessful attempt to conduct the parade, organisers released a statement on Sunday, saying, “We are not scared, we are here, we will not change[…] You are scared, you will change and you will get used to it.”
Istanbul Pride was first organised in 2003, attracting by varying reports from tens of thousands to possibly a hundred thousand people in 2014. That was the last actual march before it was blocked three times in the last three years. Last year, the organisers were not granted permission for Istanbul Pride after Istanbul faced militant attacks. The 2015 march was stopped as it was about to start, and police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse the protesters.