Written By: Fiona Parker for Metro.co.uk
(Picture: AFP PHOTO / BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty)
Turkish police used tear gas and reportedly fired plastic bullets to break up a banned gay pride march in Istanbul.
While homosexuality is not illegal in Turkey, Istanbul’s governor’s office said today’s Trans Parade March parade should not go ahead to protect participants, tourists and public order.
But at least 100 protesters gathered in the nearby Cihangir neighbourhood, beating drums and chanting: ‘Don’t be quiet, shout out, gays exist!’
Police prevented pro-LGBT groups from entering the Istiklal Avenue area on Sunday and turned back people who they deemed were associated with the march.
Activists believe the authorities are using security as an excuse to ban the parades, instead of taking measures to deal with the threats instead.
Since 2003, Istanbul’s Pride Week drew thousands of participants, making it one of the largest LGBTI gatherings in the Muslim world.
But this changed two years ago, when authorities banned gay and transgender pride events, citing security concerns.
Horrified participants who had assembled at Taksim Square where the march was due to begin, were chased away by police with tear gas and water cannons.
The march’s organisers believe Pride events were banned in 2015 and 2016 because they full during Islam’s holy month of Ramadan.
This year the country’s LGBTI community is braced for yet another confrontation with police on Trans Parade March scheduled for Sunday.
The day will fall on the Islamic Eid holiday at a time when the country is already under a state emergency following last year’s failed coup attempt.
This means authorities have the power to ban public gatherings.
‘The fact that the existing political power is not making the necessary changes in the constitution, and the fact that they have discourse against us might encourage people who are already transphobic,’ said Seyhan Arman, a 37-year-old transgender woman and performer.
Last year the Alperen Ocaklari, an ultra-nationalist and conservative group, threatened to attack Pride events if the authorities didn’t ban them.
Murat Koylu, from the Ankara-based LGBTI rights group Koas GL, described the bans as ‘a reflection of the increasingly conservative and majoritarian policies of the government.’
Emergency powers have been used to sack more than 100,000 people from government jobs, including a large number of academics who were minority rights defenders.
The U.S State Department’s annual report on human rights in Turkey said the government had taken ‘insufficient steps’ to protect minority groups, including LGBTI individuals, from threats, discrimination and violence.
The Turkish government insisted that there is no discrimination against individuals based on their sexual orientation, and that existing laws barring discrimination on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity or religion protect all citizens.
A spokesperson added that perpetrators of hate crimes in the country are prosecuted.