Press release June 28, 2021
Turkey: Authorities Violently Disperse Pride Event
Istanbul police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse pride parade participants, as a years-long crackdown on LGBT+ people gains momentum
In response to the recent crackdown on the Istanbul Pride Parade, Freedom House issues the following statement:
“The continuing assault on LGBT+ people in Turkey was on full display with the use of tear gas and rubber bullets to prevent the Istanbul Pride March,” said Marc Behrendt, director of Europe and Eurasia programs at Freedom House. “This latest crackdown is part of a larger effort to roll back LGBT+ and women’s rights in Turkey, which also includes the withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention and the prosecution of Boğaziçi University students for holding rainbow flags. The government must stop the continuing assault on LGBT+ communities and guarantee fundamental rights protections of all people in Turkey.”
On June 26th, police used tear gas and fired rubber bullets to disperse the annual pride parade in Istanbul. At least 20 people, including Agence France-Presse (AFP) photographer Bülent Kılıç, were detained by the authorities. Kılıç was violently arrested, with police breaking his camera and pressing on his neck. AFP denounced Kılıç’s treatment, while Kılıç himself has filed a complaint against the police. The Istanbul pride parade has been banned since 2014, though participants have consistently marched in defiance of that ban. Four days before this year’s march, police forcefully dispersed a pride-week picnic in the city, detaining at least one person.
The crackdown on the Turkish LGBT+ community has intensified since Boğaziçi University students began protesting the appointment of Melih Bulu, an ally of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as rector in January. Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu later called student protesters “LGBT deviants,” after protesters disseminated a photograph that included Islamic and LGBT+ imagery. Twelve people who were detained in March after carrying a rainbow flag at a protest, meanwhile, faced their second judicial hearing earlier today.
In May, the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA-Europe) ranked Turkey the second-worst country in Europe for LGBT+ rights. On June 17th, Council of Europe (CoE) human rights commissioner Dunja Mijatović called on the Turkish government to respect the rights of LGBT+ people to assemble, criticizing the banning of pride marches and noting a “visible rise in hateful rhetoric and the propagation of homophobic narratives” by Turkish politicians and officials.
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