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Turkish police disrupt peaceful Pride march with tear gas and rubber bullets

"We need a global campaign of boycott," responds human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell

2021-06-29

Words: Alastair James; pictures: Wiki

Police in Turkey have been criticised for their use of force over the weekend to disrupt a peaceful Pride parade in Istanbul.

In video footage shared online since Saturday (26 June) people are seen marching down streets before being attacked by the police using tear gas and rubber bullets.

While homosexuality is not illegal in Turkey, Pride protests and marches have been banned since 2015. Turkey's ruling AK party, led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is known for being very conservative.

"Appalling scenes"

Ahead of the march, Istanbul Pride posted on Facebook: “We, as LGBTI+s, women, workers, Kurds and students, are determined to stand together against all the attacks directed against us by the state.

"We will organize together, shout together in the street, party again, protect and grow our safe spaces, all together.”

The civil rights group Civil Rights Defenders - Europe described footage they shared on social media as “appalling scenes” from the police.

In other scenes, one protestor can be seen walking ahead of a line of riot gear-clad officers waving her arms and being cheered on by spectators.

"A homophobic police state in action"

Speaking to Attitude, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell responded: "The violent police repression in Istanbul was a homophobic police state in action. The pro-Islamic regime is at war with the LGBT+ community - and also with women, Kurdish people, and the democratic opposition.

"The international community should respond by halting all aid and arms sales to Turkey. We need a global campaign of boycott, disinvestment, and sanctions targeted at the ruling elite; including Magnitsky sanctions such as travel bans and asset freezes."

Euronews reports around 20 people were arrested. Istanbul Pride posted on Facebook after the event that lawyers were working with the detained.

Similar tactics were used by police in the Turkish capital in 2019, the last time an in-person parade happened after existing online for 2020.

Turkey was ranked in the bottom three countries of this year's IGLA-Europe’s Rainbow Map, which ranks the legal and policy situation of LGBTQ people in 49 European countries.

In the report's chapter on Turkey, the organisation said retailers were denying service to LGBTQ individuals, while also pointing to a rise in hate campaigns and homophobic statements on mainstream channels. It also detailed increasing attacks against trans people.

Last year, Amnesty International called on Turkish officials to take “urgent action” against an increasing number of anti-LGBTQ statements being made by state officials.