Istanbul: Authorities fire tear gas, make arrests at Pride march | News | DW | 26.06.2021

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Istanbul: Authorities fire tear gas, make arrests at Pride march

Authorities in Istanbul arrested 25 people, including a prominent photojournalist. Other Pride marches took place in several European cities amid the backdrop of a recent anti-LGBT+ law passed in Hungary.

Demonstrators march as they try to gather for a Pride parade, which was banned by local authorities, in central Istanbul

Demonstrators march as they try to gather for a Pride parade, which was banned by local authorities, in central Istanbul

Riot police in Istanbul fired tear gas and blocked streets during a march in support of LGBT+ rights, detaining 25 people including prominent AFP photographer Bulent Kilic.

While thousands gathered peacefully in Berlin, Paris, London, Rome, Milan and elsewhere in Europe for Pride parades, the authorities in Istanbul reacted with a heavy hand to those who gathered in the central Beyoglu district of Istanbul.

The march participants comprised several civil society groups that gathered under the motto "the street is ours."

Footage and photos of demonstrators showed some being pushed and dragged by riot police on Istiklal Avenue in the heart of the city.

Turkish police restrain a protester with an arm lock

A protester is restrained by police in central Istanbul

Images posted on social media showed photographer Kilic pressed to the ground with police holding him down with their knees.

Reporters Without Borders in Turkey tweeted in support of Kilic, demanding his immediate release. AFP reported Kilic had been released later in the evening 

AFP reported Kilic was released later in the evening.

What is the history of Pride marches in Istanbul?

After 100,000 people showed up for a Pride march in 2014, authorities in Istanbul banned Pride events citing public safety concerns.

More recently, pride events have been officially blocked by authorities claiming concern over the spread of COVID.

A 2019 image of Istanbul pride taken by AFP photographer Bulent Kilic who was arrested Saturday at this year's event

A 2019 image of Istanbul pride taken by AFP photographer Bulent Kilic who was arrested Saturday at this year's event

However, Turkey's LGBT+ community accuses the government of launching a "hate campaign" against them while promoting violence.

Authorities set up barricades to block the march Saturday ahead of time, claiming the march violates a law against protests that violate public "morality."

Pride marches elsewhere in Europe 

While pride in London was canceled due to the pandemic, in Berlin, marchers along three routes converged on Alexanderplatz in the city center in an effort to both avoid larger crowds but also to highlight the diversity of the city's LGBT+ community.

A combination EU-rainbow flag in Berlin

A combination EU-rainbow flag in Berlin

In Italy, where a proposed law to combat hate crimes against individuals identifying as LGBT+ has languished for months in the Senate due to objections from right-wing political leaders and the Vatican, ostensibly over free speech concerns, large marches took place in Rome and Milan.

For many LGBT+ activists in Europe, however, a new Hungarian law banning education on issues of homosexuality and transgender issues in schools with minors is causing concern over a rollback of LGBT+ rights. 

In Poland, municipalities and provinces in 2019 began declaring themselves "LGBT-ideology-free zones,"drawing condemnation from the EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

"LGBTI-free-zones are humanity-free zones and have no place in our union," said Von der Leyen in September 2020. 

ar/wmr (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)