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Istanbul: LGBTQ community tries to hold Pride amid arrests

June 26, 2023

Dozens of people have been detained in Turkey's largest city and police blocked the central Taksim square as the LGBTQ+ community attempted to hold a Pride parade.

People shout slogans during the LGBTQ Pride March in Istanbul, Turkey
Members and supporters of the LGBTQ community managed to gather in Istanbul's Nisantasi neighborhood after being blocked from the city centerImage: Emrah Gurel/AP/picture alliance

Turkish activists defied a government ban to hold an annual gay Pride march in Istanbul on Sunday.

At least 93 people were arrested during the event, Pride organizers said.

Amnesty International's Turkey office said at least one person suffered head injuries while being detained by police.

The arrests come a month after conservative President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won another term to extend his rule until 2028. During his election campaign, Erdogan said LGBTQ+ people undermined family values, reiterating his government's disdain for the community. He and his representatives have attempted for years to block the annual Istanbul Pride Parade.

Davut Gül, governor of the Istanbul Province, suggested ahead of the event that he would not allow it to go ahead, citing concerns regarding "threats to family life."

"We don't accept this hate and denial policy," Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week said in a statement.

Dressing Istanbul's drag queens

Pride Month in Turkey

Several events linked to Pride Month, including a picnic and a film screening, had already been prohibited.

On Sunday, Istanbul police cordoned off large parts of the inner city before the march got underway to deter the participants from rallying. But hundreds of Pride participants instead rerouted to another part of the city and eventually gathered in Istanbul's upscale Nisantasi neighborhood, waving rainbow flags.

Police officers block protesters during the LGBTQ Pride March in Istanbul, Turkey
Police tried to stop the marchImage: Emrah Gurel/AP/picture alliance

Police in the western Turkish city of Izmir also cracked down on those attending Pride, detaining at least 48 people, according to the organizers.

Turkey's LGBTQ+ community fears more pressure after Erdogan's election victory. This year's Pride march started and finished earlier than expected without any street clashes or police violence, according to news agency AFP.

Last year, organizers claimed some 400 people were detained amid the festivities, which were also banned.

jsi/dj (AFP, dpa, Reuters)