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Istanbul police use tear gas on gay pride marchers

June 30, 2019

Police have used tear gas to disperse hundreds of people at a banned gay pride march in Istanbul. Activists had gathered to promote rights for gay and transgender people. They had hoped the ban would be lifted.

Riot police prevent LGBT activists from taking part in a pride parade in Istanbul
Image: Reuters/M. Sezer

Police pushed back crowds celebrating Istanbul's 17th gay pride march on Sunday, an event Turkish authorities had banned for the fifth year in a row.

The rally, on a side street off Istanbul's main pedestrian avenue, drew several hundred people who cheered and waved rainbow flags. Chants of "shoulder to shoulder against fascism" and "we will not be quiet" were heard among the crowd.

"There is a massive police presence all around the city to prevent the celebration of Pride, but despite that, activities are still going on," DW's Turkey correspondent Dorian Jones reported, noting also that riot police officers were backed up with water cannon.

Organizers said the Istanbul governor's office banned the march from the central Taksim district. Amnesty International had urged Turkey to lift the "arbitrary ban" on the pride march. It said authorities rejected all suggested locations in the city by deeming the LGBT community "societally objectionable."  

Homophobia widespread

Istanbul Pride has taken place without incident for more than a decade; however, it was last allowed in 2014 and has since been banned by the authorities. 

Being gay is not crime in Turkey, unlike in many other Muslim countries, but homophobia remains widespread. Critics accuse President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Islam-orientated Justice and Development Party (AKP) of showing little interest in expanding minority rights and being intolerant of dissent.

kw/jlw (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

Being gay in Turkey

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