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Turkish authorities release Pride detainees

June 27, 2022

Organizers of an LGBTQ Pride parade in Istanbul say 373 arrested there Sunday have been released. But a rights group said the high number of detentions showed the government had "declared war" on the community.

Person wearing rainbow flag faces off with Turkish police
Participants in the parade faced off with riot policeImage: Kemal Aslan/AFP/Getty Images

The organizers of a LGBTQ Pride march in Turkey's largest city, Istanbul, said on Monday that police had been releasing almost 400 people detained the previous day for taking part in a banned event.

Leading LGBTQ rights organization KAOS GL said people were being freed after giving statements and undergoing health checks, adding that some had been released overnight.

Pride marches, which were allowed to take place in Turkey for more than a decade from 2003, have been banned every year since 2015. Sunday's march was outlawed along with all LGBTQ events in Pride Week between June 20-26 by district governors in the Istanbul districts of Beyoglu and Kadikoy.

What happened on Sunday?

Police detained 373 people who had assembled near the city's Taksim Square to protest for more LGBTQ rights, loading them on to buses to take them away, organizers said.

They said police had refused detainees access to their lawyers. 

Police had previously closed off a number of streets and subway stations to try to stop people from gathering.

What have activists said about the arrests?

KAOS GL said the number of detentions was higher than had ever occurred during a Pride parade in Turkey.

It said the arrests showed that "the government has declared war on queer people."

Amnesty Turkey said the ban was "extremely harsh'' and "arbitrary.'' The rights group's Turkey campaigner, Milena Buyum, tweeted that those arrested had been "deprived of their liberty simply because they were exercising their rights'' to freedom of expression and assembly.

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What is Turkey's stance on LGBTQ rights?

Homosexuality has been legal throughout the period of the modern Turkish republic, and the march is officially banned each year for security reasons.

People from the LGBTQ community in Turkey say they face regular harassment and abuse.

Top Turkish officials have called LGBTQ people "perverts'' and accused them of trying to subvert "traditional family values."

In one sign of official intolerance, products with the symbolic rainbow flag of the movement are not allowed to be sold to people under the age of 18.

Although the marches are banned, crowds have still gathered in past years near Taksim Square to mark the end of the Pride Month.

tj/wd (AFP, AP)