15 protesters arrested during banned Pride march in Istanbul

15 protesters arrested during banned Pride march in Istanbul

Protesters take part in the LGBT Pride March in Kadıköy district to celebrate Pride Month in Istanbul, on June 30, 2024. (Photo by KEMAL ASLAN / AFP)

Several hundred people briefly took part in an LGBTQ Pride march in Istanbul on Sunday, which was banned by local authorities, leading to the arrest of several protesters, Turkish Minute reported, citing Agence France-Presse.

The protesters, waving rainbow flags and chanting various slogans, managed to march for about 10 minutes along Baghdad Avenue, a major thoroughfare on the Asian side of Turkey’s largest city, before dispersing when police intervened.

According to the news website Bianet, fifteen protesters were arrested. They were released late in the evening.

On the European side of Istanbul, police closed off Taksim Square, a traditional gathering place for protests, while massive police presence blocked access to the pedestrian shopping street İstiklal Avenue.

Several metro stations in the area were also closed.

June is celebrated in Turkey and around the world as Pride Month. During this month, LGBTI people hold marches, protests and other activities to demand more rights and an end to discriminatory practices.

Homosexuality is not illegal in Turkey, but homophobia is widespread. After a spectacular Pride March in Istanbul drew 100,000 people in 2014, the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) government responded by banning future events in the city, citing security concerns.

LGBTI+ groups have in the past continued with their plans to hold marches despite the bans, sometimes leading to confrontations with police and arrests of participants.

There have also been cases where attendees faced criminal charges for “participating in an unlawful assembly” or “failing to disperse despite warnings” and up to three years in prison for participating in Pride marches.

In a statement on May 17 marking the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), Amnesty International warned that last year’s discrimination and violence against Pride participants in Turkey must not be repeated.

Unnecessary and indiscriminate force was used on a large scale against peaceful protesters, leading to at least 224 people being detained across the country in 2023. Those detained included lawyers and journalists, as well as people who were not participating in Pride events.

It is common for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other AKP politicians to attack LGBTI+ people, accusing them of perversion and undermining family values.

According to the Rainbow Europe Map 2023 of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA)-Europe, Turkey ranks 48th out of 49 countries when it comes to the human rights of LGBT people.

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