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Pride in London and Istanbul: stickers and dancing versus water cannons and rubber bullets

London Pride has come and gone, and once again hundreds of you marched with us across London’s streets. The typically celebratory mood was bolstered by the news of the Supreme Court ruling that legalised same sex marriage across the USA.

And in Istanbul the LGBTI community also turned out for their own planned pride march, in what was expected to be a similarly celebratory mood. Instead police used water cannons, rubber bullets, and tear gas to break up the party. It’s another sad reminder that whilst we have come a long way on LGBTI rights, there is still work to be done.

Police use teargas and rubber bullets at Istanbul Pride

— PinkNews (@pinknews) June 28, 2015

Pride in London

On Saturday I joined Amnesty at Pride in London, marching through the capital on a beautiful day. It was London’s biggest pride march ever with over 1 million people in attendance, and we received a really warm response from everyone along the way.

Hundreds of us marched to show that love is a human right. For some it was the first pride march that they had taken part in. It’s great that Pride in London provides the right atmosphere for LGBTI people of all ages to feel they can be themselves.

We handed out flags and put Amnesty stickers on thousands of people along the way. We all marched and danced our way along the route whilst celebrating and raising awareness of our Pride Heroes: Ihar Tsikhanyuk, John Jeanette, Noxolo Nogwaza, and Elena Klimova. We were showing solidarity with LGBTI activists worldwide.

Istanbul Pride

On Sunday LGBTI activists in Istanbul got ready for their long planned Pride event. They may not have expected as massive a crowd as London, but with over 100,000 in attendance in 2013 and 2014 they were probably looking forward to a celebratory atmosphere.

It should have been Istanbul’s 13th annual Pride Event but city officials banned it at the eleventh hour, saying that it risked ‘provocations’ with counter-demonstrators for taking place during the holy month of Ramadan.

2014’s pride march also took place during Ramadan, but the event went ahead peacefully with over 90,000 celebrating and speaking out for LGBTI rights.

When Sunday came LGBTI people from across Istanbul turned out to celebrate and assert their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association.  Pride organisers were not made aware of the ban, despite having met with city officials in the days leading up to Istanbul Pride. Revellers had already gathered in Taksim in central Istanbul when police descended on them, intent to crash the party and prevent the peaceful march from going ahead.

Mis Sokak'a polis saldırısı

— Funda Eryiğit (@fundaeryigit) June 28, 2015

Police clashed with rainbow clad protestors as police dispersed crowds from Taksim Square in Istanbul. We have seen images and videos of activists wearing and waving rainbow flags running away, or being hit, by powerful water cannons. We have also seen police firing rubber bullets and canisters of tear gas directly at LGBTI people, who were just out to have a good time – just as all of us were in London the previous day.

Istanbul Pride: "We resisted. We resisted with our dances and our songs and our love." (via @OccupyGezi) #solidarity

— Alex Andreou (@sturdyAlex) June 28, 2015

Everyone here at Amnesty is dismayed at the actions taken by Turkish police on Sunday.  We are calling on the Turkish authorities to launch a prompt, immediate, and impartial investigation into the use of force by police. We also urge the Turkish authorities to ensure that future Pride marches take place peacefully in Istanbul and across Turkey.

LGBTI rights in Turkey

Being gay is not illegal in Turkey, yet members of the LGBTI community there face discrimination and abuse on a daily basis. Homophobia is deeply rooted within conservative Turkish society – in 2011 84% of Turkish people said they wouldn’t want LGBTI people living in their area. In 2010, the then Minister for Family and Women labelled homosexuality as a ‘disease’ that ‘needs to be treated’.

The case of Ahmet Yildiz shows the extent of homophobic hate crime within Turkey. In July 2008 Ahmet stepped out of the apartment that he shared with his fiancé Ibrahim, he had gone out to get some ice cream. He was shot dead outside his own home simply for being gay. The only person suspected of murdering Ahmet is his own father. He has yet to be apprehended by police. Ibrahim has not yet received justice for the murder of his fiancé.

A history of police violence

These reports harken back to the police violence seen in Gezi Park in 2013, when demonstrations against redevelopment of a park in Istanbul descended into nationwide protest and international outcry due to the government’s violent response to peaceful protests. Similar scenes were also seen just last month as police used similar tactics to break up May Day protests in Istanbul.  In banning Istanbul Pride and breaking up other planned peaceful protests the Turkish authorities are severely restricting people’s rights to freedom of assembly.

Amnesty International continues to call on Turkish authorities to allow people their right to protest, and ensure that peaceful marches go ahead with sufficient protection.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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1 comment

I am organising a protest at the Turkish embassy in Belgrave Square Monday (the 6th). I will put the full details here when they are finalised.

Daniel.Rowanolive 8 years ago