Istanbul Pride: "The state has opened war on LGBTIQ+"

In Istanbul, more than 370 people have had to spend a night in police custody after taking part in a banned Pride parade. About ten of those affected are refugees who are said to have been taken to deportation centres.

In the western Turkish metropolis of Istanbul, more than 370 people have had to spend a night in police custody after taking part in protests for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ+) people. There had never been so many arrests in the history of the Pride parade in Turkey, the Kaos GL organisation said in a press statement at the Human Rights Association (IHD) on Monday. "The state has opened war on queer people," said a member of Kaos GL.

Under the motto "Resistance", numerous people in Istanbul took part in a Pride parade entitled "March of Pride" on Sunday, despite a ban. Various queer groups and collectives had called for the demonstration as part of Pride week. Among other things, they criticised an increasing anti-LGBTIQ "climate of hate" in the country. Apart from the march, all other events in the run-up to the march had also been banned.

Press conference by Kaos GL and the LGBTIQ Commission of the IHD | Photo: Kaos GL

Having already cordoned off streets in advance, the police tried to stop the Pride parade. Some metro stations remained closed for several hours. Nevertheless, hundreds of demonstrators managed to gather with rainbow flags in the streets around the cordoned-off Taksim Square. They defied the police and marched through the Cihangir neighbourhood for about an hour, chanting "The future is queer" and "You are not alone" over and over again, but also "Discrimination is a crime" or "Murders of trans people are political".

According to Kaos GL, a total of 373 people were taken into custody at the Istanbul Pride parade. Most of them were released on Monday. According to the IHD LGBTIQ Commission, around ten of those arrested were refugees who were taken from police custody to a deportation centre. "We have no information about their current whereabouts," a commission spokeswoman said.

In addition, the IHD complained of massive violence, discrimination and hate speech against participants in the Pride parade, representatives of the press and those arrested. There had already been mistreatment by the police during the detentions, many of those affected had to wait for hours in emergency vehicles without being allowed to exercise their right to drink. One person was reported to have his arm dislocated while in custody.

However, lawyers have also been victims of police violence, the commission said. For example, in the presence of lawyers Jiyan Kaya and Jiyan Tosun, a commissioner of the Vatan Presidency kicked a female lawyer in the genital area, and another lawyer was pushed and shoved in front of her chest. "We condemn the violence against the LGBTIQ community and any discriminatory treatment by security forces. We call on the Turkish state to abide by national laws and international conventions on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms," said the LGBTIQ Commission of the Istanbul IHD branch.

"The government has waged war against LGBTI+s" is also the title of a review of the repression against the LGBTIQ community in the Pride month of June, produced by Kaos GL and available in Turkish and English.