Police attack Pride march at ODTÜ with tear gas and rubber bullets

Turkish authorities prevented a Pride parade from taking place at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara. The students were attacked with tear gas and rubber bullets, and numerous people were detained.

Turkish authorities have prevented a Pride march at the Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) in Ankara with a large contingent on Friday. Following a previously issued ban on the tenth edition of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Asexual (LGBTQIA+) Equality Parade, security forces prevented students and LGBTQIA movement activists from gathering on campus. At various places on the university campus, police cracked down on larger groups and used tear gas. Rubber bullets were also fired by security forces at students and activists.

At least ten people who chanted slogans and took part in a short march despite the ban were taken into police custody under the use of partly massive force.

"Contrary to the homophobic, fascist and polarising attitude of the trustee administration, we say: Get used to us! We are here to say we will not leave," read a statement that a group of students were still able to make on the sidelines of the police terror. At the centre of the protests at ODTÜ for LGBTQIA+ rights is also the trustee administration of universities by the regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Reason for ban: damage to the prestige of the university

On Tuesday, the ODTÜ rectorate had sent an email to the university's students, calling the Pride parade "categorically banned". Any participants in the peaceful event were also threatened with police intervention. The university is a peaceful, productive and creative academic environment. Demonstrating students would damage the prestige of ODTÜ, the email said, justifying the Pride ban.

Last Pride march also met with violence

At the last Pride march on 10 May 2019, when students and employees of ODTÜ wanted to hold a peaceful parade on campus, they were met with disproportionate police force and banned from participation. The reason given was "participation in an unauthorised assembly" and "failure to comply with the order to disperse the event". At least 21 students and employees were arrested at the time, nineteen of whom had to stand trial before a criminal court in Ankara. The trial dragged on for two years. In October 2021, all the accused were acquitted.

Turkey is considered an anti-LGBTQIA+ country

According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) Rainbow Index 2021, Turkey is one of the most LGBTQIA+ hostile countries in Europe. For the past four years, the Erdogan-led country has been ranked 48th out of 49 European countries. Only Azerbaijan did worse. Every year, ILGA keeps a record of positive as well as negative changes in legislation, policy and social climate that affect the LGBTI community. Based on 69 criteria, the association ranks the friendliest countries where LGBTQIA+ couples and individuals can feel safe. Where zero per cent means gross human rights violations and discrimination and one hundred per cent means that rights are respected and equality prevails. Turkey implemented only three criteria set by the group and scored only four percentage points in the index.