Turkish Police Fire Tear Gas to Disperse Pride March in Istanbul

'In Turkey, the state has declared war, so to speak, on LGBTQI+ people,' one Turkish activist says

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Protesters are detained by police at a Pride event in central Istanbul, Saturday.
Protesters are detained by police at a Pride event in central Istanbul, Saturday.Credit: Emrah Gurel,AP

Turkish police fired tear gas to disperse the hundreds of people that gathered for a Pride parade in central Istanbul on Saturday, detaining some of those seeking to take part in an event banned by local authorities.

Reuters TV video showed police in riot gear pushing and dragging people, some waving rainbow flags as they assembled for the event in a side street off the city's central Istiklal Avenue.

An alliance of different groups had called for the parade under the motto "The street is ours" to protest Turkey's increasingly hostile stance towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) people.

Authorities started to set up barriers the day before the event, and the district government banned the demonstration a few hours before it was scheduled to begin, citing a law that allows to prohibit protests that violate "morality."

"In Turkey, we have been confronted with a radical change in government policy towards LGBTQI+ people since 2015. The state has declared war, so to speak, on LGBTQI+ people," Yildiz Tar from the Kaos GL LGBTQI+ organization told DPA.

The government was pursuing a policy aimed at spreading hostility towards LGBTQI people in "the entire population," she said, adding that hate crimes directed at the community were increasing and not being punished.

Some 20 people, including a photo journalist, were detained, according to media reports.

Turkish authorities have repeatedly banned Pride events in recent years. Before then, thousands of people used to take part in the parade on the Istanbul street.

Turkey has long been a candidate to join the European Union, but its accession process has been languishing for years amid tensions over a variety of issues including human rights.

On Thursday, a majority of European Union leaders vowed to continue combating discrimination against the LGBTQI community in a joint letter amid a standoff with Hungary, whose parliament last week approved a bill that bans the distribution of material in schools deemed to promote homosexuality or gender change. 

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