Amnesty calls on Turkey to cease discriminatory practices against Pride protesters

A member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community (LGBTQI+) holds a rainbow flag during a rally against Turkey's withdrawal from Istanbul Convention in Istanbul, on June 19, 2021. - Turkish President sparked outrage in March by pulling out from the world's first binding treaty to prevent and combat violence against women, known as the Istanbul Convention. (Photo by BULENT KILIC / AFP)

Amnesty International has released a report on the occasion of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), observed on May 17, urging Turkey to avoid repeating the discriminatory restrictions and violence faced by Pride participants last year.

Titled “Discriminatory Restrictions and Abuse during Türkiye Prides,” the Amnesty report details how Turkish authorities imposed blanket bans on Pride events and employed excessive force against peaceful demonstrators during the 2023 Pride month. These actions included the use of tear gas, rubber bullets and arbitrary detentions, which Amnesty described as amounting to torture in some cases.

The report also highlighted that anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric from senior government officials has further fueled discrimination and emboldened anti-LGBTQ+ groups.

Dinushika Dissanayake, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for Europe, stressed the need for authorities to allow Pride marches to proceed safely and without intimidation.

“As we approach Pride month, there must be no repeat of the draconian restrictions, disproportionate violence and hateful official rhetoric that we witnessed last year,” she said.

The report also documents that at least 224 individuals, including lawyers and journalists, were arbitrarily detained and that some were subjected to severe physical abuse by law enforcement officers. Amnesty criticized these actions for having a chilling effect on LGBTQ+ individuals’ willingness to participate in peaceful protests.

The report points to inflammatory statements from high-level officials, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has referred to LGBTQ+ as “a poison injected into the institution of the family.” Additionally, a proposed amendment to the Turkish Constitution seeks to redefine “family” strictly as “the joining of a man with a woman.”

Despite the restrictions and violence, LGBTQ+ people and their allies in Turkey are preparing to celebrate Pride and advocate for their rights. Amnesty International has launched a campaign urging Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya to ensure that authorities facilitate Pride marches and other events, in accordance with international human rights obligations and Turkey’s constitution.

The organization reiterated that states have a positive obligation to facilitate peaceful assemblies and that any decision to disperse an assembly should be a last resort, taken only when absolutely necessary and proportionate. Law enforcement officials must avoid the use of force as much as possible and always keep it to the minimum necessary.

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