Pride march bans follow intensification of anti-LGBT discourse by Turkish officials: HRW  

The banning of Pride marches in Turkey for the ninth consecutive year follow an intensification of hateful anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) discourse by Turkish officials around the May 2023 elections, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Tuesday.

Turkish police on Sunday detained 113 people at a Pride march in İstanbul, with another 50 detained at a similar event İzmir, in what local officials called an effort to halt “propaganda” undermining “national and spiritual values.”

“Banning Pride celebrations and detaining people for attempting to march is a flagrant violation of the right to peaceful assembly and expression and further evidence of the Turkish government’s vitriolic campaign against LGBT people,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at HRW. “Turkey should stop detaining and prosecuting Pride demonstrators, and reaffirm their fundamental right to peaceful protest in line with Turkey’s international obligations and its own laws.”

“While public authorities in Turkey have comprehensively banned Pride marches and Pride Week events across the country, recent judicial decisions have found that these decisions are unlawful,” HRW said, citing decisions from the European Court of Human Rights and local courts ordering the government to guarantee the right to assembly.

It is common for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other politicians from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to attack LGBT individuals and accuse them of perversion and ruining family values.

During his campaign for the presidential election, President Erdoğan repeatedly accused presidential candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and opposition parties of being pro-LGBT and undermining the family.

President Erdoğan earlier said his government was working on drafting an anti-LGBT constitutional amendment to enshrine the family that will be submitted to parliament.

The detainees in İstanbul participated in the Pride March on Sunday, defying a ban imposed by the offices of the city’s governor, Davut Gül, and the Beyoğlu district governor. Gül, newly appointed by President Erdoğan, confirmed the İstanbul detentions on Twitter and linked them to “preserving the institution of the family.”

In İzmir, the country’s third-largest city, protesters gathered in the central Alsancak quarter to hold a Pride march on Sunday, despite a similar prohibition by the local governor, who justified the ban by citing a need to “protect public morality.” The police detained attendees and blocked access to parts of Alsancak before the parade’s 6 p.m. start time. Journalists were also prevented from taking pictures at the event, according to LGBT rights organization Kaos GL.

Homosexuality is not illegal in Turkey, but homophobia is widespread. After a spectacular Pride March in İstanbul drew 100,000 people in 2014, Erdoğan’s Islamic-rooted AKP government responded by banning future events in the city, citing security concerns.

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