Rights organizations condemn police crackdown on Pride march in İstanbul

Amnesty International and Freedom House have condemned a ban imposed by Turkish authorities on a Pride march in central İstanbul over the weekend as well as the excessive use of force on participants of the event.

In a statement issued on Monday, Marc Behrendt, director of Europe and Eurasia programs at Freedom House, said: “This latest crackdown is part of a larger effort to roll back LGBT+ and women’s rights in Turkey, which also includes the withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention and the prosecution of Boğaziçi University students for holding rainbow flags. The government must stop the continuing assault on LGBT+ communities and guarantee fundamental rights protections of all people in Turkey.”

On June 26 police used tear gas and fired rubber bullets to disperse the annual pride parade in İstanbul. At least 20 people, including Agence France-Presse (AFP) photographer Bülent Kılıç, were detained by the authorities. Kılıç was violently arrested, with police breaking his camera and pressing on his neck. AFP denounced Kılıç’s treatment, while Kılıç himself has filed a complaint against the police. The İstanbul Pride parade has been banned since 2014, though participants have consistently marched in defiance of that ban. Four days before this year’s march, police forcefully dispersed a Pride week picnic in the city, detaining at least one person.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Amnesty International said it “condemns the baseless and arbitrary banning for the sixth consecutive year of Istanbul Pride in clear violation of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression and the use of unnecessary and excessive force on Pride participants on Saturday 26 June in the central district of Beyoğlu.”

Turkey was ranked 48th among 49 countries as regards the human rights of LGBT people, according to the 2021 Rainbow Europe Map published by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA)-Europe.

On June 17th, Council of Europe (CoE) human rights commissioner Dunja Mijatović called on the Turkish government to respect the rights of LGBT+ people to assemble, criticizing the banning of pride marches and noting a “visible rise in hateful rhetoric and the propagation of homophobic narratives” by Turkish politicians and officials.

Homosexuality is not illegal in Turkey, but homophobia is widespread.

After a Pride march in İstanbul drew 100,000 people in 2014, the government responded by banning future events in the city, citing security concerns.

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