Boğaziçi University students who were detained during a Pride March on May 20, 2022 said at a court hearing on Tuesday that they were mistreated by the police, Turkish media reported.
Student Ece Zeynep Bulut claimed the police beat them and said they were not given food or water while in detention and were not allowed to use the toilets. “Attending demonstrations and marches is our democratic right. It was a peaceful march, and the police had no right detaining us,” she said. “The police didn’t even announce they would detain us, they just started throwing us to the ground and beat us.”
Seventy students are standing trial for participating in the 2022 Pride March and violating Law No. 2911 on Meetings and Demonstrations by “refusing to disperse despite warnings and the use of force.”
Police brutality toward peaceful demonstrators is not uncommon in Turkey. According to recent data from the Turkish Human Rights Foundation (TİHV), Turkish police employed unlawful tactics including mistreatment and beating while detaining 13,935 people between 2018 and 2021.
In an earlier statement the TİHV said restricting or suspending the freedoms of assembly and demonstration was a way to narrow the scope of democratic citizenship and to gradually destroy democracy in Turkey.
Last year 70 students were briefly detained during the ninth Pride March held at the university. Riot police surrounded dozens of students who were waving rainbow flags and calling for tolerance for LGBTI+ people on the south campus. The detainees were taken to the İstanbul Police Department for questioning and were subsequently released.
In a report on its website, the University Queer Research and LGBTI+ Solidarity Association (ÜniKuir) described the police intervention in the march as “the latest example of systematic violence that has been targeting LGBTI+s at Boğaziçi for the past one and a half years.”
Homosexuality is not illegal in Turkey, but homophobia is widespread. After a spectacular Pride March in İstanbul drew 100,000 people in 2014, the government responded by banning future events in the city, citing security concerns.
Turkey was ranked 48th among 49 countries as regards the human rights of LGBT people, according to the 2022 Rainbow Europe Map published by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA)-Europe earlier in May.