Turkey arrests at least 15 protesters at Pride rally

A demonstrator gestures as he holds a flag during the LGBT Pride Parade in the Kadikoy district to celebrate the Pride Month in Istanbul, on June 30, 2024. [Getty]

Turkish police detained at least 15 protesters in Istanbul on Sunday for participating at a banned LGBT Pride rally, after searching the streets having arrived at the scene after participants had dispersed, according to witnesses.

Police declined to comment.

The Istanbul Governor’s Office said earlier on Sunday that the Pride March would not be permitted.

Turkish police blocked central Istanbul to prevent the march from taking place, shutting down metro stations and blocking traffic on the main streets.

President Tayyip Erdogan‘s Islamic-rooted AK Party has toughened its rhetoric against the LGBT community over the past decade and banned pride marches since 2015, citing “security reasons”.

In recent years, the government has adopted a harsh approach to public events by groups that don’t represent its religiously conservative views.

However, demonstrators still gather in Taksim and Istiklal every year and clash with authorities.

To circumvent the ban, a group of more than 100 people gathered in the Suadiye neighborhood across town.

The demonstrators waved rainbow flags and read a statement, before quickly dispersing when police arrived.

Images on social media showed protesters holding pride flags and calling for an end to “polarization” and anti-LGBTQ+ language used by Turkish politicians.

Turkey previously was one of the few Muslim-majority countries to allow Pride marches. The first was held in 2003, the year after Erdogan’s party came to power.

The Istanbul Governor’s Office labelled the organizations calling for the Pride March as illegal.

Following the ban, LGBT groups gathered in another part of Istanbul on the Asian side, with a representative reading a statement that said: “We never get tired of deceiving the police and forcing them to deal with us.”

“You have closed all the streets and squares, you have stopped the life of a whole city, but you have forgotten that we will pierce the stone and find each other if necessary.”

The Istanbul Pride Committee said that there were “unconfirmed” reports of at least 15 protesters being detained.

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