ISTANBUL, Turkey — Turkish police on Sunday forcibly intervened in a Pride march in Istanbul, detaining more than 200 demonstrators and an AFP photographer, AFP journalists on the ground and an NGO reported.
The governor’s office had banned the march around Taksim Square in the heart of Istanbul, but protesters gathered nearby, under heavy police presence, earlier than scheduled.
Police detained protesters, loading them into buses. AFP journalists saw four buses full of people who had been held, including AFP’s chief photographer Bulent Kilic, who had been handcuffed from the back.
Kilic, who was also detained last year during the Pride march, was in police custody.
Hundreds of protesters carrying rainbow flags pressed ahead with the rally in defiance of police.
“The future is queer,” they chanted. “We are here. We are queer. We are not going anywhere.”
Organizers tweeted that more than 200 Pride participants and LGBTQ activists had been detained and police had refused detainees access to their lawyers.
Kaos GL Association, which campaigns to promote the human rights of LGBTQ people against discrimination, said on Twitter that police had detained 12 other people in the western city of Izmir.
Police prevented the press from filming the Istanbul arrests, according to AFP journalists.
‘All must be released’
“All those detained solely for their participation in Pride must be released immediately and unconditionally,” Milena Buyum of Amnesty International said.
Diren, a 22-year-old university student, condemned the hate crimes targeting LGBTQ people.
“We are banned, prevented, discriminated, and even killed at every second of our lives. Today, it’s a very special day for us to defend our rights and to say that we do exist,” Diren told AFP.
“Police violence is aimed to stop us, but it is not possible. You will be unable to stop the queers.”
Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic urged Turkish authorities on Friday to let the march go ahead.
“I urge Istanbul authorities to repeal Istanbul Pride’s latest ban and to ensure the safety and the right to peaceful assembly of marchers,” she said in a statement.
“The human rights of LGBTI people in Turkey need to be effectively protected.”
Although homosexuality has been legal throughout the period of the modern Turkish republic, LGBTQ individuals point to regular harassment and abuse.
Istanbul Pride had taken place every year since 2003.
The last march to go ahead without a ban — in 2014 — drew tens of thousands of participants, in one of the biggest LGBTQ events in the majority Muslim region.
In 2020, streaming giant Netflix canceled the production of a series in Turkey featuring a gay character, after failing to obtain government permission for the filming.
The same year, French sports brand Decathlon faced boycott calls in Turkey for posting messages of support for LGBTQ people.