ISTANBUL, Turkey (AFP) — Turkish police on Sunday thwarted an attempt by Gay Pride activists to hold a parade in the country’s largest city, Istanbul, in defiance of an official ban from the local authorities.
Police fired rubber bullets at a group of around 40 activists, an AFP journalist reported, a day after the city governor’s office banned the march, citing safety and public order concerns.
Small groups gathered at Taksim Square, but witnesses said a heavy police presence outnumbered the activists, and at least 22 people were detained.
It is the third year in a row that the march has been banned, and organizers denounced the move.
“We are not scared, we are here, we will not change,” the Pride Committee said in a statement on Sunday. “You are scared, you will change and you will get used to it.
“We are here again to show that we will fight in a determined fashion for our pride.”
Governors change, we stay’
In one of the biggest LGBT events in the mainly Muslim region, the 2014 Gay Pride parade in Istanbul drew tens of thousands of people.
Last year, with the city on the edge after bombings blamed on the Islamic State group and Kurdish militants, organizers were denied permission to march.
Riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters who defied the ban.
Eleven activists went on trial in Istanbul this week for defying last year’s ban on the Gay Pride march, but they were all acquitted.
This year, the parade coincided with the first day of Eid, the festival marking the end of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
City authorities banned the parade after threats from far-right and conservative groups.
Critics accuse President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of having overseen a creeping Islamization since he came to power, first as prime minister in 2003, and then president in 2014.
He has repeatedly infuriated activists with his conservative comments on sex and family planning, but has generally steered clear of commenting publicly on gay issues.
But in 2010, former family minister Aliye Kavaf, a woman, described homosexuality as a “biological disorder” and a “disease.”
Homosexuality has been legal in Turkey throughout the period of the modern republic but gay people in Turkey regularly complain of harassment and abuse.
“We are not alone, we are not wrong, we have not given up,” the Pride Committee’s statement said Sunday.
“Governors, governments, states change and we stay. Threats, bans, pressures will not deter us…We will not give up on,” it added.