Turkey LGBT: Police stifle Istanbul Gay Pride rally

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Police are out in force in the Turkish city of Istanbul, stifling attempts by organisers to hold a Gay Pride march.

The organisers of the annual event had vowed to press ahead despite a ban by the authorities, who had cited threats from far-right groups.

But police blocked off the marchers, reportedly firing rubber bullets to disperse some and detaining others.

Homosexuality is not illegal in Turkey – unlike in many Muslim nations – but homophobia remains widespread.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose ruling AK Party is rooted in conservative Islam, has denied wanting to impose traditional religious values, saying he is committed to secularism. But he supports Turks’ right to express their religion more openly.

He has been accused of growing authoritarianism in recent years.

This is the third year in a row that Turkey’s largest city has banned the Gay Pride rally.

The BBC’s Mark Lowen, in Istanbul, says the heavy police presence stopped people from entering Istiklal street, where the rally was scheduled to start.

He says anybody trying to unfurl a rainbow flag or pass police blockades was being prevented from doing so. One man was told to take off a Pride T-shirt.

Earlier on Sunday, the Gay Pride organising committee had issued a statement saying: “We are not scared, we are here, we will not change.

“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.”

Lara Ozlen, from the organising committee, told AFP news agency on Saturday: “It is obvious that a peaceful march is part of our constitutional right.

“It’s been known for years. Instead of protecting us, to say ‘do not march’ just because some will be disturbed is undemocratic.”

On Sunday, the Dutch consulate in Istanbul unfurled a large rainbow flag in support of the Pride event.

In addition to citing the threats of far-right groups, city officials said they had not received a formal request to hold the march – a claim denied by the organisers.

This year’s event also coincides with the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the start of the Eid al-Fitr festival.

Last year, riot police fired tear gas and plastic bullets after transgender rights activists gathered in Istanbul – in defiance of a ban on marching.

 

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