Amnesty warns that Turkish LGBT+ people are ‘living in more fear than ever’

Turkey: LGBT+ acceptance growing year-on-year in Muslim country

“Most LGBT+ people in Turkey today are living in more fear than ever before,” an activist tells me when we meet in a café in Istanbul on a cloudy day in February. She is too afraid for me to share her name.

“With the crackdown on freedom of expression, spaces for LGBT+ people to be themselves are shrinking. They see no hope, no future. Many of us have either moved to other countries or are thinking of leaving.”

It is a far cry from the Turkey of even just a few years ago, when LGBT+ organizations were increasingly visible and vocal – the last Istanbul Pride in June 2014 saw tens of thousands of people marching through the streets in a display of joyous confidence.

But all that is now a distant memory, especially since the crackdown that followed the failed coup attempt of July 2016.

Turkish riot police officers block ways to Istikjlal avenue for LGBT rights activist as they try to gather for a pride parade, which was banned by the governorship, in central Istanbul, on June 25, 2017. (Photo by YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty)

For the last three years, Pride marches have been banned in Istanbul and Ankara, while other Pride events such as LGBTI film festivals have been shut down “due to social sensitivities”.

Last November, the Ankara Governorate used powers under the state of emergency, in place since the coup attempt, to impose an indefinite ban on all public events by LGBT+ organizations in the city, citing “public safety”, “safeguarding general health and morals” and “safeguarding the rights and freedoms of others”.

These blanket bans threaten the very existence of LGBT+ organizations and reverse the progressive trend that existed before the attempted coup to counter homophobia and transphobia.


ISTANBUL, TURKEY - JUNE 25: LGBT supporters march towards Taksim Square on June 25, 2017 in Istanbul, Turkey. The 2017 LGBT Pride March was banned by authorities for the third year. Organisers defied the order and people attempted to march to Taksim Square but were met by a heavy police presence and the crowd was dispersed by tear gas and several people were arrested. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Instanbul Pride march (Getty)

But it is not just LGBT+ organizations that are under fire.

A new report by Amnesty International published today reveals how an escalating assault on human rights defenders has devastated the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in Turkey, curtailed the vital work of organizations and left swathes of Turkish society in a state of constant fear.

Weathering the storm: Defending human rights in Turkey’s climate of fear, reveals how precious few areas of Turkey’s once vibrant activist community have been left untouched by the ongoing state of emergency.

A nationwide crackdown has resulted in mass arrests and dismissals from public sector jobs, the hollowing out of the legal system and the silencing of human rights defenders through threats, harassment and imprisonment.

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