Police ‘brutally attack’ Istanbul Pride march with tear gas, rubber bullets

A protester is detained by police the Pride march in Istanbul on 26 June, 2021

Turkish police “brutally attacked” a banned Istanbul Pride parade with tear gas and rubber bullets, arresting at least 20 people.

Istanbul Pride has been banned by authorities for seven consecutive years. Each year, apart from in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, protesters have gathered in solidarity anyway, despite the ever-present threat of police violence.

On Saturday (26 June), hundreds of LGBT+ people marched through the Istanbul’s historical Beyoglu district, chanting “rainbow is not a crime — discrimination is”, according to The Washington Post.

But videos and photos shared to social media showed police in riot gear descending on the peaceful march, using rubber bullets and tear gas on Pride-goers and violently detaining participants. Local media has reported that at least 20 people were arrested.

Activists have condemned the police response, which appears to grow more violent each year.

Civil Rights Defenders Europe shared a video of the “appalling scenes” on Twitter, and wrote: “Despite last-minute banning of Istanbul Pride, police brutally attack peaceful LGBT+ activists.”

Ahead of the march, Istanbul Pride wrote on Facebook: “We, as LGBT+ [people], women, workers, Kurds and students, are determined to stand together against all the attacks directed against us by the state.

“We will organise together, shout together in the street, party again, protect and grow our safe spaces, all together.

“Because we know, behind all bans, attacks, blockings and attempts to ignore [us], there is fear!”

Istanbul Pride

A protester shouts slogans in front of riot police during the march.
(LightRocket via Getty/ SOPA Images/ Ibrahim Oner)

The group added: “They know that we will not disappear by being ignored, they are afraid of our existence. But there is more than that! We are more queer… more organised than they think. We keep resisting on the streets.”

After the march, Istanbul Pride updated its Facebook page to say that those who had been detained were safe, and that lawyers were working to free them.

The latest attack on Istanbul Pride comes after years of increasing government hostility against the LGBT+ community in Turkey.

Turkey’s president, ministers, chairs of human rights organisationsfaith chiefs and even retailers have launched attacks on LGBT+ folk in recent years.

The country’s fiercely anti-LGBT+ president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan even abandoned the landmark Instanbul Convention in March, 2021, because it “normalises homosexuality“.

This year, ILGA-Europe, a group that monitors LGBT+ rights across Europe, once again ranked Turkey this year among the lowest in the continent for queer rights.