More than 60 people detained at Istanbul Pride as thousands defy ban to march

istanbul pride 2023

More than 60 people have been detained at Istanbul Pride where thousands turned up to march amid targeted celebration bans.

On Sunday (25 June), LGBTQ+ activists and allies took to the streets of Istanbul’s Şişli district in defiance of obstacles.

English Bianet reported that the Istanbul Pride Week Committee said over 60 were detained by authorities.

In Türkiye, since 2015, Pride events have been systematically banned in the country, with events such as picnics and film screenings even being targeted with bans during Pride Month.

Despite the ban, a group of activists marched in Şişli district on June 25, 2023 in Istanbul, Türkiye. (Hakan Akgun/ dia images via Getty Images)

The arrests follow Amnesty International warning of the “brazen and deepening crackdown” LGBTQ+ people face in Türkiye.

“Nils Muižnieks, Amnesty International’s Europe director, said: “As thousands take to the streets of Istanbul and Izmir in defiance, they risk facing tear gas and rubber bullets. 

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“The authorities should allow LGBTI Pride Marches in Türkiye to go ahead safely and without interference.”

On Twitter, participants of the Pride event spoke out about attending the march in the face of oppression. 

“The governor of Istanbul said that ‘any activity that threatens the institution of the family’ would not be allowed, and the police closed Taksim. But LGBTI+s found a way around and did not give up on the march!” one posted. 

“Despite all the pressure, thousands of queers marched in Istanbul today. This victory is enough for us. I can cry of happiness,” another tweet read. 

A third read: “Our stories of honour are different from each other, but they are also the same. My heart and soul are in Istanbul today. We were, we are, we will be.”

Prior to the arrests, activists gathered in Mıstık Park in Nişantaşı and hung a huge rainbow flag on a multi-storey carpark opposite the green. Passionate speeches were made demanding equality for LGBTQ+ people in the country.

“We carry the anger of the queers who have been subjected to torture by the state and its law enforcement agencies, and we declare that our anger will burn you,” one activist read. “We will not leave our spaces; you will get used to us.”

LGBTQ community members and supporters hold rainbow flags and shout slogans during the unauthorised Pride March in Istanbul, on June 25, 2023. (YASIN AKGUL/AFP via Getty Images)

The speech went on to condemn President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s victory speech following his re-election in May, in which he stated: “LGBTI is a poison injected into the institution of the family. It is not possible for us to accept that poison.

“No one can speak against the family.”

Protestors at Istanbul Pride responded by “rejecting” Erdoğan’s anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric.

“We reject this politics of hatred and denial,” the activist told those gathered. “Despite all the prohibitions, criminalisations, pressures, and attempts to suppress us, we will continue to advocate for a humane life for everyone and persist in democratic living.”

Istanbul Pride has been celebrated since 2003, but from 2015, it has been banned by Turkish authorities. Despite this, activists in different cities across the country – including Mersin, Adana, Ankara and Eskisehir – plan to go ahead with Pride events.

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