Man jailed in Turkey for 20 days just because he ‘looked gay’

Miguel Alvaro with blonde hair smiles and looks into the camera

A gay Portuguese man claims he was arrested in Istanbul, Turkey and jailed for 20 days, just because he “looked gay”.

On 25 June, Miguel Alvaro’s holiday took an unexpected turn when he was arrested by police in Istanbul after asking for directions. 

The arrest coincided with a nearby LGBTQ+ parade which was unsanctioned by authorities, and Alvaro believes that the officers had orders to arrest a certain number of people in connection with the event.

Alvaro told PinkNews he was “shocked, appalled and very angry” about the arrest.

“They grabbed my arms and I tried to free myself. One of them hit me in the ribs, they pushed me against a van, they hit me on the shoulder, which started to bleed,” he told LBC.

Following the arrest, Alvaro claims he spent five hours in the police van, where he alleges he was told he was detained “because of my appearance”.

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“They thought I would participate in an unauthorised LGBTI+ march that was going to take place nearby because I looked gay,” he said. “I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

In total Alvaro said he spent 13 hours in the police van before being taken to the police station to be processed. 

He was then moved to an immigration centre, which he said had maggots crawling on the sheets, while he claims inmates threatened him because of his sexuality.

During his time at the immigration centre he said “they [inmates] were barely given any water” and he “hardly slept for fear of being attacked” during his stay in prison.

Finally, in early July, Alvaro was allowed to make his first phone call. He chose to ring his dad, who asked the Portuguese embassy to help get him freed. 

‘Disappointed, shattered and mentally drained’

It was 20 days later, on 12 July, that he was finally freed. Alvaro told PinkNews he felt “disappointed, shattered and mentally drained, but relieved to be going somewhere safe”.

Following the ordeal, he said he has been left “in a horrible psychological state”, adding: “I’m very afraid of the consequences in the future. 

“I can’t believe this happened to me. I pray for justice to be done.”

The experience has left him warning others, especially the LGBTQ+ community, not to visit Turkey. 

It isn’t illegal to be gay in Turkey, but the country has become an increasingly hostile place for queer people with senior politicians, religious leaders and retailers launching attacks on the LGBTQ+ community. Pride events have been systematically banned in Turkey since 2015. 

Despite the ban, the LGBTQ+ community and allies came together to celebrate in Istanbul and Izmir, but their courageous move saw more than 200 people detained by police.

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