Police in Istanbul detained 29 people including activists, journalists, and EU political representatives as protestors gathered for Istanbul’s Pride Walk yesterday, despite a government ban. A lawyer for the organising committee has confirmed that charges will be brought against the police for rights violations.
The detainees included members of the LGBTI Pride Week organising committee, a German MP, two activists from the German Green Youth organisation, and a member of the European Parliament.
LGBTI activists reported that all detainees were released by the early hours of this morning. Levent Pişkin, a lawyer acting for the LGBTI Pride Week organising committee, has confirmed that police will not be pressing charges against any of the detainees.
Pişkin also said that the LGBTI activists will bring charges against the police for unlawful detention and other rights violations. Pişkin told Independent Turkey that the ban was not legal, and that the police targeted LGBTI people. This amounts to rights violations, he argues. “Namely, they criminalized LGBTI people,” said Pişkin.
This is in line with previous European Court of Human Rights decisions on similar cases in Georgia and Russia, where events organised by Gay Pride groups were banned, violating the European Convention on Human Rights. As Turkey is a counterparty to the convention, these decisions in effect set a precedent for Turkish courts.
This year’s Pride Walk was banned by the Istanbul governor’s office, despite having taken place every year since 2003. In scenes reminiscent of last year’s walk – the first to be dispersed by police – tear gas and water canon were used to disperse crowds in the Taksim area. Activist groups were involved in back-and-forth chases with police until evening.
LGBTI organisers met with Istanbul’s deputy governor last week to protest the ban, requesting that if it was not lifted they be allowed to hold a press statement instead. The governor’s office denied the request, citing concerns over “security” and the “sensitivities” of sections of society that might see the Pride Walk as provocation.
In defiance of the ban, activists read the press statement at multiple points throughout the Taksim area, a historically symbolic site of protest. The statement emphasised the critical role the Pride movement has in uniting a wide cross-section of Turkish society, one of the reasons activists believe it has become a focus of police repression over the last two years.
“We are on this path to demand more than tolerance and permits. We are continually strengthening our resistance everywhere to demand that our personal, political, and social rights are guaranteed; that sexual orientation and gender identity are included in the constitution; and that the reality of the LGBTI+ movement as a political participant is recognized,” it read.