Turkish riot police broke up Istanbul’s Trans Pride Walk today with pepper gas and rubber bullets. There have been reports of protesters being detained and of some being beaten.
Despite city officials banning the walk, the seventh annual event, the organizing committee had been determined to go ahead with the march today.
Both Trans Pride Walk and next week’s LGBTI Pride Walk have been banned for “security reasons,” according to government officials, however activists believe the ban is part of a wider crackdown on protest in general, and on trans and LGBTI rights in particular.
Istanbul’s Taksim area was filled with riot and anti-terror police ahead of today’s walk, planned to start at 5pm local time.
Groups of civilians began to gather on the side streets off Istiklal Avenue, where the walk was set to take place, however were quickly met with police intervention during which gas canisters were fired at groups of protestors.
Participants of today’s walk who preferred to remain anonymous reported seeing civilians believed to be anti-trans vigilante groups walking the streets around Istiklal.
Activists have told of police chasing protesters down the side streets where groups of men are waiting. According to eyewitness reports and Twitter, two people have been badly beaten so far by “fascist groups” attacking LGBTI people.
A member of the LGBTI Pride Week organizing committee has said that the group is still in negotiations with city officials about whether next weekend’s march will be allowed to take place.
LGBTI Pride Week is in its 24th year in Turkey. This is the seventh year that a separate Trans Pride Walk has been a part of the week’s events.
Haziran Düzkan of the LGBTI Pride Week committee told Independent Turkey that despite almost “thirty years of activism, no progress has been made.” Düzkan argued the crackdowns on Pride Week have intensified over the last two years as the AKP-led government becomes increasingly authoritarian and intolerant of a pluralistic society.
Stay tuned for updates.