Post submitted by Adrian Gonzalez, HRC Global Fellow
Over the weekend, while Americans celebrated a victorious ruling at the Supreme Court, riot police disbanded a pride parade in Istanbul, Turkey.
According to Boysan Yakar, a Turkish LGBT activist and former HRC fellow, riot police used water cannons and rubber pellets to disperse Istanbul’s 13th annual pride parade.
"Our community is in shock at the harassment we faced during Pride this year,” Yakar told HRC. “There is no excuse for such behavior especially from the police."
According to the Governorate, the event was banned because it coincided with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, although other LGBT events have occurred in the past during Ramadan peacefully.
Last year’s pride parade, which was during Ramadan and attracted tens of thousands of attendees, had police on the scene, but they were there to intervene in the event of violence rather than to stop the celebration altogether.
Additionally, earlier this month, Trans Pride Week, organized by Istanbul’s LGBTT Solidarity Association, concluded peacefully with a parade.
HRC condemns this violence against Istanbul’s LGBT community and their supporters. Ty Cobb, Director of HRC Global, said, “The use of force by the Turkish government is a violation to the freedom of assembly and expression. These types of interventions serve to further marginalize the LGBT community while empowering those who seek to repress sexual minorities.”
A local activist, identified only as Bulent, told Reuters,“[Our] people do not hurl stones and they never would. They do not throw petrol bombs. They just ask for legal recognition.”
While Turkey decriminalized being gay in the mid-19th century, homophobia remains deep-seated and widespread. The Istanbul Pride Parade, billed by some as the largest in the Muslim world, was held for the first time in 2003 with approximately 40 attendees. In 2013, the march had grown to attract crowds of over 50,000 supporters.
Even though marriage equality has now been extended to 25 countries and territories around the world and certain jurisdictions of Mexico, you can be arrested for your sexual orientation in 75 countries and punished by death in 10.
As demonstrated by the excessive use of force in Istanbul, the fight for equality is not over. The Istanbul LGBTI Pride Committee released the following statement in response to the police brutal attacks, “We are here, get used to it, we are not leaving!”