On Sunday, June 5, members of İstanbul LGBTİ+ Onur Haftası gathered in the Yeldeğirmeni neighbourhood to welcome the start of Istanbul Pride, of which they are organisers. What started as a peaceful demonstration quickly escalated, as the group reports that hundreds of local police swarmed the area armed with riot shields, and arrested 11 LGBTQ+ campaigners.
Officers from Turkey’s General Directorate of Security were joined by the Çevik Kuvvet to break up the gathering which marked 30 years of Istanbul Pride. Bystanders booed as authorities escorted attendees into police vans, but those detained remained resilient as they raised intersex-inclusive Progress flags while being arrested.
Two members of Trans+ Korteji were taken into custody alongside those from İstanbul LGBTİ+ Onur Haftası. They claimed that while at the Vatan Police Station, officers “tortured” them, and the activists shared photos of their injuries on Twitter. All those arrested were released later that evening.
Tweeting as the events unfolded, organisers stated: “Detentions and pressures cannot intimidate us! Neither the pride parade nor our existence can be banned!”
Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride week is 30th years old. Police attacked and arrested Lgbti+ people who met in Yeldegirmeni streets in Istanbul- Kadikoy to celebrate Pride Month. Queer pride will defeat police torture!
Istanbul Pride March countdown just begun! This year to we will resist! pic.twitter.com/r8HV1w5Hw0
— İstanbul LGBTİ+ Onur Haftası (@istanbulpride) June 5, 2022
Trans+ Korteji added: “Despite all the oppression and violence, we are here with our resistance. We do not leave the streets or squares at night! Happy Pride Month!”
Tüm baskılara, şiddete rağmen direnişimizle buradayız. Geceleri de sokakları da meydanları da terk etmiyoruz! Onur Ayımız kutlu olsun! pic.twitter.com/zaUgdku7HN
— Trans+ Korteji ?️⚧️ (@transkorteji) June 5, 2022
The official Istanbul Pride parade is due to take place on June 26, themed ‘resistance’. However, this police crackdown does not bode well for festivities, and many fear a repeat of last year’s violence when rubber bullets and tear gas were used against marchers, and 25 arrests were made.
The country banned Pride events in 2015 following 13 years of activities, yet activists refuse to comply. At the gathering on June 5, a spokesperson for İstanbul LGBTİ+ Onur Haftası stated, “We LGBTIQA+ people are on the streets again. Our voices, laughter, and slogans echo in these streets. We are here with our identities, orientations, queerness, and all our existences.” They added that while it is a celebration, Pride remains a protest.
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