One academic and 18 students will stand trial in Turkey for participating in an LGBTQ+ Pride march at Middle East Technical University (METU).
In May 2019, 22 people were detained due to their involvement with an LGBTQ+ Pride March at a university in Ankara, Turkey. 19 of whom are facing charges for participating in “an unlawful assembly” and “failing to disperse despite being warned.”
Although METU Pride has been held annually in Ankara since 2011, the administration said it could not go ahead in 2019. Activists and students rallied against the ban by exercising their legal right to freedom of assembly.
Speaking about the importance of this event, one person detained at the march shared, “We have to understand what Pride means to people. At Pride you get to be yourself, your full self. That’s an important feeling and it has a healing power.”
Police were called to disperse the gathering on the day of the Pride Parade. Authorities used excessive force in the process, firing tear glass and plastic bullets at the crowd as well as dragging students across the ground.
22 people were detained at the 2019 Pride march, 19 of whom now face charges in trial. The first hearing of the court case took place in November 2019, however due to COVID-19 pandemic measures, judgement was postponed several times.
On International Human Rights Day, December 10, 18 students and one academic will stand trial over these charges. If found guilty, they could each face up to three years in prison.
In an ILGA Europe press release, an activists from METU LGBTI+ Solidarity stated, “Turkey is ignoring the international treaties that they are a party to and violate our basic human rights, on Human Rights Day. We are standing with all of our colours against this injustice.”
We, along with 8 other international organisations, call on the trial prosecutor to recommend the acquittal of the METU Pride human rights defenders at the hearing in Ankara on 10 December & for relevant authorities in Turkey to ensure the right of everyone to freedom of assembly pic.twitter.com/LxlePRM3id
— ILGA-Europe (@ILGAEurope) December 7, 2020
Further speaking on the significance of this trial, Advocacy Director for ILGA-Europe, Katrin Hugendubel, shared, “It is incredibly important that Turkey upholds its international and domestic human rights commitments by acquitting the METU Pride LGBTI activists on 10 December. Anything else would be a slap in the face for human rights and the decision of the Ankara Administrative Court to lift the ban. All Turkish citizens should enjoy the right to freedom of assembly, and this judgement will set a precedent for forthcoming similar trials in Turkey.”
Turkish NGO, ÜniKuir, stated, “We do not accept the prohibition, marginalisation or prosecution of the METU Pride march or any Pride march. We have to speak out against this injustice and we ask you to speak out with us.”
Amnesty International launched a petition calling on the Turkish Minister for Justice to acquitte the 19 people facing charges. It reads, “No one should be convicted for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.”
On Twitter, Queer Amnesty wrote, “Make your voice heard for fellow LGBTQI people in Turkey facing charges for organising a pride in their college! Peaceful assembly is not a crime!”
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