Turkish Police Move To Disperse Istanbul Pride Rally

The march had been banned for the third year in a row.

Police in Turkey moved to disperse activists who had gathered in Istanbul to march for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex rights on Sunday. 

Activists had gathered near Taksim Square around 5 p.m. local time, defying a decision by Istanbul’s governor the previous day to ban the annual LGBTI+ Pride March, the BBC reported. The governor had said his move was motivated by security concerns. 

Police had put up barricades and deployed riot-control vehicles and buses to the area, The Associated Press reported. After police cordoned off Istiklal Street, groups of activists gathered in side streets and at least a hundred activists rallied in a nearby neighborhood. 

Terry Reintke, a member of the European Parliament from Germany who was in Istanbul as part of a delegation to monitor the event, tweeted late Sunday afternoon that authorities had detained several activists. She also said police had used tear gas and rubber bullets against a small group of protesters. 

According to Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, 10 people were detained. The Associated Press confirmed that Bram Janssen, one of its journalists covering the event, had been detained as well. Janssen was later released. 

Rights activists had been outraged when Istanbul’s governor on Saturday banned the annual Pride event for the third year in a row. According to the governor, threats by far-right groups had made the march too dangerous for the activists as well as for many tourists visiting the area. He also accused the organizers of failing to submit an official request for the march. 

Organizers vehemently denied that accusation in a statement released on Saturday, arguing instead they had informed local authorities 20 days ahead of the march. 

They also criticized authorities for curtailing their rights and failing to address the root of the security problem. “Making a press statements [sic] is a right, protesting is a right, organizing, objecting and resisting are rights; they cannot be subjected to permission,” the organizers wrote. “Our security cannot be provided by imprisoning us behind walls, asking us to hide, preventing us from organizing and being visible, and encouraging the ones who are threatening us.”

Istanbul’s Pride March first took place in 2003, the AP noted, and drew up to 100,000 people when it was last allowed in 2014. The following year, authorities deployed tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowds. 

This year’s ban comes amid concerns over a crackdown on opposition and independent media. Since a failed coup effort in July 2016, more than 100,000 public officials have been dismissed over accusations of ties to the plotters, international rights group Human Rights Watch says. According to the organization, 47,000 people have been jailed on terrorism charges in the past year and 150 journalists and media workers have been detained. In April 2017, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan narrowly won a referendum that dramatically expanded his powers.

This article has been updated to include details on how many people were detained.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the year of Turkey’s national referendum.