|Pride in Istanbul Despite Ban|
by Redaktie in History & Politics , 05 August 2018
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“Those were the gays my friend / They fought so fervently / Against taboos and drab clichés / With their persistent drive / They have liberated us...” These lines by Amsterdam gay icon Dolly Bellefleur are, put in the present tense, fully applicable to the participants of this year’s Istanbul Pride.
Hundreds of people joined the gay demonstration on July 1st in Istanbul, in spite of the fact that the Turkish government had banned the manifestation.
Groups of people gathered in the centre of the city, singing, dancing and waving the rainbow flag. They delivered or listened to powerful speeches demanding an improvement of GLBT rights in the country. It took about forty minutes before the police intervened and the neighbourhood was swept clean using tear gas, among other things. Human rights organisation Amnesty Turkey also reported that several people were arrested for their participation in the Pride activities.
A Pride demonstration was held in Istanbul for the first time in 2003, although from 1993 onwards there had been small gay events organized in this largest Turkish city. This 2003 Pride attracted about thirty people, but in the following years, the number of visitors rapidly increased. For several years, the Istanbul Pride was the only GLBT manifestation in an Islamic country. According to sources, in 2013 about 100,000 people participated in the Pride, also because other protest groups joined it in solidarity. The European Union even praised the Turkish authorities for allowing the parade to take place peacefully.
During the 2013 Pride, people openly kissed for the very first time. Some wore provocative clothes, while some women wore their head scarves. 2014 also saw a record in participation numbers. This must have strongly annoyed the conservative-religious forces in the country, as in 2015 the Pride was banned by the city less than one hour before the start, supposedly because it coincided with the Ramadan. The police used tear gas and water cannons in an effort to break up the parade. In 2016, the demonstration was immediately banned. The city council gave the following reason: “because provocative acts and events may take place when the sensitivities that have emerged in society are taken into account; and because it may cause a disruption in public order.”
This ban was also enforced in 2017 and 2018, although this year, the event would take place on July 1st and would therefore no longer fall in the Ramadan period.
The situation in Turkey once again makes clear that the legal assessment and the social acceptance of homosexuality do not always coincide. Homosexuality has not been in the Penal Code since the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923.
In recent years, however, public opinion has become increasingly conservative, as a result of which discrimination and violence are becoming increasingly common, also through government as well as rules and regulations.
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