Istanbul governor defends crackdown on gay pride march

Istanbul governor defends crackdown on gay pride march

Istanbul governor defends crackdown on gay pride march

Turkish police use a water canon to disperse participants of a Gay Pride event in support of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (LGBT) rights in Istanbul, Turkey, Sunday, June 28, 2015. AP photo

The Istanbul Governor’s Office has defended its ban on the LGBTI pride march in Istanbul, amid reactions from the international community against the brutal police crackdown on marchers June 28.

The governorate banned the parade at the eleventh hour on the day of the planned march, despite the fact the event has taken place peacefully in Istanbul since 2003. 

Police dispersed parade participants around the central Taksim Square using tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets before the scheduled start of the event at 5:00 p.m.

“The Governor’s Office was not informed and no permission was taken for the parade, which was open to provocations. The group was warned but they continued to march. So the security forces dispersed them with their duties given by the law with proportional [force],” said a statement issued by the Istanbul Governor’s Office on June 29.

The Istanbul LGBTI Pride Week Committee, a group that has organized events throughout the week, said the march had “suddenly been banned by the Istanbul Governor’s Office, using the month of Ramadan as the reason,” despite the fact that it also coincided with Ramadan in 2014. 

The crackdown has sparked an international outcry. Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks condemned “the violence exerted by the police” and called on the Turkish authorities to take measures to punish those responsible. 

“I am shocked and very disappointed by the police crackdown on participants of Istanbul Pride. The police should protect demonstrators, not attack them,” said Muizniek in a Facebook post. 

“The right to peaceful assembly is a fundamental human right that Turkey must better protect. I call on the authorities to identify those responsible for this violence and punish them. They should also send an unequivocal message that the right to peaceful assembly, including of LGBTI persons, will be upheld in the future,” he added.

Turkey’s first pride parade in 2003 was attended by a modest 30 participants. 

The number had grown to well over 50,000 in 2013, the same year as the nationwide Gezi Park demonstrations, making Istanbul’s pride march the largest in southeastern Europe and the Middle East, according to daily Hürriyet.