Seven detained during Trans Pride protest in Istanbul’s Taksim

Seven detained during Trans Pride protest in Istanbul’s Taksim

ISTANBUL - The Associated Press
Seven detained during Trans Pride protest in Istanbul’s Taksim

AFP photo

Istanbul police detained seven people on July 2 when a group of transgender rights activists attempted to march to the city’s famous Taksim Square carrying rainbow flags, despite an official ban on the event. 

The rights group Istanbul LGBTI, host of the 8th Trans Pride March, had said on social media it would not recognize the governor’s ban. Activists gathered in Harbiye district and issued a live statement on Facebook saying: “We are trans, we are here, get used to it, we are not leaving.”

The organization tweeted “all roads lead to Taksim,” using the hashtag “GameOfTrans,” but police prevented them from reaching Taksim Square. A water cannon sent to the area was not used on the activists.

The Istanbul Governor’s Office banned the march late on July 1 for the second year in a row. It said “marginal groups” on social media had called for the march and it was being banned to preserve public order and to keep participants and tourists safe.

“Very serious reactions have been raised by different segments of society,” it also said, in reference to threats by conservative and ultranationalist groups made against trans and LGBT marches.

Istanbul police announced on July 2 they would close multiple roads to traffic at noon as part of its security measures. Large numbers of plainclothes and riot police officers were stationed around Taksim.

The U.S. Consulate in Istanbul issued a security message on June 30 informing its citizens of possible “heavy police presence and counter demonstrations” and asking them to exercise caution. The message also said participation in illegal gatherings could lead to detention or arrest under a state of emergency imposed after last summer’s failed coup attempt.

Turkey does not criminalize transsexuality, but its civil code requires court permission and forced sterilization for transgender men and women to undergo gender reassignment.

Rights activists say transgender individuals face rampant discrimination and hate crimes in Turkey, and want to march for visibility and acceptance. In 2016, Transgender Europe said Turkey has the highest number of trans murders in Europe. The murder of 23-year-old Hande Kader caused an outcry in Istanbul and the global LGBT movement last summer.

The Turkish government says there is no discrimination against LGBT individuals and that current laws already protect each citizen. It also insists that perpetrators of hate crimes are prosecuted.

The week before the Trans Pride march, the governor’s office also banned a major march for LGBT rights for the third year. Police set up checkpoints to prevent participants from gathering and used tear gas and plastic bullets to disperse crowds. Forty-one people were detained, among them activists and counterdemonstrators.