Volunteers crowdfund this year’s Istanbul LGBTI Pride Week

Volunteers crowdfund this year’s Istanbul LGBTI Pride Week

Emrah Güler
Volunteers crowdfund this year’s Istanbul LGBTI Pride Week This year’s Istanbul LGBTI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or intersex) Pride Week, set to celebrate its 24th edition in June, is asking everyone to become part of the week-long events, at least through contributing to their Indiegogo campaign. The program for the Istanbul Pride Week includes panels, workshops, forums, screenings and an awards ceremony. The week culminates with a parade, an event that is always colorful even when faced with brutal police intervention, as was the case last year.

Istanbul Pride Week, organized by a group of independent activists and volunteers, will take place on June 20-26. While the lambdaistanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association has been the major player in the history of Pride Week, now it’s a more independent and collaborative effort. Each year, there is an open call to set the organizing committee of volunteers, where there is no hierarchical structure and where decisions are taken together.

The events throughout Istanbul Pride Week were previously shaped around specific themes like “Attention: Family!,” “Taboo,” “Memory,” “Resistance,” “Contact” and last year’s “Normal,” with the call, “We are refusing to fit the ‘normal.’ Not because of nature, nor because of any disease. We are not normal! We are not accepting it! We are neither wrong, nor are we alone. We refuse to accept the stoic norms or what is called the ‘normal.’”

Pride Week needs your support

This year’s call says: “We will search for an answer to stronger solidarity and organization of various resistance ways within forums and panels determined by the topics and agendas of the LGBTI+ movement. We will meet in these events in order to be able to touch each other, heal our wounds and create a safe space to speak of our bodies and affects.”

Istanbul Pride Week will draw attention to hate speech by high-profile homophobes and transphobes for the 12th time with the Genetically Modified Tomato Awards, determined through online votes. “We are not leaving the streets and not letting fear rule our bodies. As we stated before, we will continue our struggle until there is no oppression on our desires, bodies, labors, acts, and identities,” said the pride committee.
Istanbul Pride Week is organized without any funding and needs your support for some of the expenses, like the travel costs of participants from various organizations across Turkey and guests for panels and workshops, as well as all the visibility material much needed to splash the colors of the rainbow across Istanbul. Visit the campaign page to support here.

A brief history of Istanbul Pride Parade

The very first Pride Week goes back to 1993 when the organization of the events would eventually open the way for the establishment of lambdaistanbul, one of the leading LGBTI organizations in Turkey. A group of LGBTI people, that would be the backbone of lambdaistanbul, wanted to organize a Pride Parade in 1993. 
It was to be a three-day event with meetings and panels under the title “Sexual Freedom Events” with the Pride Parade scheduled as the final event. However, the Istanbul Governor’s Office didn’t give permission on grounds that the events would “violate our traditions and customs and the values of our society.”

The night before the scheduled parade, the police broke down and raided the activists’ and volunteers’ homes, blockading İstiklal Avenue on the day of the parade. Those around the area suspected of being gay were detained, while foreign participants were deported.

It wasn’t until a decade later when Istanbul Pride Week would close with a parade for its tenth anniversary. The first pride parade took place on İstiklal Avenue with the participation of not more than 30 people, then a marginalized minority. But the number increased exponentially each year, now with around 5,000 people from various cities across Turkey gathering and marching against homophobia and transphobia.