Istanbul’s Gay Pride Parade Broken Up by Police

Turkish police fired water cannon and rubber pellets to disperse a crowd gathered in central Istanbul for the city’s annual gay pride parade.

Photo by Kemal Aslan/Reuters

Over the weekend, thousands of jubilant marchers poured onto the streets of many major cities, including San Francisco, New York, and London, to celebrate pride month and the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent legalization of same-sex marriage throughout the United States. Things were considerably less joyous at the annual pride parade in Turkey’s most populous city, which was cut short when the police used aggressive force to break up the gathering.

As Quartz reports, “For more than a decade, the Turkish city of Istanbul has held one of the most visible gay-pride events in the Muslim world.” This year, the government denied permission to the organizers since the parade coincided with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

While the police claimed to have use proportional force, they fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons to disperse participants. This episode is the latest in a series of alleged incidents of police brutality under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and is reminiscent of the 2013 Gezi Park protests. Amnesty International accused Turkey of committing human rights violations in their brutal treatment of the Gezi protestors.

Unlike in some other Muslim countries, homosexuality is legal in Turkey. However, homophobia is a harsh reality for many LGBTQ residents and blatantly present in the statements of the country’s leader: President Erdogan recently railed against members of the LGBTQ community, calling them “representatives of sedition.” As Kyle Knight of Human Rights Watch reports:

LGBT issues were a lightning rod during the June 2015 election, with 57 parliamentary candidates signing a pre-election pledge supporting LGBT rights. However, President Erdogan also accused an opposition party that nominated an openly gay candidate of “pandering,” and some members of the ruling Justice and Development Party contended that homosexuality cannot be reconciled with Islam.

This weekend’s recent crackdown is a disturbing shift away from years of peaceful parades and a cause for concern when it comes to the rights of Turkey’s LGBTQ citizens.