Turkey blocks Pride parade 

Turkey blocks Pride parade 

Turkish police have prevented lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists from holding a parade in Istanbul as protesters attempted to defy a municipal ban.

The Istanbul authorities at the weekend said the march was being banned, citing safety and public order concerns, but Pride organisers said they would go ahead with the parade in defiance of warnings from nationalist groups.

Lara Guney Ozlen, a spokesperson for Pride week, said the police fired rubber bullets and tear gas on activists who tried to gather.

Nationalist gangs reportedly arrived in Taksim Square but the police prevented a confrontation between the two groups.

More than 40 people were detained, according to event organisers.

Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has overseen the Islamisation of the secular country since he came to power as prime minister in 2003 and then president in 2014.

Despite his conservative comments on sex and family planning, he has generally avoided commenting publicly on gay issues.

In 2010 the female, former family minister Aliye Kavaf called homosexuality a “biological disorder” and a “disease”.

Homosexuality is legal in Turkey but gay people regularly complain of harassment and abuse.

It was the third consecutive year that Pride had been banned.

It is one of the biggest LGBT events in mainly Muslim West Asia. The 2014 Gay Pride parade in Istanbul attracted tens of thousands.

In 2016, with the city in crisis after bombings blamed on Islamic State and Kurdish militants, organisers were denied permission to march.

“We are not scared, we are here, we will not change,” organisers said on Sunday. “You are scared … you will get used to it.

“We are not alone, we are not wrong, we have not given up. Governors, governments, states change and we stay. Threats, bans, pressures will not deter us … We will not give up,” the statement added.

Ozlen said: “For the last two years, the march overlapped with Ramadan. This year it does not. So, that is not an excuse either. I believe the ban is about not accepting our sexual orientation and it is a reaction to the movement getting stronger.”

Istanbul’s authorities said that organisers had not applied to march correctly, which the activists denied.

Eleven activists went on trial in Istanbul this week for defying the 2016 ban on the Pride march, but they were all acquitted.

This year, the parade coincided with the first day of Eid, marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

The Istanbul LGBT Pride Week began in 1993, ending with a march on Istiklal Street since 2003.

Istanbul Pride 2013. Picture credit: Wikimedia

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