Istanbul Pride: London rally against police attack

LGBTI campaigners and allies rallied on 10 July outside the Turkish embassy in London, to protest against the last minute banning of Istanbul Pride, the violent police assaults on the marchers and escalating hate crimes against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) communities in Turkey.

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Peter Tatchell Foundation
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The protesters chanted: “2-4-6-8 AKP stop the hate. 3-5-7-9 Gay Pride is not a crime”

Istanbul LGBTI Pride on 28 June was violently repressed by police firing tear gas, water cannon and rubber pellets at the marchers, which hospitalised 75 people. The police cited the holy month of Ramadan as an excuse. However, last year, Istanbul Pride also took place during Ramadan without any problems.

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The Istanbul Pride Committee accused the Turkish authorities of “deliberate injury, tormenting physical violence, abuse of duty, violating freedom of expression, using disproportionate force, opposing freedom and enforcing illegal orders.” It demanded the police be prosecuted and put “on trial.”

“Since the Istanbul Pride assaults, the anti-LGBTI atmosphere has intensified, with Islamist posters calling for the killing of LGBTIs, the queer-bashing of three young gay men, cyber attacks on LGBTI websites and the rape and robbery of Kemal Ördek of the Red Umbrella Sexual Health & Human Rights Association. The police refused to take the assault seriously, colluded with the rapists and allowed them to walk free,” said Pliny Soocoormanee from the Peter Tatchell Foundation, who attended and spoke at the rally.

Peter Tatchell Foundation
Photo by Peter Tatchell Foundation

Background information from the Turkish LGBTI group, KaosGL :
www.kaosgl.com/page.php?id=19793 and www.kaosgl.com/page.php?id=19820

The London protesters were supporting the demands of the Istanbul Pride Committee:

  • The Turkish authorities, especially the Governor of Istanbul and the police forces, should launch prompt, independent and impartial investigations into the use of force by police and commit to ensuring that future Pride marches can take place.
  • LGBTI activists and other Pride participants should be able to exercise their right to freedom of peaceful assembly.
  • The Turkish authorities must guarantee the safety of the Pride participants
  • Turkish authorities must respect and protect the rights of all people in Turkey, including LGBTI people, without discrimination, including the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly.
Speakers at last Friday’s London rally included Ceylan Begüm Yıldız LGBTI activist representing Istanbul Pride, Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, Oktay Sahbaz of DayMer, Geoff Dexter from LGBT+ Against Islamophobia, Kemal Süt of Nar, Gethin Roberts & Nicola Field from Lesbians & Gays Support the Miners and Pliny Soocoormanee from the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

Ceylan Begüm Yıldız said:

“The AKP (the governing Islamic party in Turkey) is trying to transform this into a question about religious belief, but in the process they are deliberately ignoring LGBTI Muslims. They are trying to create a false dichotomy between Islam and LGBTI people in order to claw back their conservative voters. We stand by the principle that being Muslim and LGBTI are not mutually exclusive.”

A message of solidarity from Peter Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, was read at the demo:

“The courage of Turkish LGBTI campaigners is awesome. The repression by the Turkish State is shameful. It will not prevail because the power of love and freedom is greater, in the end, than the power of hate and tyranny. Queer freedom has no borders. We will, eventually, make homophobia, biphobia and transphobia history – in Turkey and everywhere.”

Below is a joint statement from the organisers and supporters of the London protest.

DAY-MER Turkish and Kurdish Community Centre
LGBTQIA Against Islamophobia
LGSM – Lesbians and Gay Men Support the Miners
Nar UK (Cypriot, Turkish, Kurdish Community LGBTQ Network)
Peter Tatchell Foundation
Turkish Kurdish Cypriot LGBTI Community in London

On June 28, the Istanbul LGBTI Pride Parade was attacked by the Turkish state. Riot police bombarded the crowd with teargas and rubber bullets, and deployed their water cannons. But this did not drive LGBTI people off the streets of Istanbul. Instead, our brothers and sisters resisted the police attack and celebrated their march under the fog of tear gas. Although the authorities knew that the parade was going to take place, not a single official warning was received by the Pride Committee from the governor of Istanbul or the police. The governor and the police decided, illegally, to ban the parade at the last minute when thousands of people had already gathered for it. The police terrorised this peaceful gathering, using the holy month Ramadan as an excuse. However, last year, Istanbul Pride also took place during Ramadan without any problems whatsoever.

After losing so many votes in the last election, the AKP government is using violent force and the politics of hate to try and regain its supporters. The attacks on LGBTI people are directly connected to the attempts to provoke the Kurdish people and the continuous threats made against Rojava. This is a dangerous strategy. In the elections in June, the AKP’s campaign material proudly mentioned that the LGBTI parade had taken place in the middle of the holy month of Ramadan in order to counter criticisms that Turkey has been getting more and more conservative under AKP rule. We would like to ask to AKP officials and representatives what changed within less than a month. We are warning AKP representatives and its supporting media to be aware of the consequences of such a targeted campaign of hate speech and that they are engaging in hate crime. Their targeted campaign of hate speech has already started to affect the streets. Just a week after the attack on Pride, three young gay men in Istanbul were physically attacked, and taunted with the words “faggots, nonbelievers can’t come here.” Police came late to the scene of crime and prolonged the process of taking statements. The hospital delayed treatment on the excuse that they didn’t have the right kind of quite basic scanning equipment.

The AKP is trying to transform this into a question about religious belief, but in the process they are deliberately ignoring LGBTI Muslims. They are trying to by create a false dichotomy between Islam and LGBTI people in order to claw back their conservative voters. We stand by that principle that being Muslim and LGBTI are not mutually exclusive. We know that this attack is not about Islam. It is about hate speech and hate crime. We reject this illusionary dichotomy and refuse to discuss the matter from this perspective.

After the attack when more than 75 people made official injury reports while in hospital. The Pride Committee itself has also filed a complaint against the Secretary of State for Home Affairs, Sebahattin Öztürk, against Governor of Istanbul, Vasip Şahin and against the Istanbul Police Commissioner, Selami Altınok, on the grounds of having enforced illegal orders. In their own statement in front of the Court house, the Pride Committee demanded that “whoever is responsible for deliberate injury, tormenting, physical violence, abuse of duty, violating freedom of expression, using disproportionate force, opposing freedom and enforcing illegal orders ought be on trial.”

We, the Turkish, Kurdish and Cypriot LGBTI community, and our friends and supporters in London, together with trade unions, condemn the brutal attack on the Pride Parade. We stand in solidarity with the LGBTI movement in Turkey and condemn the police attack, and the hate speech of governmental officials. We raise the Pride Committee’s demand in London to the Turkish Government Representatives. We call for trade unions, and the British government to condemn the attacks and make a public statement. We also call all LGBTI movements to everywhere to stand in solidarity with Istanbul Pride and to be more aware of police and military violence. We take the opportunity to remember that Stonewall was a riot against systematic police harassment, violence and repression.

We are here, get used to it!

Photo by Peter Tatchell Foundation
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