Last weekend, Turkish police fired rubber bullets, utilised water cannons, and released tear gas to disperse peaceful marchers gathered for a trans pride parade in the central Istanbul neighbourhood of Taksim. Authorities also rejected parade permits for a general LGBTQ pride celebration that is still scheduled for June 26th in Istanbul. Police cited concerns over safety and difficulty in ensuring the protection of marchers. Since 2003, Istanbul Pride has been held largely without incident until police utilised similar violent tactics last year against those in attendance.
“These actions pose a serious threat to the rights and safety of Turkey’s LGBTQ community, which has been doing incredible work in recent years,” said Ty Cobb, Director of HRC Global. “Turkey’s government should protect peaceful parade participants from violence, not attack them under the guise of ‘public safety.’ The LGBTQ community in Turkey should know that U.S. and international human rights organizations stand with them against efforts to persecute or harm them.”
The twelve human and equal rights organisations released the following statement in response to the Turkish government’s actions:
As organisations focused on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people around the world, we are deeply concerned about recent crackdowns on LGBT pride parades in Istanbul and call upon the Turkish authorities to permit and protect those gathered for the LGBT Pride parade scheduled for Sunday June 26, 2016.
While Istanbul once had the distinction of hosting one of the few permitted Pride parades in the Muslim world, we have seen LGBT gatherings in Istanbul crushed with brutal force in recent years, including police use of tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets to disperse participants. This is entirely unacceptable and is part of a broader trend rolling back freedoms of expression overall in Turkish society.
While there have been threats made by ultranationalist groups against the parades, and while those threats do present a significant security concern, it is crucial that the authorities protect the people celebrating Pride, rather than disperse them.
In light of the recent killing of 49 LGBT people and allies in Orlando, Florida, we express our solidarity with all organizations supporting the rights of LGBT people, along with organizations promoting fundamental democratic freedoms of speech, assembly and association in Turkey and convey our hope that Turkish authorities will act to protect the rights and safety of the participants in the upcoming Pride parade this Sunday in the face of any threats.
The statement was signed by the Human Rights Campaign, Council for Global Equality, Human Rights First, the Anti-Defamation League, GLAAD, Global Justice Institute (Metropolitan Community Churches), Immigration Equality, MSMGF (The Global Forum on MSM & HIV), the National Center for Lesbian Rights, PFLAG National, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights.