Istanbul Pride March 2013 under threat of government suppression

By Cathy Kristofferson, May 29, 2013

Istanbul LGBT pride parade in 2011, Taksim Square, Istanbul.

Istanbul LGBT pride parade in 2011, Taksim Square, Istanbul.

The Istanbul Pride March of 2013 is under threat of suppression by the Turkish Government security forces. Istanbul Pride,which has been occurring annually since 2003,is a week of events capped off by the Pride March.  From the 30 who marched the first year it has grown to tens of thousands last year making it the biggest march of its kind in Eastern Europe.

Turkish society’s attitude towards LGBTs is barely ‘tolerance’.  Homosexuality has never been criminalized in Turkey but in 2012 a survey found that one-third of Turkish people asked felt it should be and that LGBTs should receive the harshest punishment available.  Civil rights laws for employment, education, housing, health care, public accommodations and credit in Turkey do not include sexual orientation or gender identity and there is no legal recognition for same-sex couples.

In April, the 2013 Pride Committee’s website proclaimed:

Theme of Istanbul Pride Week is “RESISTANCE”:

onurhLesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans movement has reached its 21st year in Turkey. During the past twenty years, while the movement lived through conflicts, divergences, disputes both in itself and with other social movements, it also endeavoured to build solitarity networks, form alliances and reach the masses. 

Last year, twenty thousand of us occupied the streets together for the Istanbul Pride walk.

Now is seems governmental suppression is putting the Pride March is at risk.

Seeking international solidarity and help, Istanbul’s Pride Committee has released the following:

Dear All

We, as the Istanbul LGBT Pride Committee are writing this letter in order to inform you about the latest difficulties we are facing by organizing the Istanbul LGBT Pride March,the biggest LGBT pride march in the Middle East and Balkan regions and to invite you to support us and walk with us.

Istanbul LGBT Pride activities in Istanbul are organized since 2003 and celebrated on the streets since 10 years with growing numbers. However the latest political developments have raised crucial concerns for both the organizers and the LGBT community in Turkey.

Taksim Square and Istiklal Street, both are under construction for renovation and pedestrianisation, have been closed down to any politic and dissident protests as well as human rights demonstrations after May 1, 2013. Activists and demonstrators are subjected to extreme use of force by the police. The use of tear gas, water cannon and physical violence by the police to disperse demonstrators also affected citizens on Istiklal Street and Taksim Square. Without any consideration of daily activities of these citizens, the police use tear gas, water cannon, and physical violence to any group after May 1, 2013.

Personal Rights and Obligations of the Turkish Constitution states that everyone has right to organize unarmed and nonviolent meetings and protest marches without obtaining prior permission (Article 34), and everyone has right to express and disseminate his or her thought and opinion by speech, in writing or in pictures or through other media, individually or collectively (Article 26). Governorship, representative authority of government in province, severely violates the freedom of speech and right to protest. To this day large number of people have affected by tear gas and violence by the police during the protest marches and demonstrations.

After the use of severe violence by the police, construction and renovation in the area used as an excuse to prevent protest marching and to justify the access prevented toTaksim Square on May 1, 2013. In addition to that all local public transportation services were cancelled by thegovernorship. People were prevented to access meeting points for protest marching and people who gathered together were subjected to violence by the police. However, the same governorship and government allowed celebrations after the soccer games at the same place even though it was still under construction. This is a violation of the right to oppose and offering an opposition is very essential to democracy.

Increased conservatism, police swoops to houses and movie theaters against LGBT individuals, reluctance of the policeto the violence against transgender women, and homophobic and transfobic expressions by members of governing party in the Turkish National Assembly present serious threats to the LGBT individuals and their personal and social rights. Under these circumstances LGBT Pride Week and Pride Parade that will be held in Turkey 21.times this year faces an issue of violence and provocation. Last year twenty thousand LGBT individuals attended the Parade and the information obtained from governorship indicates that this year LGBT Pride Parade will be obstructed. The right to organize unarmed and nonviolent meetings and protest marches without obtaining prior permission will be violated unlawfully.

Under the circumstances, we would like to walk with thousand people again on Taksim Square 21. times this year to defend the rights of LGBT individuals and to express and raise our voicebeing ignored by the Turkish National Law. We would like to say, “ We are here and we want to live” and we would like to walk again to say “ LGBT rights are human rights.” We value and care about international support in order to make this Pride Week and Parade come true in a peaceful, enthusiastic atmosphere, and not to face police violence.

We hope that you would walk with us throughout Istiklal Street on June 30, 2013 Sunday at 17:00 to show your support to LGBT individuals in Turkey and you would honor our Parade to contribute our campaign for human rights.

 With Solidarity,

 21. LGBT Pride Week Committee

We will publish updates on the situation in Istanbul here on OBLOGDEE as they become available.

Related articles:-

  • Turkey’s ruling party says LGBTs ‘immoral’ (

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5 Comments on “Istanbul Pride March 2013 under threat of government suppression”

  1. paulakey245562841 June 1, 2013 at 9:17 PM #

    TURKEY is a secular state…..what is happening NOW?


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