LGBTI people in Türkiye are facing a brazen and deepening crackdown this Pride season, Amnesty International said today, on the eve of Istanbul Pride and Izmir Pride marches, which are due to go ahead on Sunday despite expected attempts to ban them.
Discriminatory language by politicians, including high-ranking government officials, targeting LGBTI people both before and after Türkiye’s recent elections has been accompanied by restrictions and detentions across the country as Pride Month hits its stride.
“As thousands take to the streets of Istanbul and Izmir in defiance, they risk facing tear gas and rubber bullets. The authorities should allow LGBTI Pride Marches in Türkiye to go ahead safely and without interference,” said Nils Muižnieks, Amnesty International’s Europe Director.
“By ramping up anti-LGBTI rhetoric, the government has helped whip up prejudice, emboldening anti-LGBTI groups in Türkiye, some of which have called for violence against LGBTI communities. Under the pretext of protecting family values, the authorities are denying LGBTI people the right to live freely.”
Since 2015, Pride events have been systematically banned in Türkiye. This Pride season, even small events such as picnics and film screenings have been cracked down upon by the authorities.
While an official ban has not yet been issued for Istanbul Pride or Izmir Pride, organizers are expecting them to be issued, or for the marches to be prevented. Even without an official ban, such peaceful activities have previously been stopped on the pretext of protecting public order, with the authorities conducting arbitrary arrests.
On 18 June, Istanbul’s Trans Pride was blocked by police. When people did try to march, 10 people were detained by the police, who resorted to the use of excessive force while detaining them.
Recent weeks have seen at least 27 LGBTI activists detained across the country. On 9 June, 15 students at the Middle East Technical University were detained after peacefully marching, breaching an ongoing de facto ban on all LGBTI events in Ankara.
In a pre-election speech, President Erdoğan stated that “LGBTI is a poison injected into the institution of the family. It is not possible for us to accept that poison.” In his victory speech, he said: “No one can speak against the family”.
At the beginning of the year, the government proposed amendments to the Turkish Constitution to redefine ‘family’ as “the joining of a man with a woman”, which exacerbated hostility towards LGBTI people. LGBTI rights activists also fear the amendment puts the country on a slippery slope towards criminalization of same-sex relationships and bans on LGBTI organizations.
“The crackdown on Pride events has nothing to do with security or public order concerns and everything to do with an increasingly anti-LGBTI agenda,” said Nils Muižnieks.
“Despite the restrictions and ever-shrinking space for LGBTI people in Türkiye, Pride events will take place despite the potential for state harassment and intimidation. Around the world, we offer them our solidarity.”
Istanbul and Izmir Pride marches will take place on 25 June. An Amnesty International team will be there to observe them.
Amnesty International has launched a global ‘Protect the Protest’ campaign to show solidarity with Pride in Turkey.
Istanbul Pride has been celebrated since 2003, yet it has been unlawfully and arbitrarily banned by the authorities since 2015, in violation of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression. Peaceful marchers have been subjected to unlawful use of force by the police and arbitrary detention.
LGBTI activists in different cities across the country in Mersin, Adana, Ankara and Eskisehir plan to go ahead with Pride events despite bans and restrictions.