If you are a tourist or Turkish and happen to be gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual planning to visit Istanbul Turkey you may think twice. Istanbul used to be a great city for any visitor to have a great time and a cultural and culinary experience.
Next time you may get beaten or shot with rubber bullets. The power and the voice of tourism as reported by eTN yesterday doesn’t seem to make a difference anymore when dealing with a government run by a dictator Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
On Sunday streets in Istanbul were filled with people, smiling faces, showing rainbow flags and shouting: “Don’t be quiet, don’t shut up, shout, homosexuals exist,”
Istanbul Police in riot gear, waiting to step in – and they did. Police fired teargas along the city’s most famous commercial street. The police also fired rubber bullets, and arresting at least 11 protesters.
In a press statement, Pride organizers said, “We LGBTI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex) are here with our pride despite all vain attempts to prevent us and we do not recognize this ban.”
Istanbul’s annual pride march was once considered a shining example of tolerance for the LGBTI community in the Muslim world.
Beginning in 2015, he and his Islamist-rooted political party began cracking down on the march, dismaying civil rights activists as well as LGBT advocates.
At first, Istanbul banned the march over what it described as security worries amid a spate of large-scale terrorist attacks that struck the city. Then it cited the march’s coincidence with the Holy month of Ramadan.
This year, the march fell well after Ramadan, yet authorities continued the ban, informing organizers mid-week that they had no permission to march over what was described as public “sensitivities.”
Police sought to avert confrontations by allowing a small protest along the street that included a speech. But the numbers continued to swell, as groups of mostly young protesters came streaming in, defying the armed, black-clad cops looming along Istiklal and the narrow side streets.
Then came the pop-pop of teargas canisters shot at the crowd. Protesters, along with passersby, began to run attempting to stay together while the police tried to herd them into separate smaller streets.
Police followed protesters, menacing them with threats, while occasionally grabbing demonstrators, pulling them into awaiting vans, or hitting them if they resisted.
As the evening wore on, police fanned out along Istiklal, blocking entrances to both the avenue and the side streets. They appeared to be stopping anyone wearing bright colors, carrying a rainbow, or sporting an asymmetrical haircut.
Organizers called march this year a success, despite the crackdown. Tulya Bekisoglu, a 20-year-old member of the Pride Committee and an artist, said more people attended this year than last year.