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Activists met with tear gas, rubber bullets in Istanbul Pride parade

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Police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse a crowd of gay rights groups and activists who had pressed ahead with the Istanbul Pride parade on Sunday despite Turkish authorities banning the event for the fourth year in a row, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

Around 1,000 people gathered near the city’s famous Istiklal Avenue and Taksim Square, where organizers had originally wanted to hold the parade, and unfurled a large rainbow flag while a press statement was read out amid heavy security in the area.

The police warned the activists to disperse and used rubber bullets against some who tried to access Istiklal Avenue.

Amnesty International Turkey said later on Twitter that 11 people had been detained, calling on police to “immediately” release them. The human rights group also said tear gas had been used against some activists.

The Istanbul Governor’s Office told the organizers that officials “could not take steps to secure their safety and did not find it appropriate for the Pride Walk to take place,” according to a statement from Istanbul LGBT+ Pride Week on Facebook late on Friday.

No public statement was issued after the event.

“The governor cited the excuse of security in its decision to ban the march and in one word, this is comical. Our marches went on peacefully without being banned for 13 years,” the organizers said in a press statement on Facebook hours before the march.

“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,” they added.

“People are not afraid, shopkeepers are not afraid. However, the governor’s office is afraid, the police are afraid. They think they can restrain freedom with the barricades they set up and with tear gas,” one activist at the march told AFP.

The annual rally is the most important LGBT event in a Muslim country in the region.

The Ankara Governor’s Office on Thursday banned a screening of the 2014 film “Pride” organized by the Communist LGBT group, saying such events could “incite hatred and enmity.”

The governor’s office added that there could be “danger to public safety.”

The office in November issued a ban on LGBT events, but gay rights groups said they would take legal action against the order.

Although homosexuality is legal in Turkey, LGBT individuals frequently cite abuse and harassment.

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