Turkish police on Sunday broke up a banned Pride march in İstanbul, detaining more than 300 demonstrators, Agence France-Presse reported, citing organizers.
The governor’s office had forbidden the march around Taksim Square in the heart of İstanbul, but protesters gathered nearby under heavy police presence earlier than scheduled.
Police detained protesters, loading them on to buses. AFP journalists saw four busloads of detained people.
Organizers tweeted that more than 300 Pride participants and LGBTQ activists had been detained and that police had refused detainees access to their lawyers.
Although more than a dozen of them were released later in the day, many were still in police custody at 2000 GMT.
AFP’s chief photographer Bülent Kılıç, who was taken away handcuffed from the back, was released later on Sunday after presenting a statement to the police, his lawyer said.
Hundreds of protesters carrying rainbow flags had pressed ahead with the rally in defiance of police.
“The future is queer,” they chanted. “We are here. We are queer. We are not going anywhere.”
Kaos GL Association, which campaigns to promote the human rights of LGBTQ people against discrimination, said on Twitter that police had detained 12 other people in the western city of İzmir and that one of them was later released.
Police prevented the press from filming the İstanbul arrests, according to AFP journalists.
‘We are banned’
“All those detained solely for their participation in Pride must be released immediately and unconditionally,” Milena Büyüm of Amnesty International said.
Diren, a 22-year-old university student, condemned the hate crimes targeting LGBTQ people.
“We are banned, prevented, discriminated and even killed at every second of our lives. Today, it’s a very special day for us to defend our rights and to say that we do exist,” Diren told AFP.
“Police violence is aimed to stop us but it is not possible. You will be unable to stop the queers.”
Erol Önderoğlu of media rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) denounced the arrest of photographer Kılıç on Twitter.
“The police seem to have made it a habit” of detaining him, he wrote, recalling that journalists’ organizations had protested what they said was Kılıç’s violent detention last year.
On Friday, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, had urged Turkish authorities to let the demonstration go ahead and to ensure the safety of the marchers.
“The human rights of LGBTI people in Turkey need to be effectively protected,” she said in a statement.
Although homosexuality has been legal throughout the period of the modern Turkish republic, LGBTQ individuals say there is regular harassment and abuse.
İstanbul Pride had taken place every year since 2003.
The last march to go ahead without a ban was in 2014 and drew tens of thousands of participants in one of the biggest LGBTQ events in the majority Muslim region.
After 2014, the march was banned each year, officially for security reasons.
In 2020, streaming giant Netflix cancelled the production of a series in Turkey featuring a gay character after failing to obtain government permission for filming.
The same year, French sports brand Decathlon faced boycott calls in Turkey for posting messages of support for LGBTQ people.