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In Turkey, Pride Picnic draws police violence

Screenshot taken from the video about a Pride march held in the Turkish city of Izmir in 2014. The video is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXSOMgTR7Qk

Turkish police, violently dispersed a group of people, celebrating Pride week at Maçka Park, one of the city's remaining green spaces in the district of Şişli on June 22. Police intervention began reportedly after the Şişli Governor's Office issued a statement, banning the picnic because it could result in “public disorder.”

The Istanbul Pride Week Committee tweeted that as a result, one person was detained and several were battered during the police intervention.

Award-winning Turkish-British novelist Elif Şafak also shared the images in the following tweet:

Sharing a piece of bread together, humming a song, a pinch of friendship and solidarity, knowing that you are not alone in this world… but this system is hostile to everything beautiful. Police, who treats nicely the murderers of women nicely, what did you want from the innocent young people having a peaceful picnic?

According to reporting by Gazete Duvar, an online news platform, the picnic was originally planned at Istanbul's Heybeliada (one of the Princes’ Islands off the coast of Istanbul) but was then banned by the police directorate of the Princes’ Islands.

Police intervention was criticized under the hashtag #PiknikYasaklanamaz [A picnic cannot be banned].

Journalists, activists, and other members of the public flooded Twitter with images and videos of the police intervention. One detailed thread was shared by citizen journalism platform Dokuz8Haber:

The crowd that organized the Pride Week picnic in Maçka Park was blockaded by the police.

A member of Boğaziçi University's LGBTI+ community, was left with a broken arm as a result.

Our friend's arm was broken. The perpetrators are known.

Similarly, the Istanbul branch of the Progressive Lawyers’ Association (ÇHD) reported several of its members had been beaten:

Citing the illegal ban decision of the Istanbul Governor's Office, the police attacked the pride picnic in Maçka Park with dogs. 1 person was detained, many of our colleagues and many LGBTI+ were beaten and tortured. Waiting continues in Maçka park. The police are committing a hate crime!

The Şişli Governor's Office also informed the Istanbul Pride Week Committee that all of the activities planned for the week will be banned for the next 30 days, reported another local paper Evrensel.

This is not the first time, Pride events have been banned for public safety and disorder. In 2015, Turkish police fired tear gas and water cannons at Pride march participants. In 2016, the march was banned in Istanbul citing “safeguarding security and public order” as the main reason. In 2017, in the capital Ankara, the government imposed an indefinite, blanket ban on Pride events, relying on its “state of emergency” powers vested in the government following a military coup in 2016. Similarly, in Istanbul, the Pride parade was banned due to security concerns the same year. The event was yet again banned in 2018 on security grounds even though many defied the ban by marching in Istanbul before police intervened, using tear gas canisters and water cannons.  In 2019, police intervened as crowds celebrated Istanbul's 17th pride march. Last year, the march was canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The last authorized march took place in 2014.

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