Pride in Turkey

History and news on LGBTI and Trans Prides in Turkey

A Review of Pride Across Turkey: Defiance and Resilience

The horizon looks bright in some regions of Turkey for future LGBTI+ Pride weeks and marches. New opportunities have emerged for Turkish LGBTI+ rights associations and activists to gain concessions from the police and the judiciary. This year’s pride events highlighted the strength, capacity and resilience of rights defenders, even in a hostile political environment. 

LGBTI+ Pride weeks took place across Turkey, despite state repression and bans on public gatherings. From Istanbul to Mersin, LGBTI+ rights organisations and individual activists marked Pride across the country with defiance in celebration of their identities. Chants echoed across the country with the cries, “we are here, we are queer” and “where are you my love? / I am here my love”.

In many cities across Turkey activists and lawyers were able to win concessions from the police and judiciary making some of this year’s pride events the largest in years. However, in Gaziantep, a city in southeastern Turkey, no improvements were seen in recent years for LGBTI+ rights activists and the situation has even deteriorated since the official lifting of the State of Emergency.

In this article we will look at many of the Pride celebrations across Turkey, reporting the challenges as well as the successes of this year. Looking at the accomplishments of activists can open up new opportunities for Prides in the future. 

Istanbul

The theme of this year’s Pride, EKONOMİ NE AYOL? (‘Economy? What’s that?’), focused on rising inflation in Turkey and the vulnerable position of LGBTI+ individuals in an economic crisis.

Between June 24-30 art exhibitions, picnics, film screenings, workshops and parties took place in 29 venues across the city. The variety of events set an inclusive atmosphere for people of all identities, with an emphasis on inclusion and peace building. 

Early in the week Istanbul Pride Week Committee met with the Governor, who declined their request to hold Pride Walk in Taksim and stated that the LGBTI+ community was regarded as a “socially dubious group”. The Governor also declined a petition to have the Pride march celebrated in Bakırköy, another part of the city designated for demonstrations but less politically symbolic than Taksim.

On Sunday, June 30 without state permission, people were to meet in Taksim for the Pride Walk. Heavy police presence around Taksim and along Istiklal Avenue prevented people meeting on Taksim Square. However, the police consented to negotiate with some of the organisers, allowing the Pride to take place until 17:30 on Mis Sokak, a street near Taksim famous for its LGBTI+ friendly bars. A press statement was read there to sounds of hundreds of people cheering. One quote from the press statement was,

“We do not give up our lives, our solidarity, nor our organized struggle! We are here, get used to it, we are not going.”

At almost exactly 17:30 the police marched down Mis Sokak spraying the few people who remained with tear gas, rubber bullets and chasing them with dogs. A bar on Mis Sokak where people were continuing to celebrate was also sprayed with tear gas. Before the police attack, people were able to meet in security for over an hour. The police did not use water cannons as they had in previous years and some people taking part in the celebrations described the police as more restrained than in previous years. 

As the Pride march was chased from Mis Sokak activists kept meeting in various neighborhoods of the central district of Beyoğlu, reading press statements and celebrating before eventually being dispersed again by the police. The defiance of the continual celebrations was in line with  the message of Pride: we are here, we are everywhere.

Metehan Ozkan from LISTAG, an association which works with the parents of LGBTI+ individuals described this year’s Pride: “We had parents from Ankara, Izmir and Antalya parents groups, we had new members who had a chance to experience Pride for the first time with their children. Though the Pride was ‘limited’ it was very emotional for them.”

Mustafa Sarıyılmaz from SPoD, an Istanbul-based association focusing on social and psychological support for LGBTI+ individuals, said:

“Police was less brutal than last year. I might easily comment that what we had this year was a small gathering that we all missed and longed for a very long time. And, we now have our hope that we might be able to have our parade back in two year’s time. Because, these are all the signs that the movement in Turkey is getting stronger day by day. We have developed a huge solidarity between us now, which wasn’t the case before.”

That night two parties closed the Istanbul Pride, one was put on by Gzone Mag magazine involving trans and drag performers, the other event was hosted by local LGBTI+ DJs. 

During the Istanbul Pride, six people were detained by police.

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Ankara

An indefinite blanket ban against all LGBTI+ events was declared in the capital Ankara under the state of emergency on November 2017. Kaos GL made an appeal which the 12th Administrative Court used to re-examine the ban and ruled that the city governor did not have the legal power to issue bans of that kind. Although the ban was officially lifted, in practice it continued to be in effect.

On May 10, students at the Middle Eastern Technical University staged a Pride celebration despite the rectorate forbidding it. The celebrations were also dispersed by the police using tear gas and rubber bullets. Twenty-five people were detained including an academic working at the university. In reaction students released a press statement calling for “a ban on the bans”. A party was also held afterwards by the students involving drag performances, with the names of those arrested read aloud and applauded.

Some of these arrested students have subsequently had their student loans and assistance revoked on the recommendation of the Security Directorate to the Credits and Dorms Authority. 

Izmir

The 7th İzmir Pride Week planned for June 17-23 was banned on June 14 by the Governorship of Izmir. However, an appeal by the association Genç LGBTİ+ (LGBTI+ Youth) repealed the ban allowing many of the planned events to take place. In the decision to prevent a ban on some of the Pride activities, one judge voted in favor of enforcing the ban and two votes were for the bans repeal. One of those two votes repealing the ban, commented that this decision should be applied to all Pride activities in İzmir.

However, the ban was not fully lifted for the Pride march nor for two events entitled “Bondage Workshop” and “Sex Toy Workshop”. Activists persisted in marching and negotiated with the police, winning the concession to read a press statement on Kıbrıs Şehitleri Avenue in the center of Izmir. However, after the press statement 17 activists were detained. 

Gaziantep 

In Gaziantep  a blanket ban for 20 days on LGBTI+ events prevented Pride events from taking place. During Pride week activists were prevented from putting up a Pride rainbow flag in Çınarlı Park and police prevented activists reading a press statement at Yeşilsu Square. Instead, the Human Rights Association, IHD (Insan Hakları Derneği) hosted a Pride event to read the Pride’s press release:

“As long as you view our existence as a threat, we continue to say, ‘Every step of ours is a Pride March.’

“If it is your tradition to declare those who strive for an honorable and just life immoral and terrorists to cover up your “sins,” it is our tradition to not stop speaking, not stop and not obey.

“We know that what fuels your aggression is our power. We know in our struggle since the 1980s that you are trying to exploit the beauty of our togetherness.”

ZeugMadi Lgbt, an Antep based LGBTI+ Rights association told LGBTI+ News Turkey that for them there was no improvement in how Prides were experienced in previous years. 

“In fact, the State of Emergency is still not over in Turkey. As LGBTI+ individuals we are still under martial law. Both socially and by the law. Harassment, incidents of rape, sexism, homophobia, transphobic rhetorics have all increased after the formal ending of the State of Emergency.”

Mersin

Despite a blanket ban on LGBTI+ events put into effect on June 25, the Mersin Pride still took place. Activists met in workshops and marched in small group unveiling Trans and LGBTI+ Pride flags in a few select spots across the city. Again, the defiance and determination of activists meant that few a short time in different parts of the city, LGBTI+ individuals were more visible. 

Municipalities’ Official Support

From across Turkey, municipalities controlled by the main opposition party, CHP sent out greetings and support to Pride over social media. This occurred in the past but a larger number of municipalities sent out posts  this year. 

On this topic Mustafa Sarıyılmaz from SPoD reported to LGBTI+ News Turkey that 

“Thirty-five municipalities around the country celebrated Pride over Twitter, it seems the visibility of queer community in Turkey has grown, in a positive way. Well, on the other hand, …. the director of religious affairs made all imams around Turkey curse LGBTI+’s in Friday prayers. Yet, we’re hopeful.”

 

Words by George Winter

Photos by Bradley Secker in the İstanbul Pride 

29/07/2019 Correction: The article had previously stated that a Pride after party was put on by GQ magazine, this was incorrect. Gzone Mag put the party on.

KADEM’s reaction on LGBTI+ to CHP municipalities: Legitimizing perverted orientations

KADEM (Women and Democracy Association) known for its close connection to AKP (Justice and Development Party), targeted the CHP (Republican People’s Party) municipalities that shared messages of support for Pride Week with sexist statements.

Source: “LGBTI+ reaction from KADEM to CHP municipalities: legitimizing perverted orientations”, (KADEM’den CHP’li belediyelere LGBTİ+ tepkisi: Sapkın yönelimler meşrulaştırılıyor), artigercek.com, July 1, 2019, https://www.artigercek.com/haberler/kadem-den-cinsiyetci-aciklama?fbclid=IwAR2p0d9Xiweij4Ybx14_mSdLYVIJFJ7Sxsv6rBQi52VeI6zHh_SRsHHTWog

 

ARTI GERÇEK- KADEM, led by President Tayyip Erdoğan’s daughter Sümeyye Erdoğan, targeted CHP municipalities that shared messages of support for the 27th Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week.

In KADEM’s official Twitter account sexist expressions such as “perverted orientations” were used to refer to LGBTI+ individuals.

The nationwide statements of support by CHP municipalities for Pride Week were “an attack on future generations, society’s beliefs and values” according to KADEM:

“CHP municipalities have started publishing statements that praise and legitimize homosexuality on social media. Recognized as prepared and planned by a common source, these statements are not acceptable. To praise homosexuality is to legitimize perverted orientations that fall outside the reality of existence. Thus, these statements attack future generations, society’s beliefs and values. As KADEM, with reference to our national and spiritual values, we work with sensitivity in preserving healthy generations. We will fight against all kinds of ideas and entities that threaten the family.”

 

What happened?

As part of Pride Week, the CHP municipalities nationwide shared the statement “Hate will lose, love will win” to show support.

 

A few of the statements are as follows:

 

In spite of hate, long live life!#Pride2019 

https://twitter.com/i/status/1144917560451850242

— Datça Municipality (@datcabelediyesi) June 29, 2019

 

Not Hate but Love will Win! #Pride #Pride2019

pic.twitter.com/wHNG6qnsnT

— Hopa Municipality (@BelediyesiHopa) June 29, 2019

 

We are Equal! We are strong together. Not hate, but love will win. #Pride2019 pic.twitter.com/XmKUfYudqf

— Kemalpaşa Municipality (@kemalpasabld) June 29, 2019

 

Not hate, but love will win! #Pride2019

pic.twitter.com/JBdG0ygzAy

— Borçka Municipality (@Borckabel) June 29, 2019

 

We will always work for an equal and just city, country and world. We are one, equal, stronger together.

Happy LGBTI+ Pride Week. #pride2019

pic.twitter.com/UWnZcl3CR9

— Şişli Municipality (@sislibelediyesi) June 28, 2019

 

No matter the circumstance,

Against all,

For all,

And always

Love will win!

#İstanbulPride2019

pic.twitter.com/a3voWGqXA4

— Maltepe Municipality (@MaltepeBelTr) June 28, 2019

 

Love will win… #Pride2019

pic.twitter.com/amDb0GETH2

— Germencik Municipality ( AYDIN ) (@GermencikBLD) June 29, 2019

 

The world is beautiful with all its colors. Love will save the World; everything starts by loving one person… #Pride2019

pic.twitter.com/B5gnTXQC4l

— Kartal Municipality (@kartalbld) June 30, 2019

 

The world is beautiful with all its colors. In spite of hate, love will win!  #Pride2019 pic.twitter.com/hylyqftEln

— Didim Municipality (@DidimBelediye) June 30, 2019

 

We love all the colors of our neighborhood. #Pride2019

pic.twitter.com/eWdzOoaZtW

— Beşiktaş Municipality (@BesiktasBel) June 30, 2019

 

Rainbow against darkness! #Pride2019

pic.twitter.com/bZU2DvmeUE

— Fethiye Municipality (@fethiyebelediye) June 29, 2019

 

 

 

Pride March held on Mis Sokak, Taksim; police attacked dispersing crowd

Hundreds of people came together in Mis Sokak [Mis Street], Taksim for the Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride March: “We are here, get used to it, we are not going” After the announcement, as the group dispersed, police attacked with gas bombs and plastic bullets.

Source: Onur Yürüyüşü Mis Sokak’taydı, yürüyüş dağılırken polis saldırdı: Buradayız, alışın, gitmiyoruz! (The Pride March was on Mis Street, the police attacked as the march broke up: We’re here, get used to it, we’re not going!) Ylıdız Tar, KaosGL (https://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=28438) June 30, 2019

 

LGBTI+ people  and anti-discrimination activists met in Taksim today (June 30) for a press release on th LGBTI+ Pride March.

Before the march was due to begin at 17:00, police were deployed to Istiklal Caddesi [Istiklal (Independence) Avenue] and surrounding streets. During the day, they conducted identity checks on people they assumed to be LGBTI+.PHOTO

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Hundreds of people met on Mis Sokak!

The Istanbul LGBTI + Pride Week Committee gave a press release on Mis Sokak, as a result of a meeting with the police. Hundreds of people gathered in Mis Sokak.

Hundreds of people carrying rainbows, trans and intersex flags often shouted slogans on Mis Sokak: “Don’t keep quite, shout there are homosexuals,” “Whose morality is [the] general morality?” and  “Where are you my love?”

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Ahmet Şık and Gökçe Gökçen were in action!

People’s Democratic Party (HDP) Istanbul Deputy Ahmet Şık and Republican People’s Party (CHP) Vice President for Human Rights Gökçe Gökçen also participated in the action.

At 17.00, the press release was read on Mis Sokak. The Pride Week Committee’s statement said: “We do not give up our lives, our solidarity, nor our organized struggle! We are here, get used to it, we are not going.”

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Rainbow flags on buildings!

During the press release rainbow flags were hung from buildings around Mis Sokak. Among the places where the rainbow flag was hung was the Socialist Refoundation Party (SYKP) building.

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After the press release, songs from the list prepared by the Pride Week Committee were played on the street.

After the press release, the Pride Week Committee said, “We are leaving Mis Sokak and scattering to every street in Taksim. We continue to dance and have fun in the streets! ”

egemen8

Two people detained

Two people from Mis Sokak were detained during the press release.

 

Police attacked dispersing crowd

In Mis Sokak and surrounding streets police attacked the dispersing crowds with gas bombs and plastic bullets. Police also attacked places where those who fled the attacks stayed using gas bombs.

egemen10

Under the blockade of the police, marchers in Mis Sokak were attacked with  dogs. Those sitting in the area were also attacked with gas bombs and tables were upturned. 

 

Walking in Tatavla

On the other hand, LGBTI + phobia opponents who came together in Tatavla walked along Kurtuluş Caddesi {Kurtuluş (Liberation) Avenue]. During the march with rainbow flags, the slogan “We will not turn our backs, we will not turn our backs, we will not turn our backs on this way” was shouted.

 

Walk from Talimhane to Taksim Square

Another group marched from Talimhane to Taksim Square with rainbow flags and slogans.

 

Press release: We’re here, get used to it, we’re not going!

Photos: Egemen Kepekci

The public statement for Istanbul Pride March will be announced at 17:00 on June 30

The public statement for Istanbul Pride March will be announced at 17:00 on June 30

Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week Committee invites everyone to gather for the Pride March in front of the entrance to the French Cultural Centre in Taksim at 17:00 on June 30.

Source: The public statement for Istanbul Pride March will be announced at 17:00 on June 30 (İstanbul Onur Yürüyüşü basın açıklaması 30 Haziran, saat 17:00’de), Kaos GL, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=28431, June 29

 

Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week Committee invites everyone to gather for the Pride March in front of the entrance to the French Cultural Centre in Taksim at 17:00 on June 30.

After the governorship of Istanbul announced that they banned the Pride March in Istiklal Avenue, the Committee asked if it could take place in Bakırköy Square; however, the governorship also forbade the Pride March from being permitted and organized there.

This year is the 27th anniversary of Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week; and to end the week with the Pride March, the committee invites all the LGBTI+ individuals and everyone who is against LGBTI+ phobia to gather in front of the entrance to the French Cultural Centre in Taksim tomorrow at 17:00.

 

“We invite everyone to stand by us and to celebrate our Pride tomorrow”

The full announcement of the committee is as follows:

Call to all the LGBTI+ individuals and everyone who is against LGBTI+ phobia

We asked permission to use Bakırköy Square to celebrate our 17th LGBTI+ Pride March which we planned to organize on June 30; however, our application has been refused with no legal grounds whatsoever. The governorship that has been using Taksim Avenue as an excuse to ban the Pride March for years, has clearly shown everyone that Taksim Avenue is just an excuse for this ban.

As the 27th Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week Committee, we invite all LGBTI+ individuals and everyone who is against LGBTI+ phobia to gather in front of the building of the French Cultural Centre in Taksim at 17:00 on June 30, there we will announce our public statement. Our meeting will start in front of the French Cultural Centre; and we invite all of you to carry on the meeting by dancing, shouting slogans, and announcing our public statement in each and every street of Taksim. We will #march first on Taksim, then the whole of Istanbul and Turkey.

We invite everyone to stand by us and to celebrate our Pride tomorrow. 

#HerYürüyüşümüzOnurYürüyüşü #OurEveryMarchisaPrideMarch

Photo credit: Serra Akcan, NarPhotos, 2013

While some Pride Events are no longer banned in Izmir, Court refused to lift the ban on the Pride March

Source: Izmir denied the request to lift the ban on Pride March (İzmir Onur Yürüyüşü yasağının kaldırılması talebi reddedildi) https://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=28378 21 June 2019

The court decided to reject the request to lift the ban decision on the Izmir Pride March. The Pride Week Committee reiterated their call: Tomorrow (June 22) at 18:00 we will meet in front of the Kıbrıs Şehitleri Starbucks (The Old Leman Culture Center) to deliver our press release.

Izmir’s 1st Administrative Court, which had on June 19 prevented the carrying out of a ban on some activities within the scope of Izmir Pride Week, announced today its decision on the prohibition of the march.

The court rejected the request of Genç LGBTI+ Association to lift the Governors ban of the Izmir Pride March to be held tomorrow (22 June).

The court declared that “…(the march would be an) obvious and possible danger that a crime could be committed ”. The Izmir Pride March has in fact been free from strife for years.

#PrideCantBeBanned

About the court’s decision İzmir LGBTI+ Pride Week Committee has stated:

“The court’s decision is announced. The request to lift the ban of the 7th LGBTI + Pride March was denied. Tomorrow (June 22) at 18:00 we will meet in front of Kıbrıs Şehitleri Starbucks (Old Leman Culture Center) to make our press release. We welcome all LGBTI + individuals and rights defenders! ##OnurYasaklanamaz

What had happened?

Izmir Governorship had banned the 7th Izmir LGBTI+ Pride Week on June 14th with the below comment.

“Law No. 2911 on Meetings and Demonstrations and the Implementation of the Law No. 5442 in accordance with the Provincial Administration Law No. 11 / AC articles which points at the peace and security of people living in our province, the immunity of people, ensuring public safety and well-being; ensuring national security, public safety and well-being; national security, public order, prevention of crime, protection of general health and the rights and freedoms of others or the prevention of possible violent and terrorist incidents ”.

 

The Governorship of Antalya has banned the 3rd Antalya Pride Week!

The Governorship of Antalya has banned Antalya LGBTI+ Pride March and “all the related activities and events”. The governor’s office put forward “public decency” as the reason for this discriminatory ban.

Source: The Governorship of Antalya has banned the 3rd Antalya Pride Week! (Antalya Valiliği, 3. Antalya Onur Haftası’nı yasakladı!), Kaos GL, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=28317 June 15, 2019

 

The governorship of Antalya has banned the 3rd Antalya LGBTI+ Pride Week stating the reason as “to prevent dissident groups from facing each other, to ensure the current peaceful environment, national safety, public order, public health and decency not to be disturbed, to block possible violence and terrorist activities, to preserve the unbreakable unity of the government, state, and nation, to protect the rights and freedom of other people,” pursuant to  Law no.2911 on Meetings and Protest Marches, the regulations on implementation of this law, and Article 11/A-C of the Law no.5442 on Provincial Administration.

The governor’s office has announced that “the Pride March and all the activities & events which will be organized afterwards in relation to that, such as public statements and activities/events by way of support to similar protests, as well as all the activities (marches, public statements, hunger strike, sit-in protests, setting up a booth or tent) which are follows-up to the same issue” have been banned in the whole city for 15 days.

Lawyer Ahmet Çevik: “We don’t accept the unlawful ban decision”

Lawyer Ahmet Çevik talked to KaosGL.org about the ban decision of the Governorship of Antalya:

“Today, the police officers of Antalya Security Branch Directorate, who came to the office of BIZ Association, notified [us of] the ban decision of the Governorship of Antalya. However, we refused to announce it because we don’t accept this unlawful ban decision. The ban decision of the Governorship of Antalya is contrary to the international agreements and to our own legislation. Let me tell you more clearly, the ban decision is contrary to the Istanbul Convention, the principles of equality in the constitution, the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, and domestic legal order. Therefore, we refuse to announce it, the Governorship of Antalya should announce the ban to the public.”

Stating that the ban decision of the Governorship doesn’t only involve the activities within this week, but it also bans all the LGBTI+ activities throughout the whole city for 15 days and even protesting against the ban has been banned,  Çevik said:

“The Governorship has not only banned the Pride Week activities which will take place for 3 days. It banned all the LGBTI+ activities which will be organized in the whole of Antalya for 15 days starting from June 15. In addition to that, calling for LGBTI+ activities and reactions & protesting against it [the ban] in the digital world are banned, too. Moreover, no human rights associations or activist can condemn this ban or make a public statement about it within the borders of the city because these acts will also be considered as LGBTI+ activities. To sum, ban, ban, ban. Everything is banned!”

It is banned in Izmir, too!

The Governorship of Izmir announced a decision yesterday (June 14) and banned the 7th Izmir LGBTI+ Pride Week stating similar reasons. The Governorship of Izmir gave the reason for it as “to ensure the people’s right to privacy, safety of the economy, public security, and welfare; to ensure national security, public security, and welfare; to protect national security, public order, to prevent crimes, to protect public health, public decency, and the other people’s rights and freedom, to prevent possible violence and terrorist activities.”

The governorship of Izmir has banned the 7th Izmir LGBTI+ Pride Week

 

The governorship of Izmir has banned the events & activities which have been organized within the scope of the 7th Izmir LGBTI+ Pride Week between the 17th – 23rd of June [2019].

Source: The governorship of İzmir has banned the 7th Izmir LGBTI+ Pride Week (İzmir Valiliği, 7. İzmir LGBTİ+ Onur Haftası’nı yasakladı), Kaos GL, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=28314 June 14, 2019

 

The governorship of Izmir has banned the 7th Izmir LGBTI+ Pride Week which has been organized with the efforts of volunteers, by stating the reason as “to ensure the peace and safety of the city’s people, their right to privacy, the safety of the economy, public security, and welfare; to ensure national security, public security, and welfare; to protect national security, public order, to prevent crimes, to protect public health, public decency, and the other people’s rights and freedom, and to prevent possible violence and terrorist activities,” pursuant to Law no.2911 on Meetings and Protest Marches, the regulation on implementation of this law, and  Article 11/A-C of Law no.5442 on Provincial Administration.