Pride in Turkey

My Pride Story: From 15 people to tens of thousands

Today in Pride Stories: From the first Kaos GL cortege on May Day 2001 to Pride Marches of tens of thousands…

Murat Özen’s Pride Story

It’s the year 2001, my senior year in university. As a “kezban” [1] who has just begun to know his identity, I frequently go to Kaos GL. In one of these visits, I overhear a discussion on whether to join May Day demonstrations as Kaos GL. When they ask me “will you come as well?”, I cannot say yes straight away.


Istanbul Police Headquarters: ISIS was going to attack Trans Pride

Source: “Emniyet Müdürlüğü: IŞİD, Trans Onur Yürüyüşü’ne saldıracaktı”, T24, 21 June 2016,,346433

Turkish Police detained three people after receiving information of a possible attack and the court they were sent to ordered their arrest.

Istanbul Anti-terror Branch (TEM) conducted an operation and detained three men in two districts after receiving information that ISIS was planning an attack on the 7th Trans Pride March on Sunday, which the police intervened in. Suspects had suicide bomb vests, military camouflage gear, military-grade knives, and laser meters. The suspects were arrested by the courts they were sent to after police completed their processing.

Haberturk reporter Nihat Uludağ reported the arrest of the three suspects in operations conducted in Pendik and Başakşehir a few hours before.


Trans Pride Press Statement

Source: Kaos GL, “Polis saldırısı nedeniyle okunamayan Trans Onur Yürüyüşü açıklaması”,

We are publishing the Trans Pride March press statement by Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association that could not be publicly read due to police intervention. 

The press release of the 7th Trans Pride March is as follows:

The 7th Trans Pride March that we have organized has begun in sadness and anger in the wake of the Orlando massacre. The discussions that began before we had even mourned the Orlando massacre exhibit the magnitude of the hate culture that is created in society. The calls to massacre by the jihadists and Salafist groups in the media and on social media complemented the decision of the Governor’s Office to forbid the march and exposed the coalition amongst these groups. State officials who did not initiate processes of persecution supported these massacring groups who made calls for [a] massacre and bans with threatening statements and targeted people who wanted to exercise their constitutional rights to join the march.

We Know of this collaboration from Sivas, from Maraş!

We know of this collaboration from Suruç, from Amed [Diyarbakır], from Ankara!

We know of this collaboration from Trans murders and the selfies taken with murderers!

The Trans Pride March, organized 6 years in a row without any problems posed to public order, was terrorized by both the state and the puritanical groups, targeting our friends who participated in the organization of this week. The hateful culture created in society provided the basis for the attacks and, through the media, LGBTIs were turned into open targets.

We declare here once again! The parties responsible for all the attacks that will occur due to this hate culture are Istanbul Mayor Vasıp Şahin, Istanbul Police Chief Mustafa Çalışkan, Minister of Interior Efkan Ala and the AKP government, who disregard and encourage this.

This argument that began with the excuse of disrespect for the month of Ramadan shows us where those who are not Turkish, Muslim, Sunni, and male will stand in this nonsensical New Turkey. This sensibility that imposes their own norm on the totality of society and target those who do not abide by this norm will bring nothing but a massacre for the Kurds, Alevis, Armenians, Greeks, Roma, LGBTIs, women, laborers and workers.

While every critical opinion about the President expressed on Twitter draws house raids, arrests, and detention, open calls to attack are disregarded and the complaints of rights defenders remain unprocessed. None of us are safe in a country where jihadist terrorist groups move freely, where borders are opened from one end to the other, where militants are treated in hospitals and sent back to the war zone.

Within this reality, the situation of trans society is in an even worse state. Trans individuals who cannot camouflage themselves in social life are turned into targets and are deprived of all their fundamental rights.

The Republic of Turkey, which defines itself as a social state, usurps our right to life, housing, education, health, and movement, forcing us to live in oppression that has not been seen before.

We, the children of the rainbow, shout out once again:

We are the owners of these lands and the guarantors of a bright future!

We will continue to fight for an equal, free, and democratic world.

We bow with respect to the memory of our friends massacred in Orlando and promise a world without homophobia and transphobia!

Don’t forget Orlando, don’t let anyone forget!

Despite hate, hooray life!

Hate crimes are political!

Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association


My Pride Story: Istiklal has never been so beautiful

Today in Pride stories: Friends calling to ask “are you ok”, my brother calling to ask “what are you doing with those fags” (!)

Cihan’s Pride story

When I read Hakan’s Pride story in the middle of the night, I said to myself “Yes, I have to share mine as well”.

Last year’s Pride March was my first Pride as well. In the previous years I was mostly held back by my make-up exams – I’m not lazy, studying medicine is hard work- and more importantly visibility was a problem for me. I was thinking that I would be somehow visible among the tens of thousands of people and not having an Istanbulite koli [1] to stay with and being poor had impacts as well.


24th Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week Starts We are together, we are united, we are strong!


24th Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week will take place between June 20-26, 2016 with the theme “We unite!” and many activities such as panels, workshops, and forums will be organized. Signatures are collected for a petition that asks for the Pride March to take place in safety, as last year’s march was subjected to police intervention.


Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week, now a tradition, celebrates its 24th year. With the theme “We unite!”, 24th Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week activities will take place free of charge at venues in and around Taksim, between June 20-26, 2016.

Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride March has been organized for 12 years with the participation of tens of thousands but a ban was attempted last year. For the 14th Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride March a petition is being circulated to ensure the security and to guarantee the constitutional rights. The signatures will be submitted to the Istanbul Governorate with the demand that the march takes place safely, without police intervention.

The Pride Week Committee states “We want to be on the streets this year for the Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride March, as we have every year in peace, with crowds reaching tens of thousands. Following the Orlando massacre, let’s raise our voices despite those who oppress love, spread hate, and refuse to recognize the LGBTI+ community.” in the invitation.

18 LGBTI+ organizations from 17 cities will be at Pride Week activities within the theme of “We Unite!”: The forum will bring together activists, LGBTI+ associations, unions and LGBTI+ branches of political parties, LGBTI+ student clubs and independent activists from different cities including Eskişehir, İzmir, Antakya, Diyarbakır, Mersin, Gaziantep, Afyon, Adana, Çanakkale and Trabzon, and converse about different states of coming together, alternative ways of getting organized, what is being done and what can be done in the current conditions when even getting out to the streets is difficult.

This year for the first time, a plus has been added to the end of the LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex) acronym to make sure no sexual, romantic and gender identity is left behind. Pride Week Committee indicated that with this update “all combinations of the rainbow palette exist in our movement” and that they aim for “the socialization of the conscience that no one can be assigned an identity by judging from the outside”.

“We Unite For… Love, Freedom, Peace, Solidarity, Streets”

Pride Week Committee explains why they chose this year’s theme:

“We start the 24th Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week with a wounded heart, with a new power to struggle with. There are many threats we are up against but we are a great crowd as well. We sometimes find each other in an association, in a party, in a union, other times in an office, in a factory, a neighborhood, an avenue. Against a growing danger that wants to devour us, we unite. All around the globe, in every city of Turkey, in every district of Istanbul we come together, stand by each other and grow our struggle. Therefore, for these very reasons, this year’s theme is: “We Unite!”

This year, we set sail with the enthusiasm of new friends, the memory of the lovers and friends we lost.

We come together to discover our desires that are imprisoned between four walls. We unite for love, desire and friendship.

We want to free and change not only our lives but everyone’s lives. We want to have equal rights with everyone else. We want laws to protect us, a justice without “provocations”, excuses or “but”s. We unite for freedom, equality and justice.

We come together to hold them accountable for the lives war took away from us, to beat our fears, we come together for our labor that is ignored, criminalized, devalued, to stand by our ghettos, to take back our city stolen from us, to paint Istiklal Avenue in rainbow colors like we did for the last 13 years. We unite for peace, labor, and the streets.

We know that our only hope to get out of this darkness is to unite. We know there is no salvation on our own, that we will be liberated altogether, that loving is uniting. We always knew to stand by each other, to have solidarity to survive, we will always continue to do so. We unite for hope, love and solidarity.

We will not give up on our pride, uniting for our pride. We will stand tall, we will not give in, not even an inch. We are on Ulker Street, in Eryaman, Orlando, Bangladesh, there is no piece of land on which we haven’t united or resisted against homophobia and transphobia. This world does not turn without us and will not exist by ignoring us. May our 24th Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week be happy.”


The schedule of Pride Week, as was the case in previous years, is full of activities such as panels, film screenings, plays, performances, workshops, and parties.

The activities include talks and workshops on compulsory military service and peace, on the hardships endured by trans individuals while transitioning, on the sex work with the participation of sex workers and related associations, on the different experiences of being both a LGBTI+ and a refugee, on LGBTI rights and political arena and on the speciesism.

Within the scope of the schedule, activists from different parts of Turkey, the Middle East and Europe will share their experiences of struggling and existing in different geographical regions.

In relation to this year’s theme “We unite!”, LGBTI Organizations of Turkey Forum comprised of LGBTI+ associations, unions and LGBTI+ branches of political parties, LGBTI+ student clubs and independent activists will take place on June 24, 17:00 at Salt Galata.

On the same day, there will be an iftar feast that will be prepared on Istiklal Avenue under the name “Rainbow Feast” to break fast.

A football tournament, a surprise cycling tour, parties, self-defense workshop against homophobic and transphobic assaults, and film screenings of #direnayol and Kurneqiz/Trans Woman with the participation of directors and actors, mental health professionals’ meeting, mass HIV test day and safe sex workshop are among the activities.

An exhibition in the memory of Boysan, Zeliş ve Mert

The LGBTI+ Pride Week Exhibition will be organized for the seventh time this year with the title From Where to Where. The exhibition will consist of the 13 works chosen by jury members Gözde İlkin, İlhan Sayın, Şafak Şule Kemancı and Sena Başöz from 34 submissions and it will take place at Boysan Yakar’s house on Üftade Street in Harbiye. The exhibition commemorates Mert Serçe, Boysan Yakar and Zeliş Deniz, friends we lost last September and it includes Boysan Yakar’s work as well.

The exhibition will be open to visit every day 13:00-18:30 between June 20-26.


The Genetically Modified Tomato Homophobia-Transphobia Awards will be given for the 12th time this year. The nominees are determined by an open call each year. The awards detect and “reward” the homophobic/transphobic speeches and actions, this year 12th Genetically Modified Tomato Awards will be announced on a special night at Şişli Urban Cultural Center on Thursday, June 23.


We plan to close the week with the 14th Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride March on Sunday, 26 June. Pride Week Committee have started a petition to ensure that Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride March is not banned this year but takes place without problems, saying “we want to be on the streets with our flags, our colors, our love, our bannersand wishing for a mass march that have reached a hundred thousand people in the past. They say they are expecting everyone to join Pride Week at a time when their rights, existence, and love are being ignored, after the tragedy in Orlando, to show once again that they are united, strong, and organized. And they add:

If you are not with us, we are way too few!


Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week Online Petition

Genetically Modified Tomato Award Votes

Interview Requests and Special News Stories:

Görkem Ulumeriç 0532 695 80 15

Lara Özlen 0536 437 41 61

About Pride Week: On 28 June 1969, gay and trans individuals at New York’s Stonewall Inn rose up against the oppression and violence directed at them for a long time, locked the police inside the bar; demonstrations and clashes last for 4 days and spread to the streets. This day was a turning point for the LGBTI+ rights struggle and is celebrated as Pride Week across the world. In 1993, the first Pride Week in Turkey was titled “Sexual Freedom Week”. However, the governorate’s ban led to detentions and deportations of foreign guests. Pride March could not take place. Facing these bans, the movement’s demands and social support grew in strength and the first Istanbul Pride March took place in 2003, exactly ten years after the first Pride Week. 20-30 people attended that first march but attendance multiplied every year. In 2013, an estimated 100.000 people attended the march on Istiklal Avenue. In 2015, the 13th Pride March was banned by the police in an unexpected way. The LGBTI+ movement, determined to keep fighting, wants to fill the streets again for the 14th Pride March on 26 June 2016. Pride Week events are organized by a group of independent volunteers who answer the yearly call for support.

My Pride Story: Ideological banner!

Today in Pride stories: Our paths, that crossed for the first time with the people in our procession during that march, never parted.

Tunca Özlen’s Pride story

It’s 2012, a year has passed since we founded the Red of the Rainbow, together with a handful of people. The pride of coming out, finding each other and holding on together is not enough. The struggle is pushing us to producing politics, to going out on the streets. We want to see what our political claims correspond to in life. With the hope we mustered at the march we attended in Ankara, we rolled up our sleeves for Istanbul Pride March. 

We said we would walk behind the banner “Equal citizenship is in socialism!” After all, we believe in equality against discrimination, citizenship against pan-Islamism, socialism against capitalism. We have never gotten banners made in our lives and here I found myself in a flagmaker’s on Kazım Karabekir Avenue. Then off we go to Istanbul. It was time for Pride March. It’s our first time participating as an organization, we are excited of course. With our red rainbow flags and our banner, we joined the march from a point we saw fit.

A friend, who we later on found out was a part of the Pride Week Organizing Committee did not take his/her time to ‘welcome’ us: “Your banner is ideological, you either take it down or walk at the back!” Only we were ideological among the thousands of rainbow flags, slogans against heterosexism, the tens of thousands who filled Istiklal Avenue, ultimately we are communists! The imposition of “Pride March above politics” is itself ideological, we don’t buy that! We said “We will walk behind this banner, through the crowd”. And we did what we said, we are communists after all.

Our paths, that crossed for the first time with the people in our procession during that march, never parted. We were a few before the march, our numbers grew, even if [just] a little, after the march. We accepted being a few at the beginning, in order to grow. If we took down our banner that day, we would have given up altogether. Today we are not few at all, for we focused on growing our crowd and not on our banner. But we are still terribly ideological!

Stories multiply as they are shared. If you would like to tell your Pride story as well, send your writing of maximum 500 words to, we will publish it on both Kaos GL and LGBTI News Turkey both in Turkish and English. Do not forget to include your name or nickname.

Far-right Alperen Group Says It will Stop Pride No Matter What

The Alperen Hearths are a far-right ultranationalist and Islamist youth group linked to the nationalist Great Union Party (BBP). On Wednesday, the Alperens made a press statement on Trans and LGBTI Pride Marches and said “We will never, ever allow their immorality”. The full translation of their press statement is below.  


As you know, the nature of the marches LGBT are planning to hold in Taksim on 19 and 26 June are contradictory to our nation’s national and moral structure and traditions. We will never, ever allow such Immorality, like this march that is called “honor” but really it is immoral, that touch the nation’s nerves, to be normalized or encouraged. 

We warn those who use the names Recep, Şaban, and Ramadan, the months we accept as holy, and try to be funny: they should not shed their clothes to shamelessness with saying things about our nation’s sensitivities with such fantasies. I’ll remind you this quote from Ziya Pasha for those who make fun of our moral values and surpass boundaries: “Those who do not settle down with advice should be scolded, those who do not settle down with scolding and advice should be beaten”.

Viewing the organization of this march as tolerance should not lead to social corruption and moral collapse with the creation of new genders using alternatives letters for our daughters and sons. This is not a reaction to anyone’s personal life or personal crimes. Ordering good is to abolish the bad.

State officials who allow this immorality and daring, who give way, who close their eyes and ears, we invite you to serve to end this immorality. Otherwise, we Alperens, the deep nation’s representatives, will not allow these immoral people’s fantasies in these lands left to us by our ancestors who paid a heavy price. Otherwise, our response will be very clear and harsh. We are announcing this to the public. And we are calling on all our brothers and sisters in religion. We will meet in Taksim Square on Sunday 16 June [sic] at 15:00 and Sunday 26 June at 15:00. We will never, ever allow their immorality.

They keep doing the same thing on this holy month and make fun of us by completely discounting our values. With God’s permission, we will not allow this. We invite you to Taksim Square to say “stop” to this immorality together. We will directly stop the march. We will face up to anything. There is nothing to do here. We will somehow not allow them to march. They can meet somewhere and do whatever they want but on this holy month of Ramadan, on this holy day, we absolutely do not want them to march with no clothes on, naked, on our country’s holy lands. That’s why we will not allow them. In a country where 99% of our people is Muslim, it is absolutely not possible for us to allow such vileness and immorality.

Our state should be saying “stop” this by considering our national values. Because this is not normal. This freedom is not a normal freedom. What they want is not a normal freedom. This is the Republic of Turkey. Our holy ancestors left us these lands for safe custody. We, especially the Alperen youth, will not allow people to walk without dresses, without tops in these lands.

We have made a press statement now. We are giving a warning. We have told the public. We have announced it ahead of time. We are not responsible for whatever that happens after this because the state needs to consider and take seriously that its people are 99% Muslim, its religion is Islam, and its national values. If the state ignores this and says “yes, go”, on a day of Ramadan, and allow 5000 people to march naked with whiskey, champagne, alcohol in their hands, then we will not allow it. Either the state will do what is necessary or the Alperens will.

Update, 16 June 2016

Spokesperson Küşat Mican spoke on RS FM’s “Bidebunudinle” program and made the following comments:

Source: Kaos GL, “Alperenler: “Biz Taksim’de sopalarla kovalayalım demedik”,” 16 June 2016,

We warned this group before, we warned the friends, we sent representatives. We are a Muslim Turkish nation, 99% of our people are Muslim. Yes, we need to live with tolerance but this march cannot take place by ignoring our religious values and ignoring us. We don’t want them to walk half-naked, with bottles of alcohol, in this holy city that has been watered by the blood of our ancestors. It looks like this is going out of the bounds of law but don’t perceive it as such. When we reminded them of Ziya Pasha’s words, it was not a threat. We are saying we will be there, we will react, and we will not allow them to walk. If they are ten thousand people, we will be ten thousand people, we will close that corridor, we will have a sit-in, we won’t let them walk. If they react to us, we will react to them. I did not say let’s go to Taksim and kick them out with sticks. One should not perceive this sentence as carrying sticks in our hands but as a reaction.

Update, 18 June 2016

BBP leader Mustafa Destici: “Perversion and immorality can not be called freedom.”

Source:BBP lideri Mustafa Destici: Sapık LGBTİ’ler benim ülkemde yürüyüş yapamaz!”, June 17, 2016, T24,,345724

Mustafa Destici, the chairman of the BBP (Grand Unity Party) stood by the Alperen Hearths, which announced that they would not let the 14th Pride March take place. In the speech he gave at the iftar, or fast-breaking dinner of his party in Duzce on 16 June, he stated:

Anything immoral gets by in our society during the month of Ramadan and these are represented as legitimate. In the capital of Islam, Istanbul an immoral group that we cannot accept according to our traditions and beliefs, makes a program that goes on for weeks. And they even go further as to crown it with a march. Our young friends, Alperens, say it’s wrong. They say “Those who govern the country should not allow this”, and then there is a huge outrage. Yes brother, this is Turkey, this is a Muslim country. I address the state and the government. You asked for votes claiming that you are conservative and religious, and came to power as such. If you let that march take place, you will be betraying your voters. Let’s see if you commit this betrayal or not. Perversion and immorality cannot be called freedom. This has nothing to do with personal liberties and rights. This cannot be accepted as such. My morality and Western morality are not the same. My belief and Western beliefs are not the same. We won’t stand by and watch this. We will show our rightful reaction. Of course this reaction is verbal, it is [a] protest. We have always been against violence. If there is a price for it, we will pay. They should go do the march somewhere else, they can’t do it in my country.  My country can’t be represented as a country of perverts.