ISTANBUL — Turkish police arrested at least 50 people on Sunday after Istanbul’s LGBT community held their annual Pride march.
The government led by President Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted AK Party has hardened its stance on LGBTQ+ freedoms. Speaking after his election victory in a run-off last month, Erdogan accused opposition parties of being “pro-LGBT”.
On Sunday, police in riot gear blocked access to Istiklal Avenue, a traditional venue for Pride marches, as well as central Taksim Square. Nearby streets were blocked and public transport in the area was suspended.
On Sunday afternoon, hundreds of people carrying rainbow and transgender flags instead gathered in Mistik Park in the Sisli neighborhood.
They chanted slogans as organizers read out a statement to mark Pride Week. A large rainbow flag hung over a nearby multi-storey parking lot.
Groups of people carrying rainbow flags marched through the streets of the Sisli neighborhood before organizers called on them to disperse.
Police detained more than 50 people after the march, organizers said. Amnesty International’s office in Turkey said at least one person suffered head injuries while in police custody.
Organizers said their community had already been targeted by Erdogan.
“We do not accept this policy of hate and denial,” Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week said in its statement.
In the coastal city of Izmir, the country’s third largest, police arrested at least 44 people on Sunday after authorities banned the Pride march, Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week said.
Homosexuality is not a crime in Turkey, but hostility towards it is widespread and police crackdowns on Pride parades have intensified over the years.
Istanbul Governor Davut Gul said on Twitter this month that any activity threatening the traditional family structure would not be allowed.
Turkey bans Trans Pride march in Istanbul but organizers defy
Turkish police prevent Istanbul Pride march
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