Civil movement

Turkey’s LGBTI+ movement resists despite everything / Turkey / Regions / Homepage

A photo of the last “free” Pride in Istanbul, in 2014 – © EvrenKalinbacak/Shutterstock

Istanbul celebrated its annual LGBTI+ pride march in late June under the shadow of an intense police crackdown, in line with the Turkish government’s growing intolerance of all forms of LGBTI+ expression, from public marches to popular media

Thousands of LGBTI+ people gathered in Istanbul’s historic Taksim district for the 20e Pride march on June 25. All events related to the march and Pride week have been banned by district and city governors. Roads and subway stations leading to the area were closed as riot police filled the neighborhood. Even several coffee-goers who sat in the area before the march began were either kicked out or taken into custody. Many, including members of the press like AFP photojournalist Bulent Kilic, said they were physically beaten by police. Despite this, a massive crowd of fearless activists gathered in defiance of the heavy crackdown.

A shocking total of 373 people were taken into custody during the march. They spent hours without food or water before being released on the morning of June 26. Between 2015 and 2021, a total of 103 people had been taken into custody. In the past decade, the only event with a similar tally was the Newroz festivities in the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir earlier this year, with 298 people arrested.

While Turkey has cracked down on most types of demonstrations and public gatherings since the Gezi Park protests in 2013, in which more than 100,000 people attended the Istanbul Pride march, and the attempted coup d In the state of 2016, the state’s approach to the LGBTI+ movement has been particularly brutal.

As protesters in Istanbul tried to dodge police and break through barricades, small groups of organizers attempted to read Istanbul Pride’s official press release on this year’s theme, “Resistance”. The topics covered reveal why the government views the LGBTI+ movement as a threat.

The statement refers to high-level civil society activists like Mucella Yapici and Osman Kavala, imprisoned during the recent Gezi Park trial, and expresses solidarity with the Kurdish movement and refugees. It also demands the reinstatement of the Istanbul Convention to prevent violence against women and children, a major demand of the equally militant and intersectional Turkish feminist movement. .

Turkey is second to last among European countries in terms of LGBTI+ rights according to a 2022 report by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. Homophobic language is used at the highest levels of the state, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declaring “LGBT people don’t exist” and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu using expressions such as “LGBT pervert” and describing people LGBTI+ as part of a terrorist organization. Even possession of rainbow flags was considered proof of a crime despite the absence of a law against homosexuality.

Despite the obstacles, the LGBTI+ movement in Turkey continues to organize across the country. On July 3, police raided the Pride parade in the Anatolian university town of Eskisehir, arresting ten people. Last May, an Islamist group began distributing pamphlets in Eskişehir province calling for gay people to be burned alive.

On July 5, the Ankara Pride Committee continued its march despite threats from homophobic groups. Melih Guner, chairman of the youth wing of extremist Yeniden Refah Partisi, claimed on Twitter that the governor of Ankara called him personally to assure him that the march would not be allowed to continue. .

The state has also targeted LGBTI+ media representation. For example, Turkey’s Supreme Radio and Television Council already tightly controls what can be shown on TV, but in 2020 it also pressured Netflix to remove a gay character from one of its original series in Turkish. . The crew decided to cancel the show in the middle of filming rather than alter the script.

On July 1, as Pride events continued across Turkey, the media watchdog targeted pop singer Mabel Matiz for a music video hinting at a romantic relationship between two men. The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTUK) has called on major broadcasters to urge them not to air Matiz’s latest song ‘Karakol’ (or police station), opposition council member Ilhan Tasci announced on Twitter. Although they were unable to ban the song outright, members of the pro-government council suggested that channels that ignored this de facto the ban could be fined. Meanwhile, a hashtag on social media urged Matiz, who is known as a strong advocate for LGBTI+ rights, to “know his place”.

In response to the banning of Matiz’s song, popular LGBTI+ news portal Kaos GL Foundation issued a statement “While 10 LGBTI+ events have been banned in one month and 530 LGBTI+ activists have been taken into custody, Mabel’s song and music video for ‘Karakol’ is like a carnation opening despite this spiral of hate and of violence… Bans, censorship, and hate campaigns cannot silence our songs”.

As the Turkish government escalates its war against LGBTI+ people, the community shows no signs of backing down.

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