Istanbul gay pride activists rally despite ban

Istanbul (AFP) – Turkish activists on Sunday defied a ban to stage an annual gay pride march in Istanbul one month after Turkey’s election followed a homophobic hate-filled campaign.

A few hundred demonstrators waving rainbow flags held rallies including in Istanbul’s upscale Nisantasi neighborhood after being banned from the iconic Taksim square — the venue of 2013 anti-government protests.

Turkey’s LGBTQ community fears more pressure after conservative President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won the May vote to extend his rule until 2028.

This year’s pride march started and finished earlier than expected without any street clashes or police violence, according to AFP journalists on the ground.

More than 40 activists were detained, according to protesting groups.

Police heightened security in and around Taksim square.

Erol Onderoglu of Reporters Without Borders, criticised the police blockade of journalists at almost every social event around the square.

“The reality is that journalists’ rights are violated arbitrarily,” he tweeted.

Erdogan accused Turkey’s main opposition party CHP and its allies of being pro-LGBTQ before and after the elections, promising his supporters that the LGBTQ community will never enter his Islamic-rooted party.

“By ramping up anti-LGBTI rhetoric, the government has helped whip up prejudice, emboldening anti-LGBTI groups in Turkey, some of which have called for violence against LGBTI communities,” Amnesty International Europe director Nils Muiznieks warned on Friday.

“Under the pretext of protecting family values, the authorities are denying LGBTI people the right to live freely,” he said.

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