Post submitted by Associate Director, HRC Global Jordan Long
Supporters of LGBTQ equality have once again come under violent attack by Turkish authorities during Pride season. On Sunday, organizers of Istanbul Pride gathered to read a statement declaring their right to assemble before a small march planned to honor Trans Pride. Police not only failed to protect those assembled, but used tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets to disperse supporters of the LGBTQ community.
Up to 17 activists were detained for several hours following the altercation.
This violence at the hands of police follows the Governor of Istanbul’s refusal to to recognize the right of the LGBTQ community to celebrate Pride in the central Istanbul neighborhood of Taksim, citing perceived threats to the safety of celebrants.
Istanbul Pride has been held in Taksim on the last Sunday of June since 2003 largely without incident, until last year when riot police used water cannons and rubber bullets to disperse peaceful LGBTQ marchers and their supporters. The incident drew worldwide attention, including from members of the U.S. Congress.
The government’s assertion that they cannot protect the marchers from violence in the Turkish capital fails to address its obligation to uphold the fundamental and constitutional rights of all Turkish people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
“The events of the past week are demoralizing to say the least. The failure of my government to uphold our rights goes against the fundamental right to freedom of assembly,” said Istanbul-based activist Ezgi Seref, who attended HRC’s Global Innovative Advocacy Summit. “It sends the message that LGBTQ people in Turkey and their supporters are less than equal. These actions pave the way for increased discrimination and hate-motivated crimes against LGBTQ people.”
HRC has been working with the Istanbul-based group SPoD on adapting HRC’s Municipal Equality Index (MEI) for use in Turkey. The MEI urges local governments to put in place LGBTQ-inclusive policies and practices. The project to bring an MEI-like survey to Turkey emerged after HRC hosted Turkish fellow Boysan Yakar in 2014 through the HRC Global Fellowship Program.