Turkish Police Detained German Bundestag And A Veteran Gay Rights Activist in Istanul
Turkish police detained 19 people and fired tear gas in central Istanbul on Sunday to disperse dozens of activists attempting to gather to mark the annual Gay Pride week after authorities banned their march.
A German lawmaker and a member of the European Parliament were also briefly detained while police chased activists into side streets and blocked them from gathering and reading out a statement, saying it was banned.
Organizers called off the annual Gay Pride march, carried out largely peacefully since 2003, after authorities did not allow the event to go ahead but deployed hundreds of riot police near the main Taksim square.
Volker Beck, a member of the German Bundestag and a veteran gay rights activist, was among those briefly detained. Two other German citizens were also detained.
The Istanbul governor’s office last week said the march had been banned out of concern for public order. Security in the city is already tight after a series of bombings in recent months blamed on Islamic State and Kurdish militants.
But an ultra-nationalist youth group had also threatened violence if the march went ahead, calling it immoral.
While homosexuality is not a crime in Turkey unlike many other Muslim countries, homophobia remains widespread.
Historically the gay pride parade in Istanbul – a city seen as a relative safe haven by members of the gay community from elsewhere in the Middle East, including refugees from Syria and Iraq – has been a peaceful event.
But last year police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse participants, after organizers said they had been refused permission because it coincided with the holy month of Ramadan, as it does again this year.
John Bass, U.S. ambassador to Turkey, posted a picture on his Instagram account showing a rainbow flag flying in the garden of the U.S. embassy in Ankara marking the Gay Pride week.
“It reminds all of us that human rights are universal rights and belong to everyone, no matter who they love,” he wrote.