Riot police in Turkey interrupted a gay pride parade in Istanbul on Sunday with rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannons. It’s still not clear why the police decided to break it up but they cleared it out quickly and left the people celebrating upset.
The annual gay pride celebration, which has been held in the city for years now, was packed and it is not immediately clear why police wanted to break up the celebration, Reuters reported.
Rumors say that the conservative Muslim officials had a problem with the celebration being around the same time as Ramadan. Homosexuality isn’t illegal in the country, but many are not ok with them and they have no laws that protect them from discrimination in employment, education, housing, health care, public accommodations or credit. The EU Commission on Enlargement released a report a few years ago saying, “There have been several cases of discrimination at the workplace, where LGBT employees have been fired because of their sexual orientation. Provisions of the Turkish Criminal Code on ‘public exhibitionism’ and ‘offences against public morality’ are sometimes used to discriminate against LGBT people. The Law on Misdemeanors is often used to impose fines against transgender persons”.
The country does not recognize same-sex marriage.
The gay pride event was held in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, a place that is known for its protests against the government. The AFP reported that police targeted the crowd after hearing slogans accusing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of engaging in “fascism.”
The event has been going on since 2003, and now occurs each year on either the last Sunday of June or the first Sunday of July, to mark the end of Istanbul pride week. In the first year of the celebrations, only 30 people attended but the numbers have drastically increased with time. Estimates say that in 2010, 5,000 people attended and in 2011 the number doubled with 10,000, making Gay Pride Istanbul the biggest march of its kind in Eastern Europe. Three years ago the parade attracted around 10,000-30,000 people and in 2013, almost 100,000. The European Union has praised the country in the past for hosting the parades without any disruptions, but not this time.
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On Saturday, thousands of people took the streets to celebrate the annual Pride parade just a day after gay marriage was ruled to be legal across the U.S.
To celebrate the historic decision, the U.S flag joined those of Ireland and Mozambique at the front of the celebration, all three have recognized gay rights recently. More than 250 groups showed up at the event with extra security alert for any irregularities after the attacks on Kuwait, France and Tunisia.
Ruth Hunt, chief executive of Stonewall, said Pride was “a wonderful event that celebrates LGBT equality and how far we’ve come”, adding: “However, we must not lose sight of how much is left to do.
“The number of reported LGBT hate crimes is on the rise across the UK, our government must address trans-law reform, LGBT people are still being bullied in school and isolated at work, and overseas, many Prides either take place under armed guard or not at all. In fact, it’s illegal to be gay in 75 countries and punishable by death in 10.”
Other people protested against Northern Ireland, which does not allow same-sex marriage. Campaigner Peter Tatchell held a sign which said: “Northern Ireland! End the same-sex marriage ban. Equal Marriage.”