An Urgent Message from LGBT Istanbul

IGLHRC Calls for Guarantee of Safety at Pride March, End to State Sanctioned Police Brutality

We need international solidarity for a peaceful Gay Pride…God knows what will happen.
–Yasemin Oz

On Mon, June 24, 2013 Yasemin Öz, prominent LGBT activist and lawyer from Turkey and the recipient of the 2013 IGLHRC Felipa D’Souza Award wrote:

As LGBT people, we have been at Occupy Gezi protests for a month since the start of the protests. We were exposed to tear gas and water cannons since the beginning of Occupy Gezi. Once again we faced police violence during our peaceful protests. As LGBT people we are familiar with police brutality. Especially trans people who face police violence continuously.

Fortunately, on the 23rd of June, we held the 4th Trans Pride Demonstration, finally without the intervention of the police forces or police brutality. Around ten thousand people marched in Taksim. Three deputies from the main opposition party CHP, Binnaz Toprak, Sezgin Tanrıkulu and Melda Onur joined the demonstration. Many Occupy Gezi protestors supported the demonstration. It was the largest Trans Pride ever in Istanbul.

Today Gay Pride Week started and we are planning to demonstrate in Taksim next Sunday on the 30th of June. We plan to make Gay Pride with the participation of deputies from the CHP and BDP [opposition parties]. German deputy Volker Beck and famous artists will join the Gay Pride. Last year, more than 10,000 people marched in Pride. With the energy of Occupy Gezi protests, this year we are expecting a more crowded march. We need international solidarity for a peaceful Gay Pride … God knows what will happen …

Lesbian, Gay Bisexual; and Transgender (LGBT) activists in Turkey have released a call for support saying they fear for their safety as Pride approaches. Resististanbul Pride March will take place on June 30th. Traditionally, the march has taken place on the historic and famous Istiklal Cad, within walking distance from Taksim Square.

IGLHRC Seeks Guarantee of Safety as Pride Approaches

Over the past month media have reported 4 deaths and over 7,000 injured. LGBT activists have reported violent treatment of LGBT protesters by police forces during just the protests around Taksim Square. Given the ongoing excessive use of force by police against demonstrators on Taksim Square and Gezi Park, reported by the news media and activists alike, IGLHRC is deeply concerned that the police may resort to brutality and unnecessary use of force to disperse the peaceful gathering of LGBT community to honor the pride month.

“The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is deeply concerned with the excessive use of force by Turkish police against peaceful demonstrators in Istanbul, Ankara and elsewhere over the past month. We call upon the Government of Turkey to guarantee the safety of the LGBT community and supporters during the upcoming 11th annual Istanbul Pride March on June 30 th. The violence in Taksim Square is particularly destructive because it strikes at what has traditionally been a safe space for diverse communities, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

IGLHRC calls upon the Government of Turkey to respect the fundamental rights of assembly, association, and expression. We call upon the government to cease all acts of brutality and violence against individuals seeking to peacefully assemble in the parks throughout Turkey. We call upon government to immediately investigate all allegations of arbitrary arrest and police brutality and bring the perpetrators to justice. We also call upon Ministry of Justice to dismiss all charges against peaceful protestors.”
– Jessica Stern, Executive Director, IGLHRC

IGLHRC’s Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator, Hossein Alizadeh added,

“We urge the government of Turkey to take all necessary steps and allow for a safe Pride event in Istanbul this year. The authorities in Turkey must understand that the international community is concerned about the human rights situation in Turkey and the rights of Turkish citizens to express their views and opinions peacefully without fear of oppression and persecution.”