The Turkish authorities have banned the LGBTI pride parade for the third consecutive year but activists defied the ban, taking to the streets to protest.
Using the Turkish hashtag for “we march," the smaller group of demonstrators gathered close to central Taksim Square, to resist the prohibition imposed by the city governor.
Around 41 people were arrested, including 23 LGBTI activists and members of the ultranationalist group threatening the Pride parade, LGBT News Turkey reported. The police imposed checkpoints in the area to prevent groups from entering Istiklal Avenue. It also used plastic bullets and tear gas to disperse the groups that were gathered on sidewalks around the area.
"This ban is in violation not only of the legal precedents of the European Court of Human Rights but also of international treaties, legislations in the domestic law and the Constitution," the LGBTI Pride organizing committee said in a statement. “Get Used to It: We are Here and We are NOT Leaving!”
"We are the ones who declared the revolution of love and gender identity. We are the ones who are excluded, ignored, and yet resilient. We are not alone, we are not wrong, and not giving up by any means. Governors, governments, states change, we stay. These threats, bans, pressures will not stop us!" the organizing committee said in a statement.
"Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week" has been organized since 1993, and the ban is a violation of the "freedom of expression that has been put under protection by both the constitution and international treaties," the statement continued.
The organizing committee celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week.
Homosexuality isn't illegal in Turkey but homophobia is prevalent. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, head of the ruling AK party is known for his conservative stance.
The governor’s office Saturday cited safety and public order as a reason for banning the event, claiming that a valid parade application had not been filed for Sunday’s event.
The organizers rejected the claim stating the ban was a result of "serious reactions by different segments of society” as several nationalist and religious groups called for the march’s cancellation. According to BBC, the organizers received threats from far-right organizations.
The Pride organizers said the threats should be dealt with rather than curb demonstrations. “Our security will be provided by recognizing us in the constitution, by securing justice, by equality and freedom,” the statement said.