Part of Istanbul Pride Week, the march began and was quickly joined by Gezi Park protesters, with marchers chanting for an end to transphobia and homophobia in Turkey, as well as expressing solidarity with the country’s recent anti-government protests.
Marchers also called for recognition of transgender identities in Turkey, and were reportedly applauded by bystanders.
Despite not having public permission to march, the protesters were joined by politicians from the main opposition Republican People’s Party, Sezgin Tanrikuli and Binnaz Toprak.
Last month Toprak was responsible for introducing a proposal to parliament for an inquiry into discrimination against LGBTI people in Turkey. The proposal was attacked by Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, and Toprak was accused of “defending immorality”.
The country’s LGBTI community has been very active in the Gezi Park protests, which began on 28 May as a small demonstration against the proposed demolition of the park but expanded across the country when the initial protesters were violently evicted by police.
Over the past few weeks there have been numerous reports of LGBTI activists being targeted by police, with some being violently beaten and detained. Some protesters have also reported police using anti-gay slurs.
The response by Turkish police has come under scrutiny both inside Turkey and internationally, with widespread claims of police brutality leading to the deaths of protesters and bystanders. Despite these claims, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has praised Turkish police for their ‘heroic’ action during the protests.
The Gezi Park protests have become a rallying point for those dissatisfied with the government’s perceived encroachment on Turkey’s secularism, and have been compared to both the Arab Spring revolutions that swept the Middle East in 2011 and the Occupy movement.
Although homosexuality is legal in Turkey, sexuality and gender identity are not protected under the country’s civil rights laws, and there is no legal recognition available for same-sex couples. LGBTI people in Turkey continue to face significant social discrimination and harassment.
Istanbul’s Pride Week will conclude with a gay pride march on Sunday.