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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 5, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 27
Turkish delight - Pride takes over Istanbul's Taksim Square
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Turkish delight - Pride takes over Istanbul's Taksim Square

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

More than 20,000 people took over Taksim Square in Istanbul - ground zero for mass demonstrations against the Turkish government - for Istanbul Pride 2013 on June 30.

In contrast with previous demonstrations, police were almost entirely absent, and the Taksim rally and subsequent march down Istiklal Avenue were completely peaceful. Public reaction was overwhelmingly supportive, with spectators applauding as the march went through central Istanbul.

Organizers said the 2013 numbers were double those for the previous year.

On June 23, organizers held Turkey's fourth annual Trans Pride, also with out incident. Ten thousand people rallied in Taksim Square for that event.

'Many Occupy Gezi protestors supported the demonstration,' Lesbian activist Yasemin Oz wrote on her blog. 'It was the largest Trans Pride ever in Istanbul.'

NO POLICE VIOLENCE/b>
The mass rebellion against Turkey's Islamist government was sparked by a government decision to clear Gezi Park, a popular gathering place for Istanbul's LGBT community, to construct a shopping mall.

While both Pride events went off without violence, the IGLHRC (International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission) expressed concern about possible police violence in the week leading up to Pride.

'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,' the group said in a statement.

'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 30th. 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 the Ministry of Justice to dismiss all charges against peaceful protesters.'

ANTI-GAY RHETORIC/b>
Human rights LGBT activists say that even when the police response to Pride events is restrained, Turkey remains a dangerous country for LGBT people.

'It's not just about equality. We have to fight for our right to live,' said Hassan Metehan Ozkan, a founder of the solidarity group LISTAG, which supports families of LGTB individuals in Istanbul.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stated that being Gay is 'a sexual preference' that is 'contrary' to Islam, and Minister for Women and Family Affairs Selma Aliye Kavaf described it as 'a biological disorder, a disease,' in a 2010 interview with the Hürriyet daily news.

Hate crimes against LGBT individuals are higher in Turkey than in any other member of the Council of Europe, rights groups say. Gay men and Transgender women are at particular risk. At least 30 Trans individuals in Turkey were murdered between January 2008 and December 2012, according to Transgender Europe.

'The only reason LGBT individuals are shown in the press is if they are killed,' said Ilker Çakmak, spokesperson and head of communications for Istanbul LGBTT Solidarity Association, pointing to the lurid and sensational media reports of Transgender murders.

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