First, here is a link to photos of pride on my facebook! Enjoy, they will attest to what an amazing day it was!!
Following the BDP protest (see previous blog), I made my way over to the annual Istanbul Pride Parade, which I have participated in for four years now. Every year the parade has grown, and this year it took a bit longer for the participants to reach Taksim due to the closure of the roads as a result of the BDP support protest; therefore, the first photos (see link above) seem as if it was going to be less people, however within a half hour it appeared that there were anywhere between 3-4 thousand people, if not more. I have to say that with each passing year I enjoy Pride more and more; it is simply impossible for me to describe the positive energy from the participants and from the onlookers who often clap and cheer. This year the parade was led by Lamda Istanbul’s Family Support group, with mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers joining in and showing their solidarity and pride with their children and siblings. Also, we were happy to have parliament member Sebahat Tuncel and upcoming parliamentarians Sırrı Süreyya Önder and Ertuğrul Kürkçü (all affiliated with the BDP) taking part, following the early clashes between them and their supporters and the police. During the Pride parade, due to the wind shifting directions tear gas was in the air often burning our eyes. During the last few years, Tuncel has been an important supporter of the LGBT community and the coalition to bring equality to all citizens of Turkey.
This year’s Pride Parade comes at an important crossroads in Turkish history with the upcoming parliament set to rewrite the constitution. Therefore, in Turkey, the main goal for the LGBT community is to amend current anti-discrimination laws to also prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender-identity, and to introduce laws protecting the community (and other communities in Turkey) from Hate Crimes and Hate Speech, among other issues such as ending the rampant violence suffered especially by the transgender community (here is a link to my previous blog on the topic). Like last year some of the slogans were “homosexuals will no longer be silenced,” and “we are here so get used to us.”
Following the parade, crowds gathered in Tunel Square for a festive evening of drinking and dancing in the street. To end, I will attach a paragraph that I wrote last year when I covered Pride, and I think it still holds quite true: Istanbul Pride is a true show of force and optimism. While the Turkish society overall is quite conservative they to are coming to terms with the fact that the LGBT as an active community is here to stay. No longer can government ministers, such as [the past] Aliye Kavaf (minister of Woman and Family affairs), who stated that “homosexuality is a disease that needs to be treated”, hide from the slogans thrown at her by thousands of protestors. The fact that she [did not] resign is in itself a disgrace to the [past] government. Furthermore, the march signifies more than anything that Turkey has changed a lot during the last decade and that the Turkish society is indeed in the midst of a quite dynamic phase.