For over a decade, I have taken part numerous times in Istanbul’s Pride march which starts in Taksim and runs along the main pedestrian avenue, Istiklal, ending in the Tunel neighborhood. Once over, thousands remain in Tunel, music of drums beating and local bars filling up, with many fearing in what condition they will be in at work the next Monday morning at work!
This year the protest started off with a bit-of-tension with the police blocking the march from starting in Taksim Square, in what seem was to just a way to remind all that they are watching closely (with six water-cannons placed along Istiklal). Remarkably, it seems Pride has become the only mass-protest which has not seen police interference in the recent past, when so many other civil initiatives are met with heavy doses of teargas and police violence.
Every year, Pride has grown, and with last year’s Gezi Park protests, Turkey’s LGBT community received a new source of support, due to the active role of LGBT activists in the protests. Yesterday’s march however showed the outpouring of support was not just a one-time event. It seems safe to say that yesterday’s pride even outdid last year’s in terms of spirit, energy, and solidarity. Amazingly, year after year, Istanbul’s Pride just gets better and better.
|In Solidarity with those who died in Gezi protests: On with the Struggle!|
While the almost hundred thousand supporters show that protests in Turkey can be fun (so many of Turkish protests revolve around outdated leftist uniformity), no one should be mistaken about the activists serious agenda. Equality based on sexual orientation is not part of Turkey’s Constitution, which is currently-and slowly-being overhauled by the ruling AKP-ruled government. And, while the government seems to try to avoid any discussion of LGBT issues, pro-government press is free to promote hate against the community.
Most pressing is the issue of violence against transgender individuals. This year alone, four transgender woman have been murdered, with an attack on two transgender women taking place just last April, leaving one shot dead and another injured. In fact, last year Turkey saw five of these hate killings; here is a link to a past blog post, where I wrote about the sad case of Irem, who was murdered. A few years back, Amnesty International, released a major report which documented the extreme violence and hate the LGBT community faces in Turkey, which also has included “honor-killings” of gay men.
On the bright side, even if the AKP remains staunchly opposed to recognizing the rights of the LGBT community, the main opposition CHP, and the leftist-Kurdish coalition HDP party, both are leading the way at creating a new Turkey, where Gays, Lesbians, and Transgender, are part of public life, both in policy and party representation (during last spring’s local election six LGBT candidates were listed for municipal representation).
For more on the topic, here is a link to a policy article I wrote on the LGBT community and Turkey, and also for more of my photos of yesterday's Pride, see the following link.
Happy Pride to all! Together in solidarity for freedom and equality!