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Istanbul Pride 2023

On Sunday 25 June, Turkish activists held the 21st annual pride parade in Istanbul, going against the ban the Turkish  government has put in place. 


The pride parade comes weeks after the right-wing president, Tayyip Erdoğan, was re-elected as president for another term. Erdoğan has been firm in his position against the LGBTQ+ community. In a rally in Giresun during his campaign, as reported by France 24, he said “We are against the LGBT [...] Family is sacred to us. A strong family means a strong nation. No matter what they do, God is enough for us.” 


Erdoğan’s win will likely bring more animosity towards the LGBTQ+ community during his new term, which is expected to last until 2028. The animosity has already been demonstrated. Middle East Eye has reported that in a speech by Erdoğan given to the Turkish parliament. Erdoğan described the LGBTQ+ community in Turkey as “evil”. 


Pride parades have been banned in Turkey since 2015, as the Turkish government allegedly perceived them as a security threat. Istanbul has held a pride parade every year since 2003.  The ban has not stopped activists from coming together and still marching in the streets in support of the LGBTQ+ community. Activists were demonstrating their discontent with Erdoğan by chanting “Run Tayyip, run. Queers are coming!"


Ahead of the parade, activists were warned that any Pride events would be shut down. These warnings led many planned Pride events such as a film screening and a pride picnic to be cancelled before they could occur. The main parade took place as a sign of protest and organisers promised they would not back down. A statement by the Istanbul Pride Parade Committee said:   "We will not leave our spaces; you will get used to us. Today, despite all your prohibitions and against your wishes, we are still here.” 


Before the march, police had closed off areas in the centre of Istanbul to discourage members from parading. This police action only resulted in a reroute of the parade which ended in the high-end neighbourhood of Nisantasi.


The pride parade resulted in over 93 participants having been detained, according to protest groups, and at least one had suffered a head injury while being detained. Last year’s pride parade resulted in over 400 participants being detained. This year’s parade began with high levels of tension  between the government and the LGBTQ+ community. However, the parade saw a significant decrease in violence and detainees, France 24 reported. The parade was cut short, yet its message was made clear: the LGBTQ+ community is alive and strong in Turkey.

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