For residents of Istanbul, the LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) Pride Parade is a familiar sight. But attendees at the Turkish city’s 13th annual march were forcibly prevented from celebrating.
Riot police used water cannon and rubber bullets to disperse crowds at the 2015 Gay Pride festival. Media reports suggest the march was stopped before it started when crowds began to denounce Turkey’s Conservative President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Police are believed to have arrested at least five parade-goers.
Journalists covering the event say they were assaulted and lightly injured by a group of civilians, who appeared to be nationalists and Islamists. AFP news agency reports the police appeared not to flinch when the alleged attacks took place.
One man at the scene was angry at the treatment parade-goers received.
“These people don’t want anything, just a status,” he said. “They’re not throwing stones or Molotov cocktails… But you have seen the police reaction. Turkey is like that today. A little rights request receives this reaction.”
According to eyewitnesses, the police seemed intent on preventing the crowd from gathering near Taksim Square – a known rallying ground at the centre of weeks of unrest in 2013.
All gatherings in and around the square were outlawed shortly afterwards.
Homophobia remains deeply rooted among parts of the conservative country’s population. While homosexuality is not illegal in Turkey, in 2010, the then Prime Minister Erdogan’s Minister for Family and Women labelled it a “disease” that “needs to be treated.”