Detained LGBTQ activists in Istanbul Pride being released

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Two women kiss as they hold up a placard that reads in Turkish: "I live free. Who's the fool who will put me in chains? I would be shocked" during the LGBTQ Pride March in Istanbul, Turkey, Sunday, June 26, 2022. Dozens of people were detained in central Istanbul Sunday after city authorities banned a LGBTQ Pride March, organisers said. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

ISTANBUL – Istanbul’s LGBTQ Pride organizers said 373 people detained by police following a ban on all Pride events were being released Monday.

Kaos GL, a leading LGBTQ rights association, said all the people detained Sunday were being freed after giving their police statement and undergoing health checks. Some were released overnight.

District governors in the two popular Istanbul districts of Beyoglu and Kadikoy outlawed all LGBTQ events last week, saying the ban would to ensure safety, peace and prevent crime. Numerous streets and subway stations were closed off by police Sunday to stop protesters from gathering. Police also pushed and detained journalists.

Amnesty Turkey said the ban was “extremely harsh” and “arbitrary.” The rights group’s Turkey campaigner, Milena Buyum, tweeted that the detained individuals were “deprived of their liberty simple bc they were exercising their rights” to freedom of expression and assembly.

Turkish authorities allowed Pride marches to take place for more than a decade starting in 2003, when Turkey’s conservative President Recep Tayyip Erdogan served as prime minister. Up to 100,000 people attended Istanbul Pride in 2014.

But in 2015, police dispersed crowds using tear gas and water cannons after a last-minute ban. The march has been banned ever since and top Turkish officials have called LGBTQ people “perverts” who aim to hurt traditional family values.

Organizers said in a statement Monday that the large number of detentions Sunday were more than triple the total number of detentions over the past seven years since Pride has been banned. They vowed to continue their fight for rights in the face of increased hate speech and discrimination.