Istanbul LGBT parade dispersed by tear gas, rubber bullets
City's governor had banned LGBT individuals from holding two annual parades this year
Turkish police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators who gathered Sunday for a gay pride rally in Istanbul despite a government ban.
Dozens of participants advocating trans rights assembled off Istiklal Street, a major commercial artery, some brandishing rainbow flags.
Police called on them to disperse and prevented activists from marching or making statements. A couple of individuals were detained.
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More than 300 policemen in anti-riot gear and backed by water cannons were deployed along the pedestrian thoroughfare and on side streets.
Istanbul's governor had banned gay, lesbian and transgender individuals from holding two annual parades this year, both Sunday's seventh Trans Pride March and a broader LGBT pride parade on June 26. His office cited security concerns as the basis for the ban.
"Football fans can rally in this country whenever they want. We were going to do a peaceful activity," said Ebru Kiranci, spokesperson for the Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association.
"[The] holy month of Ramadan is an excuse. If you are going to respect Ramadan, respect us too. The heterosexuals think it's too much for us, only two hours in 365 days," she said.
Turkish Islamist and ultra-nationalist groups had threatened counter-demonstrations to stop the parade from taking place but didn't turn up Sunday.
Istanbul has witnessed a series of deadly bombings in the past year, including two suicide attacks targeting tourists — one on Istiklal Street.
Government 'limit people's rights and freedoms'
On Friday, Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week organizers issued a declaration with #LoveWillWin in Turkish rejecting security concerns as a reason to ban the parades.
It said "the governorship prefers to limit people's rights and freedoms instead of taking measures to deal with the threats."
Sunday's organizers, in their statement, also paid tribute to the victims of a bloody rampage at a gay night club in Orlando, Fla., that left 49 people dead.
"We bow with respect to the memory of our friends massacred in Orlando and promise a world without homophobia and transphobia," their statement read.
The U.S. consulate in Istanbul this week unfurled the rainbow flag in celebration of gay pride and to honour the Orlando victims.
The annual gay pride parade in Istanbul, described as the biggest in the Muslim world, was due to take place on June 26. Istanbul has held gay pride parades since 2003, attracting tens of thousands of marchers, but last year's was broken up by police.
Unlike many other Muslim countries, homosexuality is not a crime in Turkey but hostility toward gay people remains widespread.
With files from Reuters