LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

Pride update from Turkey – ban in Izmir prompts questions over Istanbul event

Recent events in Ankara and Izmir have raised concerns among LGBTI activists in Turkey, including the organisers of Istanbul's upcoming Pride.

Over the past few days, LGBTI activists in Turkey have denounced attempts to limit their right to peacefully assemble to celebrate Izmir Pride. The city’s fourth Pride march, scheduled to take place on Saturday 4 June, was banned at the last minute by the Izmir Governorate

ILGA-Europe are very concerned at this latest infringement of fundamental human rights, as the ban comes only weeks after a IDAHOT event in Ankara was banned by the city governorate. 

The European Union and the Council of Europe must use their working relationship with Turkey to protect fundamental human rights, including the right to freedom of assembly. Countries need to be vigilant when using anti-terrorism laws, in particular when this has the potential to stigmatize minorities.

On Friday 3 June, hours before the Pride was due to begin, the Izmir Governorate banned the event citing security risks and concerns that the march would be infiltrated by members of terrorist organisations. The governorate stated that it had received “partially confirmed” intelligence information that the march could be used to spread propaganda and that the security forces and general public could be attacked. 

The organisers of Istanbul Pride have also spoken out this week, raising concerns that their march will be prevented by the Turkish authorities. The experience of last year’s participants (who faced tear gas, water cannons and plastic bullets from riot police) is at the forefront of the organising committee’s minds. They have written to the Istanbul governor, asking him to ensure the safety and right to freedom of assembly of everyone who plans to take part in the city’s 14th Pride celebration on 26 June. 

“ILGA-Europe want to see pro-equality events protected all over Europe. There is a reason that freedom of assembly and freedom of expression are referred to as ‘fundamental freedoms’ –activists and their allies must feel safe to meet together in support of LGBTI equality.” remarked Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board, Brian Sheehan, who plans to represent ILGA-Europe at Istanbul Pride. 

“Of course the security of the participants, public and police attending Pride marches is vital and all confirmed intelligence must be acted upon. But anti-terrorism laws must not be used as a veil to disguise anti-LGBTI sentiment. We call on the European institutions to act on these developments in Turkey immediately and ensure that fundamental freedoms are preserved in every part of Europe.”