Istanbul Police Failed To Forcibly Halt Gay Pride Parade – Ramadan Not The Only Cause Of Disruption?

Istanbul police tried to forcibly end the Gay Pride Parade held on this Sunday. Despite the use of rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons, the riot control police failed to curb the rising numbers a mere few blocks away.

With a clear intention of disrupting and ending the boisterous, but otherwise peaceful Gay Pride Parade by the LGBT community, the Istanbul police fired water cannons and rubber pellets. Though the use of tear gas was sporadic, many claimed they smelled the pungent and offensive odor. The police were set on stopping the gathering near Taksim Square on Sunday, but only succeeded in dispersing the crowd, only to have them congregate at the nearby Istikal Street.

There were a few official reasons for the police to use non-lethal force on the peaceful demonstrators. Though the parades in Istanbul have never been attacked before, the organizers have always ensured there were proper approvals in place. However, the Gay Pride Parade organized this Sunday didn’t have the official sanction. Istanbul Pride Week Committee member Ozge Gozke later admitted that, though the organization was denied a permit for the festival and parade, they went ahead anyways. The government may have been concerned about altercations between religious factions and the LGBT members owing to the sacred month of Ramadan. As such, the Istanbul government and police had legal right to end the parade.

However, it seems there were a quite a few pro-government groups that aided in the attacks against the Gay Pride Parade. Yahoo reported that these pro-government protesters even attacked a group of journalists who were merely covering the event and caused quite a few minor injuries to the neutral reporters. Witnesses later lamented that the police simply turned a blind eye towards these atrocities, but continued to use non-lethal force on those who had gathered for the Gay Pride Parade.

The blockade was in effect way before the Gay Pride Parade even commenced. The police had strategically cordoned off access to Taksim Square. Incidentally, this is the same hotspot where a huge anti-government protest was held in 2013, following which all demonstrations in the area have been banned.

Interestingly, 12 Gay Pride Parades at the very same region have gone through without a hitch. But it appears anti-government protesters took advantage of the parade to further their own agenda by shouting slogans accusing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of “fascism.” Turkey is one of only a handful of predominantly Muslim countries that not only is tolerant to, but also does not ban homosexuality. However on the streets, homophobia remains widespread.

[Image Credit | Ozan Kose / Getty Images]