June 26, 2017 at 3:16 am PST | by Michael K. Lavers
Tear gas used to disperse Istanbul Pride participants

Authorities in Istanbul on June 25, 2017, used tear gas and plastic bullets to disperse activists who defied a Pride march ban. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Turkish police on Sunday used tear gas and plastic bullets to disperse LGBT rights advocates in Istanbul who defied the city’s decision to ban a Pride event.

Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week on Saturday said in a statement that Istanbul’s governor banned the event because “the application for the event has not been done properly.” The Associated Press reported his office said authorities could not guarantee participants’ safety because “serious reactions by different segments of society” that include nationalist and religious groups.

Reports indicate authorities arrested more than 20 people. The Associated Press reported they also blocked suspected activists from entering Istiklal Avenue — a pedestrian-only street that begins at Taksim Square — in order to march.

“The lynch(ing) and threats posed by the aforementioned factions of society are not ‘serious reactions,’ they are (a) public offense,” said the Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week Committee on Sunday in a press release. “The different sectors of society have reacted, yet society itself has been waiting for long to attend this march. [The] Istanbul governor’s office has shown that they stand by perpetrators and not society.”

‘Security will be provided by protecting the rights of all humans’

A series of terrorist attacks has rocked Istanbul over the last year.

Three suicide bombers killed 44 people and injured more than 140 others during an attack at Ataturk Airport on June 28, 2016. Members of the Turkish military a few weeks later sought to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in an unsuccessful coup.

Three suspected members of the so-called Islamic State reportedly planned to attack a transgender rights march in Istanbul last June.

Turkish police last June arrested gay German MP Volker Beck, German MEP Terry Reintke and more than a dozen others who challenged the Istanbul governor’s decision to ban the city’s Pride march. Reintke is among those who criticized the arrests and expressed their solidarity with the activists.

Istanbul’s governor in 2015 banned Pride-related events.

The Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Committee on Saturday rejected authorities’ claims that security concerns prompted them to cancel the Pride event.

“Our security cannot be provided by imprisoning us behind walls, asking us to hide, preventing us from organizing and being visible and encouraging the ones who are threatening us,” it said in a press release. “Our security will be provided by showing how strong, how crowded, how brave we are.”

“Our security will be provided by protecting the rights of all humans, without discrimination, and protecting social peace,” added the Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Committee. “Our security will be provided by recognizing us in the constitution, by securing justice, by equality and freedom. Our security will be provided in a country where we can have LGBTI+ Pride March.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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