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Dozens arrested after defying ban on Pride march in Istanbul

People shout slogans next to Turkish police officers during the LGBTQ Pride March in Istanbul (Emrah Gurel/AP)
People shout slogans next to Turkish police officers during the LGBTQ Pride March in Istanbul (Emrah Gurel/AP)

Dozens of people have been detained in central Istanbul after city authorities banned an LGBTQ Pride march, organisers said.

Turkey’s largest city has banned the march since 2015 but large crowds nonetheless gather every year to mark the end of Pride Month. Organisers called the ban unlawful.

“We do not give up, we are not afraid. We will continue our activities in safe places and online,” the Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week Committee said on Twitter.

Kaos GL, a prominent LGBTQ group, said that shortly before the march’s 5pm start police detained 52 people. The Pride Week Committee later said more than 100 had been arrested.

Turkey Pride March
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’(Emrah Gurel/AP)

Images on social media showed people being searched and loaded on to buses, including at least one news photographer. Journalists’ union DISK Basin-Is said “many” were beaten by police.

Local residents banged pots and pans from their windows and balconies in a show of support for the marchers as a police helicopter circled overhead.

Metal fences and lines of riot officers cordoned off streets around Taksim Square and Istiklal Avenue in the Beyoglu district, the heart of the city’s shopping and tourism sectors, as well as a traditional gathering point for protesters.

Metro services around Taksim Square were shut down for hours ahead of the march.

Turkey previously was one of the few Muslim-majority countries to allow Pride marches. The first was held in 2003, the year after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party came to power.

In recent years, the government has adopted a harsh approach to public events by groups that do not represent its religiously conservative views. Large numbers of arrests and the use of tear gas and plastic pellets by police have accompanied Pride events.

Counter-demonstrations by nationalists and Islamists, who claim the LGBTQ community is a danger to “Turkish values,” have also threatened marchers.

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