Sunday, 26 June 2016

Istanbul Gay Pride: my diary of a powerful LGBT civil rights march

Last year Istanbul Pride was violently dispersed. This year it was banned altogether.

I dedicate this post to all the activists who struggle for human rights in Turkey. In solidarity with LGBT people in Istanbul.

I was lucky enough to be in Istanbul on 29 June 2014, with my Armenian friends. We witnessed and participated in perhaps the biggest and unfortunately the last peaceful Pride event happened there.

It was a great inspirational Pride event, a powerful civil rights march. Very political. Very colourful. Very diverse. Like in previous years, there was an abundance of posters in Armenian too.

There was police presence there too, but in contrast to last two years, police was there to protect, not to attack.

Participants of the march were quite critical against increasingly autocratic Erdogan rule. I witnessed quite a few anti-Erdogan messages, slogans and anti-Erdogan mocking during the march. No surprises that Turkey president Erdogan could not bear such displays of freedom, and started crackdown on Istanbul Pride using the full force of his repressive regime.

Below is my photo story from June 2014. I highly recommend Adrineh’s blog post reflecting the event too: A World of Pride or More Like Hüzün?
[...] I was lucky this year to be in Istanbul for gay pride. It was my first time in the city that is so close to Yerevan and yet so far. My girlfriend and I, along with a couple of our gay Armenian friends, planned a short, four-day visit not only to see the city, but also to be there for the pride march. Because unlike other cities where I’ve been that celebrate Pride (Toronto, Montréal, New York, Reykjavik, Dublin), it wasn’t a parade but a march. And there’s a clear difference between the two.

It reminded me of the origins of Pride, of what was fought for and what was gained. And it reminded me of how far we still have to go. […]

Just thousands and thousands of people of all stripes marching, holding signs in Armenian and Turkish (probably in Kurdish too) and so many rainbow flags. […]

And the music that stayed with me the most was the beat of the drums. Men and woman playing various types of drums at different points in the march. This is the sound of a struggle, and this is how you know that what we saw, what we were swept up in (my gay Armenian friends and I) was a march for human rights. [...]

It is therefore with great sadness I note how quickly and to what a devastating effect the situation with human rights has been deteriorated in Turkey, with each passing day under the Erdogan rule.

And after-party:

See also Rainbow Istanbul, with Armenian touch

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