Turkish police break up Istanbul pride parade with water cannons and rubber bullets

Turkish police broke up Istanbul’s Pride parade yesterday, firing rubber bullets and water cannons laced with pepper spray in order to disperse the crowd. According to Reuters, “Organizers said on Twitter they had been denied permission to hold the parade because it coincided with Ramadan this year. Istanbul Pride has been held in the past and has been described as the biggest gay pride event in the Muslim world.” In a translated Facebook post, the organizers of the event said that news of the parade’s prohibition came “without prior notice.” The parade has been held annually since 2003, growing from 30 attendees that year to over 20,000 in 2011.

Videos and pictures of the violence were quickly circulated on Twitter, with one video showing a protestor defiantly waving a rainbow flag in front of an armored police vehicle before getting knocked back by a water cannon:

Istanbul Pride in 2012, via Wikimedia Commons

Istanbul Pride in 2012, via Wikimedia Commons

It is unclear as to whether Ramadan could or should have anything to do with holding a gay pride parade under Turkish law. Homosexuality is not illegal in Turkey, although its penal code has vaguely-worded provisions against “public exhibitionism” and “offenses against public morality” that could be cited by religious conservatives to shut down gay pride parades in general. However, given that parades in previous years had taken place without government interference, citing Ramadan as a special reason for prohibiting what conservatives might interpret as an “offense against public morality” seems arbitrary at best. What’s more, a trans pride parade was held in Istanbul last week without incident.

A more likely, perhaps related reason for the Turkish government’s violent dispersion of the parade-goers is growing instability in Turkey more generally. In May, water cannons and tear gas were used to shut down protests in Istanbul’s Taksim Square on the country’s Labor Day, an extension of ongoing unrest since the Gezi Park protests in 2013. The government also passed new expansions on the police’s power to crack down on protests in March of this year.

According to VICE News, “A cameraman for the Dogan News Agency said that police seemed set on stopping protesters before they reached Taksim Square, which has been a flash point for protests in the past.”


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • Butch1

    Ha! well there you have it! ;-)
    Don’t you just hate drive-by’s!

  • He has no choice but to depart, Butch1. He is banned.

  • Good-bye, larry. You are banned.

  • Butch1

    Well, Larry, your visit here is not unlike a “turd in a punch-bowl” at a gay party. People such as you are never really welcome, though we always put up with “drive-by’s.”

    Now you’ve had your say and stunk up the punch-bowl; if you have any decency kindly, depart.

  • MaryNGatlin
  • The_Fixer

    Yeah, I know. It is funny, isn’t it?

  • The_Fixer

    Your response sounds like an oral fart after bad gay sex.

    If you say so. Apparently you’re the expert on oral farts and bad gay sex.

  • nicho

    Mankind will only be free when the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.

  • nicho

    Well, the OT was pretty much a forgery under the control of the Hasmonean dynasty, which used it to cover for the dynasty’s own atrocities. It smashed together a bunch of oral traditions and wasn’t well edited. There are basically two gods in the OT, which only becomes apparent if you read it in the original. One is a kind loving god, but the other is a mean, vindictive SOB. There are several sets of commandments, although religionists today claim there is one. And there are two creations stories — and hints of another one.

  • nicho

    So homophobia isn’t dead after all. Aren’t you the hateful little oral fart.

  • larry

    Your response sounds like an oral fart after bad gay sex. I applaud the Turks smashing down the “in your face” parade. Not a fan of Islam but glad they take a firm stand.

  • 2karmanot

    Cognitive dissonance is the prevailing mind-set of failed states and crumbling empires. Oh, and the belief in exceptionalism. Golf clap for America!

  • 2karmanot

    Yep, there is certainly a lot of smiting going on in that pernicious rag of vindictive myths and blood shed.

  • 2karmanot

    “that there is a creator, he (or she) is an all-loving, all-forgiving entity who has humanity’s best interests at heart” ROTFL Sorry Fixer, my inner Steven Fry got the best of me. :-)

  • The_Fixer

    Ah, but that’s the “Old God.” We’re on version 2.0 now, “Son of God – benevolent upturner of moneychanger’s tables.”

    I point this out only to note the re-engineering of the Abrahamic god. They had to do this in order for him to seem more palatable. After all, why would I want to join a religion that features a deity prone to smiting, whipping people into the belly of a whale, flooding the earth, burning cities… you get the drift.

    But that’s part and parcel of what we’re facing. Yes, the popular narrative is a just and loving god, yadda, yadda. But you’re right, they won’t hesitate to bring out the smiting god when it suits their rhetorical purpose.

    And that’s one of the reasons why I think there is going to eventually come a day when there’s a big confrontation with religion. That confrontation will not only come from the outside (non-believers), but from the more enlightened people who already have doubts, but are still in the system, so to speak.

    Denying people their rights simply doesn’t square with what they’ve been taught to believe. It’s a cognitive dissonance that will have to be explained, and I don’t think religion(s) can explain it away. Hece, the confrontation.

    It may not be a big and public one. It could be an individual thing, happening bit by bit. I do think it will happen, nonetheless.

  • goulo

    FWIW I’ve been reading the Old Testament lately out of curiosity, and its underlying principles do not at all seem like “that there is a creator, he (or she) is an all-loving, all-forgiving entity who has humanity’s best interests at heart.” (Well, “there is a creator”, yes, but certainly not all-loving all-forgiving with humanity’s best interests at heart. More of a vengeful easily offended grudge holder, who for some capricious reason has a select few chosen people’s interests at heart, and even then he often gets pissed off at them and smites lots of them…)

  • GarySFBCN

    This is in retaliation for the recent election. The current president, Erdogan, and his party lost their majority for the first time since 2002, and this was due, in part, to an emerging pro-Kurdish alliance and their leader, Selahattin Demirtas, who is often compared to Obama. Demirtas created alliances with many, including Turkish LGBTs, and that helped him with his successful election. (I posted this on another blog yesterday).

  • The_Fixer

    And the backlash against us and our progress continues. The closer a society is to religious fundamentalism is, the bigger the backlash.

    I continue to see a future where there is a very big confrontation with religion in very many issues of the day, this among them. It shouldn’t have to be this way, if you believe in the underlying principles of any religion – that there is a creator, he (or she) is an all-loving, all-forgiving entity who has humanity’s best interests at heart. I think it’s a nice fairy tale, but whatever gets you through life is fine with me as long as you don’t try and get me to live by your version of religion. Of course, that’s not what’s going on here.

    I wonder if, at some point, religion will be so marginalized that we won’t even think much about it. It seems to me that if the various religions want to attract and keep followers, that they had better modernize their views. People are not going to put up with stuff like this forever, especially now that we know better.

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