On Saturday, June 24, the governor of Istanbul banned the LGBT pride march scheduled to take place in the city on Sunday, June 25. According to a statement released by the governor’s office, the parade was canceled due to security reasons. Istanbul LGBTI, the group organizing the march, said that an alternative event will be held but no additional information has been released.
This year’s Pride event comes as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began on May 27, comes to an end at sundown on Sunday, June 25 (depending on the moon). During this time, operations in Turkey will come to a virtual standstill as Muslims gather to pray and celebrate with family and friends in observation of Eid al-Fitr to mark the end of Ramadan. Past instances of violence directed at individuals perceived to be not adhering to religious customs during Ramadan have occurred in Istanbul, which could further aggravate tensions if the Pride march goes ahead as planned.
Pride events were banned by Istanbul’s governor in 2015 and 2016, allegedly due to security concerns. In 2016, police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds of people who tried to hold the march despite government orders. Several people were detained.
Conservative religious citizens often take issue with the public display of homosexuality and past parades have been met with protests and clashes with police. Homosexuality is not a crime in Turkey, as it is in some Muslim-majority states, but homophobia is still widespread among the more conservative portions of the population.
Those present in Istanbul should avoid all demonstrations and anticipate transportation disruptions if Pride events do occur.
Due to the prevailing threat of terrorism, report any suspicious objects or behavior to the authorities and maintain a high degree of vigilance, especially when visiting sites deemed particularly vulnerable to an attack (public transportation, train stations, ports, airports, public or government buildings, embassies or consulates, international organizations, schools and universities, religious sites, festivals, etc.). Some Western governments advise against travel to areas along the Syrian and Iraqi borders.
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