On Sunday, June 25, police used checkpoints to prevent groups of people associated with the planned LGBT pride march from entering Taksim Square in Istanbul. Around 100 protesters congregated in an adjacent neighborhood, with police using tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the protesters. According to reports, several people were detained but the police have not stated the exact number.
On June 24, the governor of Istanbul banned the scheduled LGBT pride march. According to a statement released by the governor’s office, the parade was canceled due to security reasons.
This year’s LGBT 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 potential transportation disruptions.
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.