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Turkish riot police fire tear gas and make arrests at Istanbul gay pride parade

Turkish authorities banned Istanbul's annual pride event this year, and police detained 19 people and fired tear gas at those who attempted to march anyway.
June 26, 2016, 7:05pm
Photo by Sedat Suna/EPA

Turkish police detained 19 people and fired tear gas in central Istanbul on Sunday to disperse dozens who attempted to march in a banned gay pride parade.

The Istanbul governor's office last week said the march had been called off out of concern for public order. Organizers canceled the annual march, which had been carried out largely peacefully since 2003, after authorities deployed hundreds of riot police near the main Taksim square.

Related: Islamic State members caught plotting attack on transgender march, Turkey says

Security in the city is already tight after a series of bombings in recent months blamed on the Islamic State and Kurdish militants. An ultra-nationalist youth group had also threatened violence if the march went ahead, calling it immoral.

Policemen keep attacking and harassing pro-LGBT demonstrators in Istanbul's Taksim. #LoveWins pic.twitter.com/UJOQdnUE4J
— Turkey Untold (@TurkeyUntold) June 26, 2016

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"We will not allow degenerates to carry out their fantasies on this land, which our ancestors left us by paying a heavy price," said Kursat Mican, head of the Istanbul division of the ultra-nationalist youth group the Alperen Hearths, at a press conference earlier this month. "We are not responsible for what will happen after this point… If you're not taught by experience, you're taught by a beating."

Homosexuality is not a crime in Turkey, unlike some other Muslim countries, but homophobia remains widespread. Critics say President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Islamist-rooted AK Party he founded have shown little interest in expanding rights for minorities, gays, and women, and are intolerant of dissent.

Polis Mis Sokak'ta ?sl?klar?n ard?ndan aniden gaz atarak sokakta bekleyen insanlara ve bas?na sald?rd?. #da??l?yoruz pic.twitter.com/vx2pOBybns
— Begum Basdas (@BegumBasdas) June 26, 2016

Last year, police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse pride marchers. Organizers said the government refused to sanction the event because it coincided with the holy month of Ramadan, as it did again this year.

Volker Beck, a member of the German Bundestag and a veteran gay rights activist, was among those briefly detained. Two other German citizens were also detained.

"They did nothing wrong. They were put into a police car," Bundestag told Reuters as police officers tried to force him into a taxi, telling him he should hold his news conference in his own country.

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Plastik mermiden biz de gözlemciler olarak nasibimizi ald?k. Mis Sokak'ta polis yine herkesi da??tt?. #da??l?yoruz pic.twitter.com/4NGoyour2x
— Begum Basdas (@BegumBasdas) June 26, 2016

Some foreign diplomats who attended the event in previous years sent solidarity messages this week via social media. The Swedish Consulate held a reception, while the Norway delegation co-organized a boat trip.

John Bass, US ambassador to Turkey, posted a picture on his Instagram account showing a rainbow flag flying in the garden of the US embassy in Ankara.

"It reminds all of us that human rights are universal rights and belong to everyone, no matter who they love," he wrote.

Pride parades were held in cities around the world on Sunday, including in Orlando, Florida, where a gunman killed 49 people at a gay nightclub earlier this month.

Related: After Orlando, Pride festivals in Toronto, London, and New York all boost security

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