Turkish police have arrested three suspected members of the Islamic State in Istanbul following a tip that the group planned to attack the Trans Pride march last week.
Criminal charges are pending against a Turkish citizen and two people from Russia's Dagestan region, all of whom are being held in custody, Reuters reported Wednesday. The arrests come after police conducted raided two suburbs of Istanbul and found suicide vests and other military paraphernalia.
Turkish authorities have been grappling with IS fighters flowing in and out of the border with Syria, as well as a number of terror attacks across the country including the January suicide bombing in Istanbul that killed 12 people.
Istanbul's governor had already banned the annual transgender march in Taksim Square — as well as the upcoming gay pride rally, believed to be the largest in the Muslim world — over security concerns and threats from homophobic ultra-nationalist and conservatives who vowed to shut them down. But people still showed up to the trans march on Sunday, where they clashed with hundreds of riot police who fired rubber pellets and tear gas to break up the crowd.
Those organizing the gay pride rally set for this Sunday say it will happen anyway despite the ban. Members of Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week put out a statement saying that "the government prefers to limit people's rights and freedoms instead of taking measures to deal with the threats," and started the #LoveWillWin hashtag to raise awareness.
"It is crucial for us to be visible at the center of cities at least for one day of the year," the group continued.
The alleged plot against the trans march comes after the gunman responsible for the mass shooting this month at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida that killed 49 people pledged allegiance to IS. Security has been tightened around LGBT festivals planned around the world this summer, including Toronto Pride, which was identified by a pro-ISIS communication channel as an "excellent target" for an attack.
Turkish law does not prohibit homosexuality, like many other Muslim countries, however LGBT people there still experience rampant violence and discrimination when it comes to getting a job, healthcare, and housing. The monitoring group Transgender Europe reported 39 trans people were murdered in Turkey last year.
The country's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that being gay is "contrary to the culture of Islam," although he ate dinner with Turkey's most famous transgender celebrity just hours after the crackdown on the trans march.
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