LGBT Pride Week in Istanbul got off to a rocky start on Sunday, when Turkish riot police used rubber bullets and teargas to break up a gathering of about 50 people who had assembled to celebrate Trans Pride in defiance of the government's ban on the event.
More than 300 police officers clad in riot gear and backed up by water cannons were stationed around the square and in side streets, the Associated Press reported.
On Friday, the governor of Istanbul announced bans on both the Trans Pride march and on the larger Gay Pride march, which is slated for next weekend, citing security concerns in the wake of several deadly bombings in the Turkish city over the past year.
Attendees of the banned ?stanbul #TransPride have been rushed by police, causing panic on #MisSokak street pic.twitter.com/WosTAT6AMd
— D8 News (@D8News) June 19, 2016
The organizers of the pride march put out a statement via Facebook condemning the ban as "a flagrant violation of the constitution and law."
Turkey's Amnesty International office said that 11 people were detained on Sunday.
The official ban followed promises by ultra-nationalist and conservative groups to "do what is necessary" to stop pride celebrations from taking place.
"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 last week. "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 has been legal in Turkey since the mid 19th century, during the Ottoman Empire. Trans individuals have been able to legally change their gender since 1988, and sex-reassignment surgery for people diagnosed with gender dysphoria is legal. However, public perception of sexual orientation and gender can be very conservative, rhetoric from religious hardliners and ultra nationalist groups can be very hateful, and Turkey's LGBT community continues to experience widespread discrimination and even violence.
Last year, Turkish police dispersed revelers at Istanbul's gay pride parade using water cannons, rubber bullets and tear gas.
Istanbul's riot police also came out in full force on Saturday after protests erupted over a Friday night incident in which 20 suspected religious hardliners beat up customers and staff at a record store in Istanbul for drinking alcohol and live-streaming Radiohead's new album, a Moon Shaped Pool, during Ramadan.
In a statement, Radiohead condemned the attack on the Velvet IndieGround. "We hope that someday we will be able to look back on such acts of violent intolerance as things of the ancient past."
Riot police dispersed the angry protesters using water cannons and tear gas.