Elizabeth Suggs | Staff Writer | [email protected]
Video courtesy of Euronews
Something popped. People were running and covering their mouths. Someone had thrown tear gas.
On June 28, Turkey’s Gay Pride took a turn for the worse in Taksim, a neighborhood in Istanbul, Turkey.
“We were at a cafe,” Jes Millsaps, a University of Utah student, said. “We were enjoying our beers, minding our own business.”
Millsaps witnessed the tear gas hours after the police force tried to dismantle Turkey’s Gay Pride celebration.
“Randomly we heard a popping sound. At the time I didn’t think anything of it,” Millsaps said. “It was a really inappropriate action. Essentially, you shut down blocks of touristy areas, and for what—people carrying rainbow flags?”
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, stopped Pride unexpectedly before it was set to begin, ostensibly because it fell in Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
“Disproportional use of force by the police has always been an issue in Turkey,” Dr. Serhun Al, a Political Scientist from the University of Utah, said. “Disproportional use of force should not be tolerated on both moral and legal bases.”
Lambda Istanbul, a group formed by gays and lesbians, held the first openly Gay Pride March in Istanbul June 2003 with about 50 in attendance, according to the International Lesbian and Gay Association.
Since then, pride has been held each year with as many as 100,000 participants at a time.
“I don’t approve with the way they handled the whole situation,” Avery Petty, a UVU student, said. “I just wish there was a more relaxing way to handle the whole situation.”
In 2013, Turkey’s Constitutional Consensus Committee agreed to add a section to the new constitutional draft that would protect sexual minorities against sexual orientation discrimination. If it had passed, Turkey would have become the second majority Muslim country to protect sexual minorities.
However, while drafting the new constitution, the proposal was blocked by members of the ruling Justice and Development Party.
“Turkey has become more and more politically divided in terms of identity and ideology,” said Al. “As the recent election results show, the people’s will stopped further empowerment of the Justice and Development Party.”
While the ruling party obtained 40.7 percent of the votes, votes declined nearly 9 percent.
“Just two days after the US legalized gay marriage,” Millsaps said, “Turkey bans gay pride with tear gas.”
The LGBT community has made progress in the previous weeks with both America and Ireland legalizing gay marriage, and many more countries are expected to follow suit.
“[The] LGBT issue is still mostly a taboo in Turkey, especially outside the urban centers, like Istanbul,” Al said. “The reaction of the police was unnecessary. Gay Pride was a peaceful walk.”