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No Pride in Turkey

This weekend there was ‘no pride in Turkey’. Once again, and for the fourth year running, the annual Pride event in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city was banned. Citing ‘security’ concerns the Government of Turkey tried to prevent LGBTI people and allies coming together in the city for one of the few pride events in the region.

LGBTI campaigners defied the authorities. The ban is a violation of turkeys obligations as a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights which guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. People flying the rainbow flag were met with riot police, tear gas, police dogs and forced off the streets. 11 campaigners were arrested and have since been released.

In over 70 countries same-sex activity is illegal, Turkey is not one of those countries, but it is vital that whenever or where ever LGBTI people come under attack, we speak out.

We’ve written an open letter to the Consul General of Turkey in Edinburgh (below). We want as many of you to sign it as possible, to send a clear and unambiguous message of support to LGBTI people in Turkey that we stand with them, and that Turkey cannot deny its LGBTI citizens their right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.

No Pride in Turkey

Mr. Semih Lutfu Turgut
Consul General
Forsyth House,
93 George Street
Edinburgh,
EH2 3ES

Dear Mr Turgut,

RE: Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Assembly in Turkey

As you may be aware, LGBTI people were prevented from gathering to celebrate Istanbul Pride last weekend. Peaceful pride events have been prevented from taking place in the city since 2014 – banned by the city’s Governor or the Turkish Government – despite the fact that pride events had been successfully held annually for more than a decade attracting thousands of participants prior to these unlawful bans.

Multiple credible reports from Istanbul say that the police used excessive force including tear gas and police dogs to disperse LGBTI people and allies who had gathered for the peaceful pride event. There have also been reports that eleven people have been detained by the Turkish authorities.

Turkey is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) which allows for freedom of expression (Article 10) and freedom of assembly (Article 11) which means it must live up to its international obligations.

Unfortunately, Turkey has an appalling record of human-rights violations against LGBTI people in Europe, achieving just 9% on the ILGA Europe Rainbow Index. Since November 2017, all LGBTI events are subject to a blanket and indefinite ban in the capital city of Ankara, signalling a disturbing crackdown on freedom of expression and limitation of spaces for LGBTI people to be themselves.

LGBTI organisations in Turkey have become increasingly concerned about violence against LGBTI people in the country – this violence must stop and perpetrators should be investigated and charged.

We ask the Turkish Government to urgently review these bans and stop any further human rights violations. We are also calling upon Turkish authorities to:
• Allow free speech and the right of freedom of assembly to all citizens regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status;
• Immediately drop charges against all individuals who were arrested solely for taking part in the Pride march in Istanbul;
• Ensure that the police and justice authorities effectively and thoroughly investigate and prosecute crimes perpetrated against LGBTI people and LGBTI human rights defenders;
• Ensure Turkey observes its obligations to the European Convention on Human Rights to which it is signatory

Scotland has long and important social, economic and political ties with Turkey, ties of friendship that we hope will have an impact on the future actions of the Turkish Government.

Equality Network and Amnesty International in Scotland would welcome any dialogue with you, as Turkish Consul General for Scotland, and look forward to constructive steps by the Turkish Government to end the violence and discrimination against LGBTI people in Turkey and ensure international human rights obligations are met.

Yours sincerely,

Scott Cuthbertson
Equality Network

Paul Daly
Amnesty International in Scotland

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