Turkish police broke up the crowd gathered for the Pride march in Istanbul on Sunday, arresting dozens, including journalists in an alleged attempt at preventing them from recording the event.
Even before the rally began, riot police raided several bars in the Cihangir district near Taksim and arrested people “at random”, including an AFP photographer, the news agency reported.
Bülent Kilic, a veteran award-winning photographer with experience in conflict zones, was handcuffed behind his back, his shirt torn off, and taken away with others in a police van.
He had already been arrested last year under the same circumstances.
The arrests came after the authorities issued a seven-day ban on gatherings “in open and closed spaces” leading up to Sunday in an attempt to prevent the Pride march from taking place.
Earlier in June, Turkish police in Istanbul arrested 11 LBGTQ+ activists who gathered to celebrate the beginning of Pride month. The activist claimed they were “tortured” and published images of heavily bruised wrists and legs.
Yet on Sunday hundreds of protesters waving rainbow flags began to gather in the streets adjacent to the famous Taksim Square, which is entirely closed to the public.
After a spectacular march in 2014 of more than 100,000 people in Istanbul, the Turkish authorities have banned it year after year, officially for security reasons.
Last year, police also cracked down on the event, using teargas to disperse the crowds and detaining dozens as hundreds came together to oppose the ban. The incident sparked protests across the Mediterranean country, including the capital Ankara.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has criticised the country’s LGBTQ+ activists in the past, likening them to vandals in 2021.