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Turkish court lifts ban on Pride events in Ankara

Ankara Pride 2014

A court has lifted a ban on LGBTI Pride events being held in Turkey’s capital city, Ankara.

Kaos GL, a Turkish LGBTI rights group, successfully appealed the ban at the 12th administrative court on Friday (20 April).

LGBTI rights supporters had attempted to appeal the ban in November 2018, which was ultimately rejected.

The ban had been in effect since November 2017. It had been introduced under emergency powers brought in following an attempted coup against the Turkish government in 2016.

The governor’s office had initially justified the move on the grounds that LGBTI Pride events could ‘provoke reactions within certain segments’, such as counter-protests from far-right groups.

‘This is a momentous day’ 

News of the ban being lifted was welcomed by LGBTI supporters in Turkey. In recent years, LGBTI rights advocates have expressed alarm at what they perceive to be increasing authoritarianism and homophobia by the authorities.

‘We can say that the court has accepted our arguments that we have advocated since the day when the ban has declared,’ Hayriye Kara, a lawyer working for Kaos GL’s lawyer, said in a statement.

‘Instead of banning fundamental rights and freedoms to protect social peace, they said that the group that is vulnerable to any attack should be protected. It can be said that the court ruled that the state must protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of LGBTI+s.’

The court’s decision was also praised by  Fotis Filippou, Amnesty International’s Campaigns Director for Europe.

‘This is a momentous day for LGBTI people in Turkey and a huge victory for the LGBTI rights activists – love has won once again,’ said Filippou.

‘LGBTI people and their allies were scandalously and unlawfully banned from holding any LGBTI related events since November 2017. With Pride season approaching next month we celebrate this significant court ruling.’

The mayoralties in both Ankara and Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul, have been under the control of the ruling conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) since 1994.

However, this changed after last month’s local elections. Both cities were taken by candidates from the Republican People’s Party (CHP). The CHP is known for being more supportive of LGBT rights, the Middle East Eye reports.

Threats from far-right groups and the authorities 

Turkey is infamous for its widespread and systemic prejudices levied at the LGBTI community.

In a recent ILGA-Europe poll of LGBTI rights of countries in Europe and Western Asia, Turkey was placed third from the bottom – two places below Russia, a country notorious for its dreadful record of LGBTI-rights.

In the past, far-right groups have attacked Pride events. LGBTI rights activists in Turkey have also experienced widespread discrimination and abuse from the authorities.

In July last year, Istanbul police stormed a Pride event and fired rubber bullets and teargas into the crowd. The police raid happened despite Pride organizers having reached a last-minute agreement with the authorities to allow the march.

Ail Errol, the founder of Kaos GL and one of Turkey’s most high-profile LGBTI rights activists, was arrested in February last year. Errol’s arrest, which was believed to have been in relations to postings on social media, was condemned by his supporters.

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Author: Calum Stuart