Carolyn Lagatutta

Gay Pride Activists Tear Gassed In Istanbul During Pride Week Celebrations

Sunday was a groundbreaking day for the Catholic community, as Pope Francis publicly stated that the Catholic Church should apologize to gay people who have felt hate and discrimination at the hands of its followers.

Sunday was also an incredibly groundbreaking day for queer New Yorkers, as people turned out for New York City pride in impressive numbers, despite collective fear after the devastating Orlando massacre at Pulse Nightclub.

Sadly, Sunday happened to be a heartbreaking day for the queer community in Istanbul, Turkey. A group of activists attempted to gather to mark the annual Gay Pride week after the authorities banned them from marching, only to be detained and tear gassed by the police.

A German lawmaker and a member of the European Parliament were among the detained. This happened right as the police aggressively chased the peaceful activists into the side streets, blocking them from gathering and reading out a statement saying the event had been officially banned.

Volker Beck, a member of the German Bundestag and a veteran gay rights activist, reported to Reuters that the behavior of the police in Turkey was hugely unjust.

"They did nothing wrong. They were put into a police car," Beck told Reuters. He also added that the police officers attempted to force him into a taxi, telling him he should hold his news conference in his own country.

The governor's office in Istanbul banned the march, allegedly out of concern for "public order." An ultra-nationalist youth group had also threatened violence if activists proceeded with the march, calling it "immoral."

Homosexuality is not a technical crime in Turkey, unlike most Muslim countries. However, homophobia is becoming increasingly apparent in the Turkish government and culture.

The Gay Pride parade in Istanbul has been a historically peaceful event, and the city has been viewed as a notorious safe haven for the Middle Eastern gay community. The events on Sunday threaten to rob queer Middle Easterners of their sense of safety and acceptance in Istanbul.

Some foreign diplomats who had attended the previous years' gay pride march have sent messages of solidarity for Gay Pride week through social media.

John Bass, US Ambassador to Turkey, posted a picture on his Instagram account showing a rainbow flag flying in the garden of the US embassy in Ankara.

"It reminds all of us that human rights are universal rights and belong to everyone, no matter who they love," he wrote.

The tear gassing and detainment of innocent, peaceful activists and the horrendous massacre in Orlando really show that the fight for LGBTQ+ equality is far from over.