Turkish activists defied a ban to stage an annual gay pride march in Istanbul on Sunday.
It’s one month after Turkey’s election followed a homophobic hate-filled campaign.
Turkey’s LGBTQ community fears more pressure after conservative President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won the May vote to extend his rule until 2028.
Erdogan accused Turkey’s main opposition party CHP and its allies of being pro-LGBTQ before and after the elections, promising his supporters that the LGBTQ community will never enter his Islamic-rooted party.
“By ramping up anti-LGBTI rhetoric, the government has helped whip up prejudice, emboldening anti-LGBTI groups in Turkey, some of which have called for violence against LGBTI communities,” Amnesty International Europe director Nils Muiznieks warned on Friday.
“Under the pretext of protecting family values, the authorities are denying LGBTI people the right to live freely,” he said.
Can Kortun, Pride Week Committee member said she believes the police were fearful of them.
“They are afraid of something different to them, but I think there are many of us among them. They are aware of our strength and numbers. They are aware of the change we can accomplish. But despite that, they refuse to communicate, and they are so afraid of us that they don’t let us come out. Just now, someone was trying to walk their dogs and they wouldn’t let him. That kind of fear.”
Eren Mucahit Kutluk, lawyer explained why he joined the rally.
“All day and night, I will be side by side with my LGBT friends. I will go to the police station and be there during their testimonies. We’re here. I’m also here. I’m not dead, I’m still alive. If they wish to kill, they are welcome to. I know most of them want that, but there’s a gay lawyer here.”
Police had heightened security in and around the iconic Taksim square which was the venue of the 2013 anti-government protest.
More than 40 protesters were detained, according to demonstration groups.
This year’s pride march started and finished earlier than expected without any street clashes or police violence, according to AFP journalists on the ground.
However Erol Onderoglu of Reporters Without Borders, criticised the police blockade of journalists at almost every social event around the square.
“The reality is that journalists’ rights are violated arbitrarily,” he tweeted.