By Erin Browner
Thursday, July 11, 2013
LGBT leadership of the protests at Taksim Square tapped new levels of support for the annual Istanbul pride parade on June 30. "People feel what gays are feeling because we have been suppressed," said one crossover demonstrator.
Credit: Erin Browner.
ISTANBUL, Turkey (WOMENSENEWS)--During the 11th annual Istanbul pride parade for LGBT unity, which drew record crowds on June 30, chants from Taksim Square protests echoed through the side streets of Istiklal, the main street leading into the square.
"Taksim is just the beginning," tens of thousands cheered.
The familiar chant wasn't so much a spillover from the Taksim protests as a different venue for members of the LGBT community, who have been on the frontlines of the anti-government protests in Istanbul that erupted on May 27 when Turkish police attempted to violently eject activists from Gezi Park.
LGBT activists and Gezi Park protesters in Taksim Square are fighting for similar human rights, said Oznur, a 31-year-old marketing manager who attended the pride march after demonstrating alongside LGBT activists in Taksim Square. Oznur and other Gezi Park protestors and pride participants asked to not use their full names in fear of police targeting and the recent arrest of protestors who are speaking out on social media websites.
"People feel what gays are feeling because we have been suppressed and they have been suppressed all the way, so we are feeling great to defend them," Oznur said.
Oznur had wanted to participate in the parade in previous years, but this was her first time in the march. "With the Gezi protests I wanted to be added in to the crowd to defend gay rights."
Yudum, a 30-year-old sales clerk marching in the pride parade, said the national protests were spreading support for the LGBT community. "I think more people are becoming tolerant toward other groups. This is a part of Gezi as a whole idea."
She doesn't see any legal or institutional changes for LGBT rights on the horizon. "But I think people can get more tolerant and as people get more aware it will translate to legal issues one day," she said.
Istanbul Pride March: Gezi Protests Creates Awareness for LGBT Community
Istanbul pride organizers estimated that 40,000 people lined the city's Istiklal Avenue to support gay, lesbian and transgender citizens at the pride parade, saying that attendance has doubled since last year and reached a high watermark in the history of the event. Estimates vary however, and some news outlets reported attendance as high as 100,000.
A wide array of age groups joined the parade. Signs in Turkish, Arabic and Kurdish read "my child is gay."
Members of opposition and Kurdish political parties also participated in the parade on Sunday, according to the Association for the Study of Social Policy Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation (SPoD), a national nongovernmental LGBT organization based in Istanbul.
Neval, a university student from Istanbul who protested during the Gezi Park demonstrations and asked not to give her full name, shook a tambourine in the crowd beside her mother, Yasemin, in Taksim Square before the pride parade began to march.
"This is my mother and this is her first time in a demonstration like this," said Neval, 23. "I came here last week [for Gezi Park protests] and she's here this week [for pride]. We can share this and people can just join."
"We haven't seen this kind of unity in Turkey before," said Istanbullite Deryz Yusek, 35, who was also marching in the parade. "So it's all great."
For parade participants, unity looks like a massive rainbow flag clutched by dozens of LGBT supporters with flower tiaras and anonymous masks. It sounds like tambourines, whistles and shouts. It feels like confidence and safety while walking down the street wearing a short skirt and heels. Neighborhoods of Istanbul transformed into a safe space for a day.
In a country dominated by Islamic culture where individuals have been murdered for their sexual orientation, a massive pride march offered a reprieve from the underlying reality of harsh bias and discrimination.