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Turkey: Hundreds gather for anti-LGBTQ rally in Istanbul

Rights groups criticise the rally, pointing out that pro-LGBTQ demonstrations have been banned for years on security grounds
Women take part in an anti-LGBTQ rally in Istanbul on 18 September 2022 (Reuters)

Hundreds of protesters gathered on Sunday for an anti-LGBTQ march in Istanbul, a city where pro-LGBTQ demonstrations have been banned for years.

Religious, conservative and far-right groups organised the protest in the Fatih neighbourhood against what they claim is an increasing threat to traditional values in Turkey posed by LGBTQ people.

Protesters held placards reading "protect your family and your generation" and "say No to the project of a genderless society".

Rights groups have slammed the demonstration as well as the decision by Turkey's Radio and Television Supreme Council to allow the airing of a commercial supporting the protest on the grounds of "public interest".

The advertisement was produced by the Unity in Ideas and Struggle Platform, a group of about 150 right-wing NGOs, and showed videos and pictures from Pride rallies while a narrator calls on those who want to oppose the "global and imperialist lobbies who want to abolish gender, reduce the human generation, and destroy the family unit".

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The left-wing Peoples' Democracy Party (HDP) and Workers' Party of Turkey (TIP), the third- and sixth-largest parties in the parliament respectively, both issued condemnations of the march, with the HDP accusing the organisers of trying to "gain political profit from hate crimes".

A number of social media users posted their opposition to the march with the hashtag "No to Hate March".

In a statement, the Turkish Psychological Association also condemned the "hate-based" anti-LGBTQ gathering.

"We remind you again: the most important determinants of mental health are being together with differences, solidarity and feeling solidarity, a safe environment and a safe future under the guarantee of universal rights," they said.

Although homosexuality has been legal in Turkey since the 19th century and there are a number of popular LGBTQ celebrities in the country, it is still not widely accepted, and members of the community frequently face targeting and harassment.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has also pushed a socially conservative agenda since coming to power in 2002, and a number of its politicians have frequently railed against homosexuality.

While Istanbul regularly held well-attended Pride marches between 2003 and 2014, since then they have faced a blanket ban on security grounds.

Demonstrators defying the ban have been met by police violence and arrests. Last June, more than 200 people were arrested.

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