In Istanbul, another movement blooms

by adam rasmi

A sign in Arabic reads “Homosexuality is here, get used to it.” (Courtesy Adam Rasmi)

A sign in Arabic reads “Homosexuality is here, get used to it.” (Courtesy Adam Rasmi)

Read the original at NOW Lebanon.

ISTANBUL, Turkey: Pride parades are a rare occurrence in the Middle East. But in Istanbul, it is a decade-old event that draws tens of thousands of participants including, this year, countless Gezi Park activists who joined the resistance-themed procession this past Sunday.

Unlike many LGBTQ parades outside the Middle East, Istanbul's at times resembled more demonstration than celebration. Marching down Istiklal Street, the main thoroughfare of Taksim Square, the heart of the city, participants chanted against businesses known to be unfriendly to Pride or Gezi Park activists. Tensions mounted as supporters passed a small group – about a dozen men, mostly conservative Muslims – who held up banners against the day's festivities.

Missing from the event were any signs of corporate sponsorship or government support, otherwise common features at Pride parades in American and European cities. In Turkey, the participants' demands are still far more modest, focusing on ending overt discrimination and homophobia, not equal marriage before the law.

Yet in a region where the LGBTQ community faces widespread and official discrimination, Istanbul's annual Pride parade is a major cause for celebration to many of the day's participants. Each year, it compels tens of thousands of people, Turks and foreigners alike, to don rainbow flags and banners demanding greater social justice.