Those of us queer and Muslim have been enjoying the pride parade in Istanbul for over a decade, using it as an example of what is possible in a Muslim-majority country. But this month’s pride has left many of us angry. Vasip Şahin, the Governor of Istanbul, who belongs to a political party that had lost hugely in this year’s elections, and his government have banned the pride last minute, using the holy month of Ramadan as a pretext.
“The police is attacking tens of thousands of people with pepper spray, plastic bullets and water cannons. All entrances and exits to and from Taksim and Istiklal Street have been shut down,” reported a statement from the organizers. “All Pride Parade participants are urged to remain in place and not leave Beyoglu until the walk can be started as planned.”
In the process, many images came out. Here are 5 that made us go “Wow!”
The Religious People Who Defied The Ban
Many religious, both queer and non-queer, have been part of the Istanbul Pride since its inception. These two women, fasting and in veil, were one of the marchers. The UK-based BECTU LGBT, which stands for the the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans Committee, tweeted the photo, and added: “After awful scenes of police brutality at #IstanbulPride, this is wonderful.” To point out the hypocrisy of banning the pride using Ramadan as a pretext, one Turkish person tweeted the photo, saying: “Neither Ramadan nor Pride has an interrelated problem. Turkish dictator’s chaos and election revenge.”
The Lovers Who Proved Pride Is About Love
Several shots of couples holding hands, embracing, or kissing appeared from the pride parade. Their love was a reminder that pride is all about love, and that is why we march for achievements in LGBT Rights. This couple, whose love is so normal in the crowd that no one even looks at them, is one of the many who made the day absolutely beautiful with their love. A young man from Italy shared it on Twitter and wrote: “They try to repress love, but love is exactly what will win!” Another one, from a Turkish in Izmir, read: “Love cannot be denied by banning.”
The Family Members Who Came To Support
Some of the most beautiful messages came from family members who attended the pride parade. The LİSTAG (Families of LGBTs in İstanbul), a voluntary support and solidarity group for families and friends of LGBT people since 2008, had been bringing its members to the march for years. In this photo, you see a father and son, with the father holding a sign that reads “Babanim Yanindayim, ” which can be translated as “I’m your father and I’m by your side.” One of our followers on Twitter, from Turkey, tweeted to us: “Our families make us or break us and this sign says it all.” It sure does!
The People Who Withstood State Abuse
Many marchers, listening to the advice of the organizers, stayed and marched, despite being treated like criminals. They sang, they danced, and they survived the abuse. In one of the ironies of the parade came when the mixtures of tear gas and water, lit against the sun, created rainbows! In this photo, a young man wields a rainbow flag against an on-coming police truck. The young woman who tweeted the photo said, “Rainbow flag is a weapon to fear!” Despite the city’s homophobic top officials intending to bankrupt the organizers, the parade went ahead. “MPs from the CHP and HDP resisted together against the police attack. Despite of the police violence, rainbow flags were waived everywhere in Beyoğlu Street,” wrote KAOS-GL, the country’s oldest LGBT organization. “Good to hear that #IstanbulPride actually went ahead despite being officially cancelled,” tweeted a bisexual woman from Bangladesh.
The Global Support That Poured In
On our Twitter page (@QueerMuslims) we re-tweeted hundreds of people all over the world who stood with LGBT people in Istanbul. But this also came from the global representatives in Istanbul, as well. Leigh Turner, the British Consul-General Istanbul, tweeted this photo, writing: “With French & US colleagues at #Istanbul #GayPride #LGBTİ #OnurYuerueyuesue.” It was also the tourists in the country. “As a tourist currently in Turkey, I’m inclined to say I’m not coming back as long as bigots like this run the the country,” Tweeted an Australian tourist, adding in another tweet that “fortunately most Turks we’ve met are equally horrified by the regression under the current govt & looking forward 2 change.” It was also the people in their countries. Lady Gaga, whose Twitter profile photo is a rainbow flag for Pride Month, urged the government of Istanbul to re-consider, tweeting: “Governor! Set an example for people to celebrate both Ramadan and Pride in PEACE, instead of dividing with violence! #OnurYuerueyuesue”
Afdhere Jama is the author of Queer Jihad: LGBT Muslims on Coming Out, Activism, and the Faith. He lives in the United States.