Istanbul's Gay Pride paraders press ahead with march despite ban
Organisers of a Gay Pride parade vowed to press ahead with the event Sunday, a day after officials in Turkey's largest city banned it, citing safety and public order concerns.
Activists had called the parade for Sunday afternoon at Istanbul's Taksim Square, but the city governor's office banned it after threats from far-right and conservative groups.
It is the third year in a row that the march has been banned.
Organisers denounced the decision and said the march would go ahead as planned.
"We are not scared, we are here, we will not change," the Pride Committee said in a statement on Sunday. "You are scared, you will change and you will get used to it.
"We are here again to show that we will fight in a determined fashion for our pride."
Small groups began gathering at Taksim Square but a heavy police presence outnumbered the activists, according to an AFP journalist said.
Several roads leading to Taksim had been closed.
'Governors change, we stay'
In one of the biggest LGBT events in the mainly Muslim region, the 2014 Gay Pride parade in Istanbul drew tens of thousands of people.
Last year, with the city on the edge after bombings blamed on Islamic State group and Kurdish militants, organisers were denied permission to march.
Riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters who defied the ban.
Eleven activists went on trial in Istanbul this week for having defied last year's ban on the Gay Pride march, but they were all acquitted.
This year, the parade coincides with the first day of a festival celebrating the end of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
Critics accuse President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of having overseen a creeping Islamisation since he came to power, first as prime minister in 2003 and then president in 2014.
He has repeatedly infuriated activists with his conservative comments on sex and family planning, but has generally steered clear of commenting publicly on gay issues.
But in 2010, former family minister Aliye Kavaf, a woman, described homosexuality as a "biological disorder" and a "disease".
Homosexuality has been legal in Turkey throughout the period of the modern republic but gays in Turkey regularly complain of harassment and abuse.
"We are not alone, we are not wrong, we have not given up," the Pride Committee's statement said Sunday.
"Governors, governments, states change and we stay. Threats, bans, pressures will not deter us ... We will not give up on," it added.