Thousands march in Istanbul for ban on LGBTQI groups

Thousands of people marched in Istanbul on Sunday, calling for the closure of LGBTQI associations and a ban on their activities, in the largest demonstration of its kind in Turkey, Haber Türk network reported.

The march, called the "The Big Family Gathering’’ (Büyük Aile Buluşması), in the megacity’s Sarçhane district, arrived as organizers gathered 150,000 signatures urging a new law from Turkey's parliament banning “LGBTQI propaganda,” Haber Türk said.

Protesters carried Turkish flags and banners which read, “We will not allow for those who declare war on the family,” "Protecting the family is a national security issue," and “Stop LGBTQI propaganda and imposition.”

In the days leading up to the demonstration, organizers circulated a video using mages from past Pride marches in the country, and referred to the LGBTQI propaganda a “virus” taking over “Turkey and the world.”   

The video was listed among public service announcements by Turkey's media watchdog, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), Haber Türk reported.

Being LGBT has never been criminalised under the modern Turkish republic, but LGBT-focused events have been banned in the country since 2015, after the Istanbul Pride attracted some 100,000 participants in 2014.

The country ranked the second worst country in the European Union for LGBT people, scoring only above Azerbaijan, according the 2021 “Rainbow Europe” ranking compiled by Brussels-based NGO advocating for LGBT rights, ILGA-Europe.

The report ranking a total of 49 countries, highlighted incidents and campaigns of hate speech in Turkey targeting the group this year, with public figures “blaming LGBT people or gay men for the COVID-19 pandemic, and for spreading other illnesses.’’

The country ranks the second worst country in Europe in the International Lesbian and Gay Association’s (ILGA) Rainbow ranking with a 4 percent score, which comes from its recognition of legal gender transition.

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