LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

One very proud weekend – Pride postcard from Dublin and Istanbul

Pride events
community organising

ILGA-Europe Communications Team was present at both Pride events in Dublin and Istanbul.

On 30 June and 1 July, groups of LGBTI people and allies took to the streets all over Europe, including Dublin and Istanbul. You don’t need ILGA-Europe to tell you that the experiences of Pride goers in both cities varied considerably. However, the differing fortunes of human rights activists in both countries in recent times doesn’t mean that there isn’t rich learning to be shared.

Both Istanbul Pride and Dublin Pride serve as powerful reminders that Pride was born in passion. It is an event wrapped in defiance, dignity and resistance ever since Stonewall stopped being a sign above a bar and became a symbol of queer action. It has – and always will be – a protest, no matter where on earth you march.

In Dublin, the 2018 Pride was a moment of reflection in many ways. The 35th edition of the event remembered the brutal murder of Declan Flynn that was the catalyst for the very first public march for LGBTI rights. It marked 25 years (not very long in the overall scheme of things) since decriminalisation, a shameful period in Irish history that had moved our prime minister to issue a government apology a few weeks ago. The 60,000 people that took to the capital’s streets (a 100% increase on 2017’s official attendance) were also celebrating the recent landslide referendum vote to bring Ireland’s law practically banning abortion out of the dark ages. The Repeal the 8th campaign had been a glorious collaboration between abortion rights campaigners and the LGBTI movement – with activists like Ailbhe Smyth at the forefront of the Yes campaign and groups like Radical Queers Resist taking on anti-choice protests on the streets – so this was on everyone’s mind too.

But it wasn’t all rainbows and perfection – Ireland’s Rainbow Europe score reveals that there is a lot of work left to do. Equal marriage is never the end point of the LGBTI equality story. There is still a massive gap in hate crime/speech laws. The bar run by Ireland’s national treasure Panti Bliss had a rock with homophobic messages scrawled in it thrown through the window in Pride week. Posters and chants calling for the introduction of PrEP and for the government to move faster on the proposed Sex Education Bill were visible all along the parade route. And the very Dublin Pride theme itself – We Are Family – was a direct rebuttal to the upcoming World Congress of Families and papal visit later this summer.

It will never stop being a protest, because progress doesn’t stop. Because equality isn’t something you wake up one morning and realise has come into existence seamlessly overnight.

The LGBTI communities in Turkey know that all too well. The Pride in Istanbul saw another Governorship ban just two days before the planned date. Thousands of police officers were already present in Taksim on Sunday morning (1 July). The Pride was banned although Ramadan didn’t coincide with it this year (which was an argument used to justify the ban in previous years by the Governorship in Istanbul – this is in a country with a constitution explicitly mentioning secularism and democracy!). The activists announced that they would use their constitutional right to assembly and march.

On Sunday 1 July, hundreds of LGBTI activists, community members, and allies came together in Taksim, resisted against the police, showed their togetherness in plural actions and protests in spite of the ban. The activists read their press statement on Mis Street but were later dispersed by the police. During the day, 11 people were taken into custody; many others were attacked by the police’s plastic bullets and tear gas.

This is only a short story of 1 July. However the LGBTI movement in Turkey has been showing great resilience and determination throughout the state of emergency, at a time where human rights defenders are under huge risk and minority groups face more and more state violence.

This is why the LGBTI movement in Turkey wants to hear more voices standing with them like the previous years. The ongoing bans and the repeated state violations of LGBTI rights in Turkey shouldn’t mean that any of us should be getting used to them. The State and the police can get as creative in their actions, but the LGBTI movement is even more creative! They are responding to those bans by making more alternative spaces for the community, spreading out Pride events into different cities and even university campuses, and gaining even more allies to stand with them.

Prides everywhere are moments to remember our shared history and to plan where to go from here. Our equality work is not finished. Nowhere on earth is a utopia and the political situation in many places feels like it’s moving backwards.

But no matter how life feels right now, this isn’t over. The resilience of Istanbul’s activists tells you that. A lot can change in a short period of time. Ireland’s own social history tells you that. And every summer, Pride events give the LGBTI movement across the world a common moment of visibility and access to their allies in other countries, to policymakers who can change laws, and to the media who can change perceptions. In 2018, the power of Pride cannot be overlooked.

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