On Sunday, Turkish police cracked down violently on a gay pride parade in Istanbul. This video shows just how bad it got: police aim a water cannon at a rainbow flag, tearing it apart, then train it on one of the men at the rally, sending him flying backwards:
Unlike many other countries in the Middle East, Turkey doesn't outright ban homosexuality — even though 60 percent of Turks disapprove of same-sex relationships. In fact, Istanbul's annual pride parade is the largest in the Muslim world, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
But, this year, authorities banned the protest because it took place during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan — and apparently failed to tell the people planning it. They attempted to break up the march by force, firing tear gas, water cannons, and rubber pellets at the peaceful marchers:
Mis Sokak'a polis saldırısı pic.twitter.com/oPqcyCRRl9— Funda Eryiğit (@fundaeryigit) June 28, 2015
Turkey's democratically elected Islamist government, de facto led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has long been hostile to LGBT rights. In 2010, then-Minister of State Responsible for Women and Family Affairs Selma Aliye Kayaf called homosexuality a "biological disorder, a disease." She refused to apologize — and is hardly the only member of the government to express open homophobia.
A 2014 European Commission report found that Turkish police often failed to fully investigate or punish hate crimes against LGBT Turks (which happen with some frequency). Turkey's queer community was often afraid to go to the police.
"The Turkish state has, for the most part, gotten around to accepting the idea that LGBT people exist, but there's a major problem in recognizing that these individuals are human beings who have rights that need to be protected," Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International's Turkey expert, told Christian Science Monitor's Lucy Kafanov in May.
That's part of what makes this crackdown on the Istanbul pride parade so disturbing. For the past few years, pride parades had gone off peacefully. The fact that the government has moved to actively repress them is worrying — and in keeping with the Erdogan government's increasingly authoritarian drift.