The annual Gay Pride Parade in Istanbul is under threat from ultra-nationalist and conservative groups who have pledged to do “what is necessary” to stop the event.
In a press conference late on Tuesday, Alperen Hearths, the youth group loyal to far-nationalist Great Union Party (BBP), promised to intervene to stop the June 26 march.
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Pride Parade and Pride Week Istanbul (June 20-26) have taken place since 2003, attracting tens of thousands of people in recent years, with a reported 100,000 participants in 2013.
“Dear state officials, do not make us deal with these. Either you do what is needed or we will do it. We are ready to take any risks; we will directly prevent the march from happening,” the Alperen Hearths Istanbul provincial head, Kursat Mican, told journalists.
“[We] will not allow degenerates to carry out their fantasies on this land, which our ancestors left us by paying a heavy price … We are issuing our warning now. We said what is going to happen and are not responsible for what will happen after this point,” Mican added.
A group that calls itself the Anatolia Muslim Youth Association made similar threats on social media earlier in the week, promising to take action “to prevent fa…ts from marching”.
“We are responsible to intervene into the perversion allowed by the secular republic,” said the flyers of the group promoted on social media.
‘Important to express ourselves’
Gorkem Ulumeric, a representative of the Istanbul Pride Week group, told Al Jazeera that the event is very important for Turkish LGBT people to present themselves to wider society.
“LGBT people go through different unfair treatments in various areas of their daily lives, such as work, health, education and even life itself. Therefore, it is important for us to express ourselves on one day in a year at the centre of the city,” he said.
A senior state official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Al Jazeera that there has been no application to the governorship of Istanbul for a march on June 26.
“An application is required to conduct a procession, parade or race in Istanbul and the governor’s office must be informed. As of today, no such request has been received by the governor’s office,” he said.
Turkish law allows citizens to organise a march or a protest as long as authorities are informed. However, authorities can ban these events on the basis of various concerns, such as those of security or public order.
In reaction to the public threats, Istanbul Pride Week group launched a petition this week calling on the authorities to guarantee their security during the march in its 14th year.
“Following the threats, we made this move in order to attract public attention. These threats include Istanbul governorship, following the incidents of last year,” Ulumeric said.
The Istanbul pride parade in June 2015, which overlapped with Ramadan, was banned by the governorship hours before the event. Soon after, it was shut down through police intervention for the first time in its 13-year history.
The governorship of Istanbul said police did not allow the march after it received intelligence that some other groups might react to the event.
Ulumeric said that the important issue is the state’s stance towards these “threats” as LGBT citizens of Turkey have the same rights as any other Turkish person.
“We are allowed to organise a march like every other citizen,” he told Al Jazeera.
Earlier in June this year, a Gay Pride Parade took place in Izmir, the largest city in western Turkey, although the provincial governorship banned the event, citing “intelligence that there will be terror propaganda”.
Nevertheless, the event, the fourth one of its kind in the city, passed peacefully without police intervention despite the ban – albeit reportedly with low participation.
Follow Umut Uras on Twitter: @Um_Uras