Green Left MP Özgül Saki faces legal proceedings in Turkey over remarks she made denouncing police violence against the LGBTI+ community at a Trans Pride March in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, sparking further debate regarding freedom of expression and the treatment of marginalised communities in Turkey.
The Turkish General Directorate of Security (EGM) lodged a criminal complaint against Saki on Monday after she commented that police officers at the march on Sunday had been “acting as if they were an occupying force”. The directorate said the police had been “preventing an unauthorised demonstration.”
Despite the absence of an official governorate ban on the demonstration, the police cordoned off Taksim Square and detained members of the LGBTI+ community as they gathered in preparation to march.
“As you can see, the Trans Pride March that was supposed to take place in Taksim today could not be held due to police forces occupying every corner of Taksim, acting as if they were an occupying force. Police violence was immediate. As you witnessed, they detained our friends under torture. This struggle, the Trans Pride March, the struggle of the LGBTI+ community, is not just their struggle, but the struggle of each and every one of us,” the Green Left MP said in response to the police presence and arrests, comments that rapidly elicited the legal proceedings to be lodged against her.
The EGM’s legal action has raised already heightened concerns regarding freedom of expression in the country and drew attention to the ongoing challenges faced by the LGBTI+ community and equal rights and visibility advocates in Turkey.
In the lead-up to Turkey’s May elections the ruling bloc intensified hostile rhetoric against LGBTI+ people. Immediately after re-election, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan specifically targeted the LGBTI+ movement along with the pro-Kurdish opposition in his ‘balcony speech’.
Pride Marches have been banned in Turkey since 2019 in violation of a clear ruling from the European Court of Human Rights, and Turkish police have consistently resorted to violence when intervening in demonstrations.