A refugee who was arrested during the Istanbul LGBT pride march on Sunday awaits deportation to Iran, where they could face the death penalty over their sexual orientation, LGBT organisation KaosGL reported on Tuesday.
E.T. and their family sought asylum in 2013, and were granted international protection status in Turkey. The refugee, whose gender is not specified in reports, had left Iran due to the torture and threats to their life they suffered.
“TTheir claim to asylum was approved, but they are held in the Tuzla Repatriation Centre and our communication is completely cut off,” activists from the Istanbul Pride organisation committee told KaosGL. “We do not know what procedures have been conducted or will be conducted.”
E.T. has not been allowed to consult with any lawyers.
The Human Rights Association (İHD) will hold a press conference on Thursday to raise awareness for E.T.
“According to the non-refoulment principle, the Geneva Convention, and Turkey’s domestic law on foreigners, no person can be sent back to a country where they face the risk of tyranny or treatment that goes against human dignity,” the İHD said in a statement ahead of the conference.
Among persons arrested on Sunday are four other migrants from Libya, Russia, Portugal and Australia, some of whom are undocumented, according to KaosGL. One migrant was wounded on their leg, and was not allowed medical treatment, the organisation said.
“This person cannot access treatment and is trying to survive under conditions of state-controlled torture,” KaosGL cited activists as saying. “Our friends’ lives will be at risk if they are repatriated. We need support from all institutions to closely monitor the situation.”
The first ever attempt at an LGBT pride march in Istanbul was held in 1993, by a handful of activists who faced arrest over “homosexual terrorism” over the week-long activities and conferences they held in the city.
A better organised march came a decade later, in 2003, amid Turkey’s efforts to join the European Union. And by 2010, the annual march on İstiklal Avenue at the heart of the megacity had reached some 5,000 participants.
Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) started to attack pride marches in 2015, after the event reached some 100,000 people with a snowballing effect from the Gezi Park protests in 2013. In 2019, the first official ban was issued following years of hindrance. Since the ban, LGBT organisations have continued to hold smaller events which were all faced with violent police interventions.
More than 110 people were arrested during Sunday’s march, which the government and provincial authorities maintain was unlawful.
According to the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV), during June 2023 police targeted at least nine demonstrations and other LGBT events, while at least four minors and 201 activists were arrested. Two people were injured in these altercations. Governors of Izmir and Istanbul said pride marches were “threatening the institution of the family” and “going against our laws and society’s values”.