Middle East

Istanbul bans gay pride march on security grounds

The authorities in Turkey's biggest city Istanbul on Friday banned an annual gay pride march planned for later this month, citing security fears.

The Istanbul governorate said in a statement it was aware through reports in the press and social media of plans to hold the annual march on June 26 but urged citizens not to follow the calls to take part and instead to comply with warnings by the security forces.

The Istanbul gay pride march had until last year been held on 12 occasions largely without incident, growing into the largest such event in a Muslim country in the Middle East with thousands taking part in a celebration of diversity.

However in 2015, police shocked participants by firing tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets to prevent the march before it had even begun.

The statement from the governorate said: "Permission will not be given for… a meeting or a march on grounds of safeguarding security and public order."

"We urge our dear Istanbul residents not to heed calls to take part and to comply with warnings by the security forces."

Activists are planning a week of events from this weekend culminating in a gay pride march on June 26 that traditionally follows Istanbul's famed shopping street Istiklal Caddesi and finishes in Taksim Square.

However Turkey has been hit by a string of attacks this year, including a deadly suicide bombing on Istiklal itself that killed Israeli tourists and was blamed on jihadists.

Meanwhile, the march, as last year, is scheduled to take place during the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

There had already been concerns about the security of participants after a hardline nationalist youth group, the Alperen Hearths, vowed to intervene to stop the march from taking place.

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