istanbul gay pride.jpg
Photograph: EPA/SEDAT SUNA

Istanbul's annual Gay Pride march has been called off, organizers told dpa Saturday, a day before the march was set to take place, citing security concerns and a government ban.

Supporters are still expected to attempt public displays on Sunday in the centre of Turkey's main city.

Istanbul's gay pride parades had been taking place for more than a decade, until police last year broke up the march using tear gas and water cannons. Many tens of thousands of participants had been attending the peaceful events which had grown in size each year.

Last year's crackdown was said to be due to the Islamic holy month Ramadan. This year, the governor's office has cited security concerns, after a right-wing group made threats. Trans Pride, which was held a week ago, was dispersed by riot police.

"We are announcing, with sadness, that we will not be able to hold the 14th Pride March," the organizers said.

"We will disperse to every single corner of Istiklal Avenue," the statement said, referring to the main high street in the city, where the march had originally been scheduled.

Amnesty International said that "authorities should protect those attending the march, not deny them their right to celebrate it."

The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks, condemned the ban on the march, saying the Turkish government had "to take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of its participants if necessary."

The pride events in Istanbul take place just weeks after a suspected Islamic militant shot up a gay club in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people.

Turkey, governed by the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP), is officially a secular state but is almost entirely Muslim. Homosexuality is not banned, but there are allegations of discrimination.

At the same time, Turkey is facing criticism from the opposition and foreign observers that it is becoming increasingly authoritarian and intolerant of dissent.

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