A brief history of the Istanbul Pride March (1993-2022)

LGBTQI+ people in Turkey are not backing down despite threats, targeting and scaremongering by political Islamist and fascist politicians and the media. The organizing committees announced: The Trans Pride March will take place on June 18, and the LGBTQI+ Pride March will take place on June 25 in Istanbul.

In honor of this enthusiastic stubbornness, we want to take you to a journey through the history of the Istanbul Pride March. This is a chronology of the LGBTQI+ Pride marches in Istanbul, and the state authorities’ lawless efforts to ban them.

July 2, 1993

The first attempt to organize the Pride March in Turkey was made in 1993. The Istanbul Governorate banned the march planned to be held in Taksim on the grounds that it was “contrary to our customs and traditions and the values of our society.” On the day of the march, citizens “suspected of being homosexual” were detained on İstiklal Street.

September 1995

In 1995, steps were taken once again for the Pride March, which was intended to be organized as “Gay and Lesbian Cultural Events”, but the Istanbul Governorate banned the events on the same grounds as in 1993. 

June 29, 2003 

Prevented in 1993 and 1995, the Pride March was held for the first time on June 29, 2003 with approximately 30 people.

July 1, 2007

As part of the 15th LGBTQI+ Pride Week, the 5th Pride March started in Taksim Square and approximately 1000 people marched to Tünel (the distance is more or less 1500m).

June 29, 2008

The closure case against Lambdaistanbul LGBTI+ Solidarity Association led to the Pride March in Taksim on June 29, 2008 to be more crowded than previous years. In addition to the increasing number of participants, the profiles of the participants also diversified. LGBTQI+ people, their families, friends, artists, politicians and organizations representing different segments of the society were present at the 6th Pride March.

June 27, 2010

The 18th Pride Week took place between June 18-27 and ended on June 27 with the traditional Pride March. More than 5000 people participated this time.

June 26, 2011

The 19th Pride Week was held between June 20-26. The events ended with the Pride March on İstiklal Street on June 26, 2011. More than 10000 people joined.

July 1, 2012

The 20th Pride Week program was announced as June 25-July 1 with the theme “Memory” and the 10th Pride March took place on July 1, 2012 with more than 15000 people.

June 30, 2013

The Gezi Park Resistance gave immense visibility to the LGBTQI+ cause. The 2013 Pride March was the biggest and most celebrated march with more than 100,000 people participating.

June 29, 2014

The Pride March took place on İstiklal Street with exceptional participation. Tens of thousands of people were on the march. The police did not allow the demonstrators to reach Taksim Square. This is the year when the AKP’s official war  against LGBTI+ people. 

June 28, 2015

The 13th Pride March, which took place on June 28 as part of the 23rd Pride Week, was banned on the grounds of Ramadan and the police intervened with tear gas and water cannons. This was the first time security forces attacked marchers. Many people were injured and detained during the attack. Thousands of people regrouped about an hour after the attack and marched towards Tünel with the slogan “Love, love, freedom, hate begone!”

June 17, 2016

Istanbul Governor announced bans on the Trans Pride March (June 19th) and the LGBTI+ Pride March (June 26th). “Our Governorate will not allow any such meetings and marches to be organized on the aforementioned days, taking into consideration the safety of our citizens, especially the participants, and public order,” the statement said. The Pride Week Commission stated that they are not legally obliged to obtain permission and announced that the marches will take place on the planned dates despite threats and against the ban from the Istanbul Governorate.

June 19, 2016

The police attacked participants with tear gas and rubber bullets at the 7th Trans Pride March, which was planned as part of the 24th Istanbul LGBTQI+ Pride Week.

June 20, 2016

The street party planned for June 20 in Kadıköy was canceled.

June 24, 2016

The Pride Week Committee announced that the 14th LGBTQI+ Pride March, scheduled to take place on June 26, will be canceled with the declaration “We are dispersing”. The following statements were made in the press release: “It is with regret that we announce that we will not be able to organize the 14th Pride March. However, our confidence, horizons and dreams are much wider than a march, İstiklal Street, this city and this country. Our struggle for existence transcends the past, the present, and the future because we have always been here, we are here and we will always be here. On Sunday, June 26th, we will disperse to every corner of İstiklal Street. We will meet each other in every street and avenue of Beyoğlu on Sunday to ‘return life to its normal flow'”

June 24, 2017

Governorate once again denied permission to organize the Pride March.

June 25, 2017

The police intervened the 15th LGBTQI+ Pride March in Istanbul with rubber bullets, gas bombs, TOMAs (riot control vehicles), and dogs. LGBTQI+ activists were not allowed to enter İstiklal Street.

July 1, 2017

The 8th Trans Pride March was also banned.

July 2, 2017

LGBTQI+’s tried to organize the 8th Trans Pride March despite the ban of Istanbul Governorate. They were prevented by the police on their way to Taksim Square, and 7 people were detained.

July 1, 2018

As part of the 26th Pride Week, LGBTQI+’s gathered at Mis Street for the 16th Istanbul Pride March despite the governorate’s ban. The police intervened the group of 30 people who wanted to march from Taksim Square to Tarlabaşı. There were also small-scale police interventions in various areas. In total 5 people were detained.

June 18, 2019

The Istanbul LGBTQI+ Pride Week Committee met with the Istanbul Deputy Governor for the Pride Week and the Pride March. After the meeting, they announced that their request for the march to be held on İstiklal Street on June 30th was rejected “on the grounds that no demonstration is allowed in Taksim Square.”

June 30, 2019

3000 people, who gathered on İstiklal Street for the 17th LGBTQI+ Pride March, were prevented by the police. As a result of the negotiations with the police, it was announced that a press statement would be made on Mis Street and that the participants would disperse through the roads determined by the police.

The press release declared that “We are leaving Mis Street and dispersing to every street in Taksim. We continue to dance and have fun on the streets!”. The groups dispersed to the side streets according to the agreement with the security forces but they were attacked with pepper gas.

June 28, 2020

The 28th Istanbul LGBTQI+ Pride Week and the 18th Istanbul Pride March took place online in Istanbul due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Participants could virtually pin themselves on the map, and write their slogan of choice to express themselves.

June 22, 2021 

The Pride Week picnic, which was moved to Maçka Park as part of the Pride Week activities, was banned by Şişli District Governorate. Police intervened against those who did not leave the park.

June 24, 2021

Istanbul Governorate banned the 19th Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride March, which was planned to be held on June 26, 2021 at Maltepe Meeting Area. The reason for the ban, announced on the Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week Twitter account, was the same as in previous years.

June 26, 2021

The police intervened people gathering in Taksim Square for the 19th Istanbul Pride March at Mis Street and more than 20 people were detained. Journalists present at Mis Street to cover the events were also detained. Agence France Presse (AFP) photojournalist Bülent Kılıç was among those detained. His detainment with rear-handcuffing was quite violent and against human rights principles.

June 21, 2022

The Beyoğlu and Kadıköy District Governors’ Offices, which oversee the mega metropolitan area of this ancient city located on both banks of the Bosporus connecting the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara, have once again banned the city’s Pride march.

The governors’ offices announced a ban on all gatherings in both districts, where Pride week events had traditionally been held.

June 26, 2022

The District Governors’ Offices’ ban did not stop LGBTQI+ activists from marching in Istanbul’s 20th Pride Parade.

“Discrimination is a crime, rainbows aren’t” and “We will not go back. We will not go back from this road,” the activists chanted as they marched towards İstiklal Street.

Police blocked the roads heading to İstiklal Street and businesses were forced to close by security forces.

Following the police intervention in several locations, 373 people were detained, including activists, LGBTQI+ community members, and journalists. This was the highest number of detainments made at a single event in the history of Turkey.

June 27, 2022

“Police interrogation of 373 people, who were detained yesterday, is now over, and they will be sent to medical examination before being released,” the organizers of the Istanbul Pride Week said.


The only thing that has not changed during these 30 years of recurring events is that the LGBTQI+ community has never backed down and has never given up the fight and resistance. We know we are right. We know what we want. We will not give up our demand for equality and freedom!

As the Istanbul Pride Week committee says in their calls:

Rak Rak Rak, We are coming!!!

Foto by Bawer (March 2023 in Istanbul)


  • Bawer

    Kurdish, queer, and immigrant. Founding editor-in-chief of Velvele, journalist, writer, and translator. Lives in Barcelona.