Turkish authorities reportedly banned the weekend-long “Queer Olympix” LGBTQ sports festival in Istanbul moments before it was set to begin.
Police claimed the event planned for last Saturday had to be shut down to protect “public health, public order and public morality,” according to the French news outlet AFP.com.
Queer Olympix co-organizer Elif Kaya said riot police waited with two water cannons and armored vehicles when she and a team of 20 Queer Olympix organizers arrived at the sports field where the event was to take place. Police then escorted the 20 organizers to their respective homes.
The event began in 2017 and was held again 2018 without incident. This year’s event would’ve included a picnic, yoga, beach volleyball, tennis, marbles, a football tournament and “queer circus” events. About 130 participants had registered to attend.
A co-organizer and queer football player calling themselves Atletik Dildoa wrote on social media that the event had been canceled by the Kadıköy district governor Şerdil Dara Odabaşı “as a precaution against the provocations that may occur due to social sensitivities,” citing the authority of Turkish law 2911, article 17.
PinkNews points out that Turkish law 2911, article 17, states: “The governor or district governor may postpone a specific meeting for up to a maximum of one month for reasons of national security, public order, prevention of crime, protection of public health, public morality or the rights and freedoms of others, or may ban the meeting in case there is a clear and imminent threat of a crime being committed.”
In a response video posted on Facebook, Queer Olympix participants read a statement that said, “We learned that if we do ‘long jump’, it threatens public health, public order, and public morality. If we jump too long and too far, if we insist on being in the areas where we are not welcomed, we can overcome heterosexism, God forbid!”
Organizers believe the governor decided to apply the law at the last minute to ruin the event rather than applying it ahead of time so that the Queer Olympix could try and address the governor’s fears.
“These bans aim to function to oppress us not only physically but also psychologically, to ignore our voluntary effort, and to reject our existence,” the video participants said. “Despite the arbitrary bans under cover of security, we are in the streets, in the schools, in the fields, and in the workspaces against binary system and heterosexism.”
While it’s technically legal to be gay in Turkey and queer people can legally change their gender and adopt there, anti-LGBTQ sentiment runs through the Turkish government. There are no LGBTQ anti-discrimination protections, queer citizens are forbidden from joining the military and LGBTQ people are subject to violence, theft, harassment, blackmail and the threat of murder under so-called familial “honor killings.”
For the last five years, the Turkish government has banned the annual LGBTQ Pride march. While its 2013 march attracted nearly 100,000 attendees, in 2015 the police began using water cannons and rubber bullets to disperse attendees citing a concern for their safety.