(Kerem Öktem is a fellow at the European Studies Centre of St. Antony’s College at the University of Oxford.)
For background on the court case against the AKP, see Hilal Elver, ‘Lawfare and Wearfare in Turkey,’ Middle East Report Online (April 2008).
For background on Hrant Dink, see Ay?e Kad?o?lu, ‘The Pigeon on the Bridge is Shot,’ Middle East Report Online, February 16, 2007.
What happens when almost 3,000 men, women and transgender people march down the main street of a major Muslim metropolis, chanting against patriarchy, the military and restrictive public morals, waving the rainbow flag and hoisting banners decrying homophobia and demanding an end to discrimination? Or when a veiled transvestite carries a placard calling for freedom of education for women wearing the headscarf and, for transsexuals, the right to work?
If the city is Istanbul, it seems, nothing much. Apart from the anxious glances of a few young male bystanders caught up in the demonstration and the occasional cheers of onlookers, only the presence of riot police at the Istanbul gay pride parade on June 29, 2008 would have reminded the observer that this was a politically sensitive event in a deeply troubled setting. Yet, in contrast to their aggressive tactics against peaceful demonstrators on May Day, the police were remarkably restrained as well.