The first hearing of the 9th Boğaziçi Pride March trial, which lasted for three days, has finished

Representatives from different rights organizations followed the hearing. The students described the torture and violence they were subjected to, in their defense.

The police attacked the 9th Pride March that students wanted to organize on the campus of Boğaziçi University on May 20, 2022, beating and detaining students. 70 people were charged with “resisting the police” and “violating the law on demonstrations and marches.” The first hearing of the case started on May 29, 2023 at Çağlayan Courthouse and lasted for three days (May 29, 30 and June 1). Among those on trial is an academic.

Representatives from Civic Space Studies Association, Trans Pride, Istanbul Pride, SPoD, Unikuir, Hevi LGBTI+, IHD Istanbul Branch, LISTAG, Bianet, Canadian Consulate, Dutch Consulate, Boğaziçi University academics Can Candan and Esra Mungan followed the hearing at Çağlayan Courthouse.

The testimonies of around 55 people were taken and the students were excluded from the hearings. The second hearing will be held on November 2nd.

In their statement, the students described what happened on the day of the march and drew attention to the unlawfulness, rights violations and torture. The highlights of the students’ statements are as follows:

Students were handcuffed behind their backs throughout the detention process

The most striking point in the testimonies of the students was that they were kept in handcuffs behind their backs during hours of detention. Students who objected to being handcuffed behind their backs were beaten and subjected to verbal and physical violence.

Detentions set off a chain of rights violations

It was testified in court that the police violated the students’ rights during their detention and all subsequent procedures. The students said that the police entered the room with them during the medical examination, that they were denied basic needs such as a toilet, regular medication and water, and that they were subjected to swearing and insults.

Everyone who was barricaded without warning or caution was detained

It was recorded that Hanifi Zengin, who had many complaints against him and was repeatedly exposed by women-LGBTI+ organizations with harassment statements, said “You will be detained in any way” to the students who expressed that they wanted to disperse by negotiating before they were detained.

Academic from Bogazici University: “No one has the right to torture me and my students!”

A defending academic from Boğaziçi University stated that she has been teaching at Boğaziçi University for 16 years and drew attention to the illegality of calling the police to the campus when there is normally a peaceful atmosphere on campus and the practices of the rectorate:

“For whom are the security cameras installed everywhere, why would the police be called to a university? Should I have stood by and watched the students being dragged into custody? What happened can be explained as an appointed rector calling the police to the campus to prevent the silent protest of academics. Should we interfere with the hair color and sexual orientation of students, should we count the food they eat? What kind of an administration is this, that it sees fit to do this to us? No administration has the right to torture me and our students. All the students on trial here are our students. Academia and law cannot be the monopoly of a single group. Administrations come and go.”

Plainclothes police officers removed from the hall

After the students’ lawyers identified the plainclothes police officers present in the courtroom, they asked the judge to have these people escorted out of the courtroom. The judge stated that the hearing was being held in open court and that anyone who wanted to could watch the hearing, but upon the insistence of the lawyers, the plainclothes police officers were asked whether they were on duty to watch the hearing. The police officers who stated that they were on duty were removed from the courtroom due to the suspicion that they might interfere with the right to defense as the students who were testifying as defendants pointed to the people who assigned the police officers.

“Why are pride marches organized?”

On the second day of the hearing, the students’ statements on the meaning of the pride march, why they participated in the march, and how the events affected them came to the fore.

The students drew attention to the treatment, rights violations and discrimination faced by LGBTI+s and pointed out that the police, who should ensure the safety of protesters in a democratic order, do not make them feel safe today, on the contrary, LGBTI+s feel safe with each other.

Our colleague m.güneş, who is among the defendants on this trial: 

“LGBTI+s, whose names were not worth mentioning on the political scene for years, have become one of the most mentioned ones today. They are targeted and declared enemies by the government every day.”

“Your Honor, I am neither an import from the West, nor a virus that will cause an epidemic, nor an enemy that needs to be beaten to a pulp.

I am proud to say that I participated in the 9th #BoğaziçiPride March on May 20, 2022 because I refused to be any of these.”

“I need to march in honor of my identity, I need to protest despite my fears, your honor. I need to march because they shouted “f.ggot” behind my back for years. I need to march because I was beaten on the bus, because my family was ashamed of me, because I could not stay in the dormitory, because the LGBTI+ club at my school was closed. Despite the disgust in the glances directed at me, I have to walk with dignity, with my head high, and I have to prance with my hips slightly protruding.”

“I do not accept the charges, I demand my acquittal immediately.”

“I wonder what his job description is because he orders detention only by beating protesters!”

Student A.O. stated that they were detained under torture on the 3rd day of the hearing, that they demanded medication for their illness and were not given any, and continued his defense as follows

“I see Hanefi Zengin, who is a complainant in this case, 10 times a year. On March 8, during the Istanbul Convention protests, during Pride marches…I wonder what his job description is because he only orders arrests by beating protesters. I can suggest cases for Hanefi Zengin to intervene in: Hande Kader who was burned to death, Ahmet Yıldız who was the victim of an honour killing, Gülistan Doku who we have been looking for for years, Saliha Tuncel who was thrown off a balcony two days ago.”

At the end of the hearing, the police told the students and those following the hearing not to move en masse. Detention vehicles, a toma and a large number of riot police were stationed at the courthouse gate and in the courthouse garden against a possible press statement.