Organizers say gay pride march in Istanbul canceled after ban

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ISTANBUL (Reuters) - An annual gay pride parade in the Turkish city of Istanbul will not go ahead on Sunday, organizers said in a statement on Friday after the governor’s office banned the march citing security risks and declined the group’s request to read a statement.

“We are announcing with sadness that we will not be able to hold the 14th Pride March,” the Istanbul LGBTI and Pride committee said in a statement on its website, but added this was a violation by the authorities of their right to demonstrate.

“The Governor’s Office has chosen to violate the ‘Law on Meetings and Demonstration Marches’ guaranteed by the Constitution as a democratic right,” the statement said.

The Istanbul governor’s office last week said the marches had been banned out of concern for public order. Security in the city is already tight after a series of bombings blamed on Islamic State and Kurdish militants in recent months.

But the ban also follows a warning from an ultra-nationalist youth group that it would not allow the marches, calling them immoral and threatening violence.

Istanbul riot police fired tear gas and rubber pellets on Sunday to disperse a march for transgender people, which was also prohibited by the authorities.

While homosexuality is not a crime in Turkey unlike many other Muslim countries, homophobia remains widespread. Critics say President Tayyip Erdogan and the Islamist-rooted AK Party he founded have shown little interest in expanding rights for minorities, gays and women, and are intolerant of dissent.

Historically the gay pride parade in Istanbul - a city seen as a relative safe haven by members of the gay community from elsewhere in the Middle East, including refugees from Syria and Iraq - has been a peaceful event.

But last year police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse participants, after organizers said they had been refused permission because it coincided with the holy month of Ramadan, as it does again this year.

Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Daren Butler