I was beaten up by Turkish police and jailed for 20 days because I ‘looked gay’
- Portuguese tourist Miguel Alvaro is now warning others off holidaying in Turkey
A tourist has told of his ordeal at the hands of Turkish police who he says arrested him because he ‘looked gay’ before allegedly detaining him for 20 days.
Miguel Alvaro, who is from Portugal, was on holiday alone in Istanbul on June 25 when he went out to meet a friend for lunch, and, unfamiliar with the city, asked officers for directions.
To his horror, the holidaymaker said he was surrounded by up to eight officers and was immediately arrested, PinkNews reports.
‘They grabbed my arms and I tried to free myself. One of them hit me in the ribs, they pushed me against a van, they hit me on the shoulder, which started to bleed,’ he recalled.
Mr Alvaro, who is gay, was unaware that an unsanctioned Pride parade was going on nearby, and was being met with a heavy police presence.
Miguel Alvaro was on holiday alone in Istanbul on June 25 when he went out to meet a friend for lunch
Mr Alvaro, who is gay, was unaware that an unsanctioned Pride parade was going on nearby, and was being met with a heavy police presence
‘After five hours in the police van, in which I was only told to shut up and be quiet, one of them explained to me that he had been detained because of my appearance,’ he told Portuguese outlet P3.
‘They thought I would participate in an unauthorised LGBTI+ march that was going to take place nearby because I looked gay. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.’
He says he was kept in a police van for 13 hours before being taken to a police station for processing, where he described maggots in the bedsheets and other grim conditions.
His hopes that he might be released soon after were quickly dashed. The ordeal did not end after his heavy-handed arrest, but continued for weeks after he was transferred to an immigration detention centre.
He was driven 17 hours to the eastern border, he said, and was subjected to threats from homophobic inmates during weeks there.
He claimed he was hardly given any water and barely slept as he was so fearful of being attacked.
Police officers block protesters during the LGBTQ Pride March in Istanbul, Turkey, June 25
Members of the LGBTQ community turn out on June 25 during the unauthorized Pride March in Istanbul
Demonstrators sit in front of police officers as Turkey’s LGBT+ community members gather for a pride parade, banned by local authorities
At least 149 people were detained in Turkey after police violently interfered with Pride celebrations, according to NGO Human Rights Watch
It was not until 12 July, 20 days after he was arrested, that Mr Alvaro says he was finally freed.
He told PinkNews he felt ‘disappointed, shattered and mentally drained, but relieved to be going somewhere safe’.
He said he is now warning others about the realities of holidaying in Turkey, particularly for members of the LGBTQ+ community.
While it isn’t illegal to be gay in Turkey, the country has become an increasingly hostile place for LGBTQ people in recent years and has had a ban on Pride events since 2015.
Police were out in force across the capital and the wider country as demonstrators took to the streets to celebrate in June, despite the ban.
At least 149 people were detained in Turkey after police violently interfered with Pride celebrations, according to NGO Human Rights Watch.
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