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Write for Rights: Melike Balkan and Özgür Gür | Amnesty USA



As prominent members of the LGBTI+ Solidarity Group at Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara, students Melike Balkan and Özgür Gür have organised numerous marches, meetings and other events. They’ve engaged with an ever-growing number of students, against a backdrop of increasing homophobia and restrictions on freedom of expression in Turkey. Founded in 1996, METU LGBTI+ Solidarity Group have organised an annual Pride march on campus since 2011. However, in 2019, the university’s management told the students the Pride march planned for 10 May could not go ahead on campus. Undeterred, the Solidarity Group staged a Pride sit-in instead. In response, the university called the police who used excessive force, including tear gas, against the peaceful protesters. Police arrested at least 23 students–including Melike and Özgür – and an academic. Some of those detained hadn’t even taken part in the protest. Despite simply exercising their right to peaceful protest, 18 students and the academic are on trial. If found guilty, they face up to three years in prison.

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