Turkish police on Sunday broke up a banned Pride march in Istanbul, detaining more than 200 demonstrators, organisers said.

The governor's office had forbidden the march around Taksim Square in the heart of Istanbul, but protesters gathered nearby under heavy police presence earlier than scheduled.

Police detained protesters, loading them on to buses. AFP journalists saw four busloads of detained people.

Organisers tweeted that more than 200 Pride participants and LGBTQ activists had been detained and that police had refused detainees access to their lawyers.

Police detained protesters, loading them into buses
Police detained protesters, loading them into buses AFP / KEMAL ASLAN

Although more than a dozen of them were released later in the day, many were still in police custody at 2000 GMT.

AFP's chief photographer Bulent Kilic, who was taken away handcuffed from the back, was released later on Sunday after presenting a statement to the police, his lawyer said.

Hundreds of protesters carrying rainbow flags had pressed ahead with the rally in defiance of police.

"The future is queer," they chanted. "We are here. We are queer. We are not going anywhere."

Istanbul Pride had taken place every year since 2003
Istanbul Pride had taken place every year since 2003 AFP / KEMAL ASLAN

Kaos GL Association, which campaigns to promote the human rights of LGBTQ people against discrimination, said on Twitter that police had detained 12 other people in the western city of Izmir and that one of them was later released.

Police prevented the press from filming the Istanbul arrests, according to AFP journalists.

"All those detained solely for their participation in Pride must be released immediately and unconditionally," Milena Buyum of Amnesty International said.

Amnesty International called for the immediate release of all those arrested for taking part in the march
Amnesty International called for the immediate release of all those arrested for taking part in the march AFP / KEMAL ASLAN

Diren, a 22-year-old university student, condemned the hate crimes targeting LGBTQ people.

"We are banned, prevented, discriminated and even killed at every second of our lives. Today, it's a very special day for us to defend our rights and to say that we do exist," Diren told AFP.

"Police violence is aimed to stop us but it is not possible. You will be unable to stop the queers."

Erol Onderoglu of media rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) denounced the arrest of photographer Kilic on Twitter.

"The police seem to have made it a habit" of detaining him, he wrote, recalling that journalists' organisations had protested what they said was Kilic's violent detention last year.

On Friday, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, had urged Turkish authorities to let the demonstration go ahead and to ensure the safety of the marchers.

"The human rights of LGBTI people in Turkey need to be effectively protected," she said in a statement.

Although homosexuality has been legal throughout the period of the modern Turkish republic, LGBTQ individuals say there is regular harassment and abuse.

Istanbul Pride had taken place every year since 2003.

The last march to go ahead without a ban was in 2014 and drew tens of thousands of participants in one of the biggest LGBTQ events in the majority Muslim region.

After 2014, the march was banned each year, officially for security reasons.

The same year, French sports brand Decathlon faced boycott calls in Turkey for posting messages of support for LGBTQ people.

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