Portuguese tourist assaulted by Turkish police, jailed for 20 days for "looking gay"
A Portuguese tourist named Miguel Alvaro claims that he was targeted and assaulted by officers just because “he looked gay” and the police suspected him of planning to participate in the Pride march in Istanbul.
According to Alvaro’s account, which he recalled in an Instagram video, the incident occurred on Sunday afternoon at around 2:00 p.m. on June 25, coinciding with the day of pride demonstrations in Istanbul. Alvaro had stepped out of his apartment only to encounter a significant police barricade. Seeking directions to a tourist area called Balat, he approached the police officers present. However, instead of receiving assistance, he found himself swiftly labeled as a target for arrest.
“They asked me, where am I going? I said, I'm going to this tourist place. And immediately these cops just said, arrest him. They took me, they held me against this van. Eight police officers just surrounded me. One guy completely beat me up. He was beating me in my chest, hit me against the van, and also grazed my shoulder like I was bleeding on my shoulder. Got thrown into this police van. They put these plastic cable ties around my wrist and they basically locked me up.”
Confused and seeking answers, Alvaro repeatedly questioned the officers about the reason for his arrest. It was only after a staggering five hours of detention that he discovered the real motive behind his mistreatment. Unbeknownst to him, an unauthorized gay pride parade was scheduled to take place nearby. Allegedly, the police had deployed a massive force of 60,000 officers with the intention of apprehending individuals suspected of being part of the protest.
The tourist was transferred to a police station after enduring 13 grueling hours inside the van. There, he was coerced into writing a statement. The following day, on Monday morning, after being deprived of sleep since 2:00 a.m., he was taken to a detention center. Alvaro, along with his fellow detainees from Iran and Russia, was then locked in a jail cell alongside other criminals.
The conditions inside the cell were deplorable, with people lying on the floor, inadequate sleeping arrangements, and an overall sense of despair. Alvaro expressed his shock at the situation, unable to fathom that he had become entangled in such a nightmare.
“It was the worst experience ever. I couldn't even believe that this was happening to me. They said to me, okay, well look, sign this paper and then we'll let you go. And my friend who was arrested with me at the time, a guy from Iran, Elias, and I was arrested with another guy called Rahman from Russia. The paper actually said, sign this paper if you've committed a crime. And I was like my friend said, do not sign that paper. That paper says we've committed a crime. We've not committed a crime.”
Eventually, they were escorted to another van, handcuffed once again, and transported to a place called Tuzla. The new location housed 20 cells where individuals were crammed together. To their horror, the room they were allocated was in a deplorable state, with soiled sheets, urine-soaked floors, and even maggots visible on the beds. Basic necessities such as food and water were severely lacking.
Throughout their imprisonment, Alvaro and his companions were denied access to their phones, rendering them unable to inform their loved ones or make necessary arrangements. Alvaro had plans to travel to Switzerland for work but was left stranded, unable to inform his boss or the friend waiting for him at the airport. Communication was limited to a mere two-minute phone call per day, making their situation all the more unbearable.
Their imprisonment became even more perilous when they found themselves surrounded by criminals who threatened them due to their sexual orientation. However, they were fortunate to find support from Syrian detainees who, despite the language barrier, tried their best to protect them from harm. The experience left Alvaro traumatized, unable to sleep for the entire 20-day period of his arrest, fearing for his safety.
Following 20 days of detention, Alvaro was eventually deported to Portugal, with a ban on entering Turkey for the next three years. Although he expresses little desire to return, he remains deeply concerned for his friend, who is still detained and faces the possibility of being held for six months due to his refugee status. Alvaro emphasizes the urgency of the situation and calls for action against the unjust treatment of detainees in Turkey.