A couple of hundred people turned out for the north’s annual LGBT pride parade on Friday evening.

The parade coincided with the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia, which is held on May 17 every year.

People gathered on northern Nicosia’s arterial Dereboyu avenue, with the parade making its way southwards before turning towards the north’s ‘parliament’ building in the Koskluciftlik neighbourhood, where speeches were made.

Once the speeches had drawn to a close, the march continued into Nicosia’s old town, eventually coming to an end next to the historic Buyuk Han, outside which a party had been organised.

In attendance was Turkish Cypriot Nicosia mayor Mehmet Harmanci, who told the Cyprus Maileach and every difference should be accepted by the community.

He added, “we should be at the forefront to defend this and show that total respect, total tolerance, should be our ambition, should be our goal to achieve.

“So, I feel very happy that the parade is happening in our city, and we will offer each and every support to people who identify themselves differently from the majority.”

Harmanci was joined on the march by two of the three Turkish Cypriot European Parliament candidates Niyazi Kizilyurek of Akel and Hulusi Kilim of Volt, as well as Turkish Cypriot Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) observer Armagan Candan and opposition party TDP leader Zeki Celer.

Alongside them were hundreds of people wearing bright colours, flying rainbow flags, and holding banners bearing slogans including the humorous “don’t be afraid, we don’t bite” and “I can’t even think straight”, the more serious “accept my resistance or expect my resistance”, and the simpler “love is love”.

The parade was characterised by a carnival atmosphere, being led by a pickup truck with drag queens on the flatbed and another on the roof of the cab.

The drag queens led various chants, including about how “transgender people in Cyprus cannot be stopped” and other popular LGBT-empowering slogans, as well as the chorus to Turkish-language gay anthem “Nerdesin Askim” by Hadise.

One of the standout marchers was Hasan Murat Sirhan, who strutted down Dereboyu avenue in six-inch high heeled shoes.

Asked by the Cyprus Mail if he found it difficult to maintain his balance in such extreme footwear, Sirhan said, “actually, I feel like I was born to do it!”

“I love wearing shoes like this because it is empowering in a feminine way. At first it was difficult physically, of course, but I felt so confident and so empowered mentally while wearing them that it started to become natural.”

hasan murat sirhan

Hasan Murat Sirhan

The theme of this year’s march was “what colour is justice?”, with that being the central theme of the speech read out in front of the north’s ‘parliament’.

“These marches, which have been organised since 2014, are important for ending discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, intersex, queer communities, and for equal access to human rights for all,” the representative making the speech said.

They added, “over the past few years, the difficult scenes experienced both in our country and in our region have showed us how important solidarity, justice, and freedom are.”

“While LGBT individuals are discriminated against in all areas of life, the authorities responsible for these issues did not take the necessary steps and remain silent.”

Turning to the central theme of the march, they said, “in particular, although hate speech is criminalised, the authorities do not take the necessary steps to prevent hate speech towards the pride marches which have been organised annually.”

“In addition, the police did not carry out effective investigations on this issue, but we will not remain silent.”

They then touched on a specific court case, saying, “three years ago we took the hate speech of [Cyprus Turkish educators’ union] Kibtes chairman Himmet Turgut, targeting LGBT individuals, to court, and today the first hearing has started!”

Turgut had told Turkish newspaper Yeni Akit in 2021 that “these perverts must be stopped immediately.”

The representative continued, ”we are part of this society, and we have always existed, and we will always exist!”

Delving into individual matters of policy again, they said, “our years-long demand for the legal recognition of gender according to the right to self-determination has not yet been met by parliament, and many transgender and non-binary people are therefore subjected to severe violations of their rights.

“Many hundreds are deprived of their basic rights in various areas of life because the right to marriage, which is recognised for opposite-gender couples, is not recognised for same-gender couples.”

Turning around to face the ‘parliament’ building, they then said, “do not be so afraid of us! Do not be afraid of freedom! This fight we are fighting will not only liberate LGBT people, but the whole society!”

In addition, the march had an undercurrent of references to the ongoing situation in Gaza, with Palestinian flags being flown and Palestinian traditional keffiyehs being worn by some demonstrators.

This was referenced by the representative, who said, “we would love to emphasise the intersectionality of our struggle. This march is a revolt against the genocide in Palestine!

At this point, chants of “free, free Palestine” broke out among the crowd.

The representative then added, “this march is also a revolt for a solution to be found on our divided island! Queers united will never be divided!

They went on to make reference to the climate crisis and to the “increasing racism on our island”, and said, “this march is a revolt for a fairer world.”

“This march is for everyone to live freely in a just world, so we ask again, what colour is justice?”

Same-sex sexual activity was legalised in the north in 2014 by a CTP-led ‘government’ under then ‘prime minister’ Ozkan Yorgancioglu. Since then, an LGBT pride parade has been held in the north every year.