Arrested for Looking Gay? How a Crop Top Landed a Man in Turkish Prison

A man from Portugal was arrested by Turkish authorities and was imprisoned because he "looked gay” and wore a crop top, exposing him to horrendous conditions and human rights violations during his time in jail.

Miguel Alvaro’s ordeal started when he was in Istanbul on June 25th for a holiday, and he went out to meet a friend outside for lunch. Unaware that there was an LGBTQIA+ parade nearby, something that is unsanctioned by authorities in Turkey, he asked the police for directions.

One of the officers then ordered Alvaro, who identified as gay, to be arrested immediately. He was then slammed against the van wall before being thrown into the back of the vehicle.

"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,” Alvaro narrated his experience. "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.

"They thought I would participate in an unauthorized LGBTI+ march that was going to take place nearby because I looked gay. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time," he added, describing his horrifying experience to Portuguese news outlet P3.

Alvaro said the Turkish police officers who arrested him had orders to arrest a certain number of people connected to the LGBTQIA+ parades, and he happened to be one of the unlucky victims. This arrest was only the beginning of his terrifying experience at the hands of Turkish authorities, where he was kept in a police van for 13 hours.

The next day, he was taken to a police station, where he was processed. Alvaro was then detained at an immigration detention center, where he claimed that maggots were crawling under his sheets along with other horrors in his cell.

He thought he would be freed after corrections officers called his name after several hours, only to be transported into a boat with other inmates. This boat was driven for 17 hours to another prison near the Syrian border on Turkey’s far eastern side.

While some inmates threatened Alvaro for being gay, others defended him. He said he was not even given any water and hardly slept due to fears of being attacked during his prison stay.

Because Alvaro was not allowed to use his phone, nobody knew his whereabouts. But he was eventually permitted to use his cell phone by late July when he called his father and told him where he was.

Alvaro’s father quickly contacted the Portuguese embassy in Turkey to help him rescue his son, but he was not freed until July 12th, 20 days after he was arrested. Police then took him to the airport, and he finally returned to Portugal. On Instagram, he said he wouldn’t recommend anyone, especially gay people, to visit Turkey.

"Right now, I'm in a horrible psychological state, I'm very afraid of the consequences in the future," Alvaro said. "I can't believe this happened to me. I pray for justice to be done."

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