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Mass shooting in Norwegian capital leaves 2 dead, cancels Pride

Gunman opened fire at Oslo gay bar

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Head of Oslo Pride Inger Kristin Haugsevje. (Screen capture via Global News YouTube)

A gunman entered an establishment popular with the LGBTQ community in the Norwegian capital city’s nightlife district on Saturday morning at approximately 1 a.m. local time and opened fire, killing two people and injuring dozens more.

A spokesperson for the Norwegian Police Service told the Washington Blade in a phone call that officials are investigating the matter as an act of terrorism. According to the official, the suspect is a 42-year-old Norwegian citizen originally from Iran.

Multiple eyewitnesses reported that the suspect had entered the bar and produced a semi-automatic rifle from a bag and started shooting.

Olav Roenneberg, a reporter with Norway’s largest broadcast media outlet NRK who was on scene when the shooting started, told NRK colleagues in an interview “I saw a man arrive at the site with a bag. He picked up a weapon and started shooting. First I thought it was an air gun. Then the glass of the bar next door was shattered and I understood I had to run for cover.”

The police official, while not confirming the weapon used, did acknowledge that the shooter had been known to Norwegian officials in the country’s security services since 2015 as a “suspected radicalized Islamist” and also apparently had a history of mental illness. The official also pointed out that up until the incident there were no previous major criminal acts committed by the suspect.

Because of the incident, organizers of the Pride parade which had been scheduled to start hours after the shooting was cancelled. The parade was set to culminate the week long Pride festivities in Oslo.

Norwegian Prime Minister Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere wrote in a public post on Facebook that “the shooting outside London Pub in Oslo tonight was a cruel and deeply shocking attack on innocent people.” He added “We all stand by you,” showing support for the country’s LGBTQ citizenry.

Norway’s King Harald V issued a statement offering condolences and said he and Norway’s royal family were “horrified by the night’s shooting tragedy.”

“We sympathize with all relatives and affected and send warm thoughts to all who are now scared, restless and in grief,” the Norwegian monarch said. “We must stand together to defend our values: Freedom, diversity and respect for each other. We must continue to stand up for all people to feel safe.”

Oslo Pride issued a statement concerning cancelling the Pride parade;

“Oslo Pride has received clear advice and recommendation from the police that the parade, Pride park and other events in connection with Oslo Pride be canceled. Oslo Pride therefore asks everyone who has planned to participate in or watch the parade not to attend. All events in connection with Oslo Pride are canceled.

Now we will follow the police’s recommendations and take care of each other. Warm thoughts and love go to relatives, the injured and others affected. We will soon be proud and visible again, but today we will hold and share the pride celebrations from home,” says Inger Kristin Haugsevje, leader of Oslo Pride, and Inge Alexander Gjestvang, leader of the Association for Gender and Sexuality Diversity.

Oslo Pride has close communication with the police and is following the situation, and will provide ongoing information.

The White House reacted to the news of the shooting issuing a statement by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan;

“The horrific shooting in Norway this morning has been felt around the world. The United States strongly condemns this act of terror. We stand in solidarity with the families of the victims, the diverse and strong LGBTQI+ community of Oslo, our close NATO ally Norway, and all who have been devastated by this senseless act. The United States has been in touch with the Norwegian government and offered to provide assistance. We remain committed to continuing to partner with Norway to advance a more equitable and just world for all, free from violence and discrimination.”

Oslo shooting being investigated as act of terrorism:

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Europe

Andorran prime minister comes out as gay

Xavier Espot Zamora spoke with country’s public broadcaster

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Andorran Prime Minister Xavier Espot Zamora. (Photo courtesy of the Andorran government)

Andorran Prime Minister Xavier Espot Zamora has come out as gay.

“I’m gay. I’ve never hid it,” he said during an interview with Radio and Television of Andorra, the country’s public broadcaster, on Monday. “Now, if I’m not asked I don’t have to say it, in the sense that it doesn’t define the entirety of who I am and even less my personal politics, but at the same time I think it shouldn’t be a problem to express it. And if this helps many children, young people or teenagers who are going through a difficult time see that in the end, regardless of their condition or sexual orientation, you can prosper in this country and reach the highest magistracy, then I am happy to express it.”

Andorra is a small country known for its ski areas that is nestled between Spain and France in the Pyrenees.

Espot has been prime minister since 2019. The country’s lawmakers in 2022 extended marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The prime minister is one of a handful of heads of state and government who are openly gay or lesbian.

Latvian President Edgars Rinkēvičs took office in July.

Luxembourgish Prime Minister Xavier Bettel has been in office since 2013, while Ana Brnabić became Serbia’s prime minister in 2017. Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar is openly gay.

Deputy Belgian Prime Minister Petra De Sutter is a transgender woman.

Then-Icelandic Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir in 2009 became the world’s first openly LGBTQ head of government.

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Dozens detained after Istanbul Pride march

Anti-LGBTQ crackdown expected to worsen after president re-elected

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A Pride flag hangs from a building in Istanbul on June 25, 2023. (Photo by Tuğçe Yılmaz via Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week's Twitter page)

Turkish police on Sunday detained dozens of people after they participated in an Istanbul Pride march.

Reuters reported police in riot gear blocked access to the city’s Istiklal Avenue and Taksim Square and limited access to public transportation in the area.

The news agency noted police detained at least 50 people. An activist with whom the Washington Blade spoke on Sunday said police took 60 “of our friends … into custody.”

“Two of the people the police unlawfully took from the streets to take statements are under the age of 18,” said the activist.

Turkish authorities over the last decade have cracked down on LGBTQ and intersex activists in the country.

Police in 2015 used tear gas and water cannons against people who were about to participate in an Istanbul Pride march. Authorities in 2017 arrested nearly two dozen people who defied a ban on Pride events in the city.

Police in Ankara, the Turkish capital, on May 10, 2019, arrested 18 students and an academic who participated in a Pride march at the Middle East Technical University. They faced up to three years in prison, but a court in 2021 acquitted them. Police in 2022 violently broke up a Pride parade at the same Ankara university.

The State Department in 2021 criticized Turkey after police once again used tear gas to disperse Istanbul Pride march participants. Security forces last June arrested more than 370 people who tried to participate in another Istanbul Pride march.  

The activist with whom the Blade spoke noted police in Izmir, the country’s third largest city, on Sunday detained at least 10 people who participated in a Pride march. 

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a former Istanbul mayor who has governed Turkey since 2003, won re-election on May 28. The activist and others across the country say they expect Erdoğan will further restrict on LGBTQ and intersex rights.

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Europe

Iceland becomes latest country to ban conversion therapy

Country’s lawmakers passed bill on June 9

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The Icelandic Parliament in Reykjavík, Iceland. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Lawmakers in Iceland on June 9 approved a bill that will ban so-called conversion therapy in the country.

Media reports note 53 members of the Icelandic Parliament voted for the measure, while three MPs abstained. Hanna Katrín Friðriksson, an MP who is a member of the Liberal Reform Party, introduced the bill.

“This is a really important issue for all gay people and a step worth celebrating,” said Samtökin ’78, an Icelandic LGBTQ and intersex rights group, after the vote. “There is no cure for being gay and any attempt to do so is violence. It’s so good that the government recognizes it with legislation.”

Malta, Cyprus, Brazil and Ecuador are among the other countries that ban conversion therapy.

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