Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the current President of Turkey, took the opportunity to denigrate the LGBTQI community of Turkey whilst defending similarly homophobic remarks made by the head of the Turkish Red Crescent at the end of June.

Erdogan’s speech was delivered to the majority-Muslim nation after he held a meeting with his cabinet and echoed the rhetoric of various religious conservatives.

The Turkish president claimed that the LGBTQI people of his country had been “sneaking up on our national and spiritual values again” and said that queer folks “throughout human history” have been “trying to poison young people.”

“I invite all members of my nation to be careful and take a stand against those who exhibit all kinds of heresy that our Lord has forbidden, and those who support them,” Erdoğan said

He called on Turks to “come out against those who display any kind of perversion forbidden by God.”

Erdoğan also took aim at queer allies, announcing that people who support “such marginal movements contrary to our faith and culture are partners in the same heresy in our eyes.”

 Kerem Kinik, head of the Turkish Red Crescent – Turkey’s version of the Red Cross which offers humanitarian aid – was sounding off about Pride Month and vowed on Twitter never to let the LGBTQI community “step on human dignity.”

Even though Kinik did not explicitly mention homosexuals and later said his comments were aimed at paedophiles only, his tweet drew a wave of criticism including from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Cresent Societies, where he serves as one of five Vice Presidents.

Turkey has a questionable history of LGBTQI rights, even though it is one of the more liberal countries in the Middle East.

Same sex activity was legalised in the Ottoman Empire (the predecessor of modern Turkey) in 1858, when wide reforms brought in new laws that no longer contained any articles explicitly criminalising homosexual activity, though acts of homosexuality were punishable, usually with fines.

In modern times and since the day Turkey was officially proclaimed a republic on October 29, 1923, homosexual activity has been a legal act. Although public opinion is conservative and LGBTQI people have reportedly been experiencing increased discrimination, harassment and violence in recent years.

Turkey does not recognise same sex marriages, civil unions or domestic partnership benefits.

 The first Turkish LGBTQI organisation, Lambda Istanbul was established in 1993 and they continue against much opposition from government to fight for one of it’s main agendas, which is to help change the tenth article of the Constitution of Turkey, which fails to advocate specifically for the LGBTQI community.

Clandestine Pride events started being held in 1993 and with Lambda Istanbul‘s involvement, eventually led to the first public pride event which was held in Turkey’s biggest city, Istanbul in 2003.

This initial event had 30 people in attendance which grew to over 100,000 attendees at it’s last legally sanctioned event in 2014.

Turkey’s government denied permission to event organisers to hold Pride Events in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

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