Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has time and time again proved himself no ally of the LGBTQI communities, has doubled down on his homophobic stance. This time he has gone so far as to say “LGBT, there is no such thing. This country is… moral, and it will walk to the future with these values.”

The comments come after a tense few days in Istanbul and Ankara where students have been protesting the appointment of Erdogan’s party loyalist Melih Bulu as the head of the capital city’s elite Bogazici University.

During the protests in both cities, police have fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds.

The students themselves were angry with the appointment of Bulu to the University’s top position, believing it was another attempt by Erdoğan to control the day-to-day life of Turkish citizens. They feel that the appointment went against the grain of the university, which has across its 158-year history, always appointed its own rector.

With more than 300 students detained following the protests, Erdoğan lashed out, describing them as terrorists, during a televised address. “Are you students or terrorists who dare to raid the room of the rector? This country will not be a place where terrorists prevail. We will never allow this.”

 Having been in power for 18 years, what appeared to anger Erdoğan the most, was the surfacing of a poster on campus depicting the Kaaba in Mecca  a building at the centre of Islam’s most important mosque, the Masjid al-Haram–  adorned with pride flags. Following the student’s arrest Turkey’s interior minister Suleyman Soylu took to Twitter on Saturday to say that “four LGBT freaks” had been detained for “inciting hatred” with their poster.

Recently Erdoğan, in an address to Turkish youth, said We’ll carry our youth to the future, not as LGBT+ youth, but like the youth from this country’s glorious past. You are not the LGBT+ youth. You are not the youth who vandalises, but you are those who mend those vandalised hearts.” And in July of 2020 Erdoğan accused Turkey’s LGBTQI communities of sneaking up on our national and spiritual values again.”

“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 at the time.

For some time now, the rights of Turkey’s LGBTQI communities have continued to be eroded, with the cancelation of Istanbul Pride in 2015 and many other community events. Individuals often face violent retribution for any public displays or pride celebrations. In July 2020, Turkish retail giant LC Waikiki announced that it will ban rainbows, unicorns and other “LGBT+ images” from being used in its clothing designs, in yet another example of the discrimination and homophobia faced by Turkish LGBTQI communities.

However, Erdoğan’s most recent homophobic diatribe has not come without consequences, with many quick to condemn his hurtful attack including the US State Department. Ned Price, the US State Department spokesperson, said, “We are concerned by detentions of students and other demonstrators and strongly condemn the anti LGBTQIA rhetoric surrounding the demonstrations. 

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