ANKARA (Reuters) – This year’s LGBT Pride celebrations have exposed fault lines in Turkey as authorities called for caution against what they call LGBT propaganda, while companies who adopted rainbow colours on social media have faced boycott calls.
Hashtags demanding a ban on LGBT activities and a boycott by shoppers of companies expressing solidarity have been trending on Twitter since Sunday, celebrated worldwide as Pride Day.
On Sunday, Kerem Kinik, chair of the Red Crescent Society of Turkey, said he would “fight against those who violate healthy creation”. His tweet drew a rebuke from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the movement’s international network.
In response, Fahrettin Altun, a top aide to President Tayyip Erdogan, tweeted: “LGBT propaganda poses a grave threat to freedom of speech. The IFRC became complicit in that attack by targeting (Kinik) — a doctor who devoted his entire life to protecting children around the world. We won’t be silenced!”
Kinik said he was referring to paedophilia, not sexual orientation. “There is nothing in my tweet targeting any specific group or any identity, any race, any gender or sexual orientation,” he told Reuters.
Erdogan joined the debate by saying on Monday that an assault on traditional values of the society was under way, without specifically addressing homosexuality.
“Some people insidiously attack our national and moral values by normalizing perversions that have been condemned throughout history and aim to poison young minds,” he said, calling on Turks to confront “any type of perversion forbidden by our God, and those who support them”.
Turkish fashion designer and LGBT activist Barbaros Sansal said people were being made to “pay the bill” for opposing Erdogan and demanding human rights such as freedom of speech.
“If you are pro-regime, and pro-Erdogan, you can be a homosexual. But if you are opposition, you are sin,” Sansal told Reuters.
In April, Erdogan had defended Ali Erbas, the head of the state’s religious affairs directorate, after he said homosexuality caused disease and corruption. Prosecutors opened probes into bar associations that accused Erbas of inciting hatred.
A report published in June by the Istanbul-based advocacy group SPoD, showed that discrimination and violence due to sexual identity and orientation doubled in the 45 days following Erbas’ remarks.
(Reporting by Ece Toksabay and Yesim Dikmen; Editing by Dominic Evans and Alison Williams)