In a visible sign of the shift, the anti-LGBTQ march went ahead without any police interference. Conversely, LGBTQ groups have had their freedom to assemble severely curtailed since 2015, with officials citing both security and morality grounds.
Police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the Pride march planned for that year. Government officials have since banned the event. Activists have tried to gather anyway, and more than 370 people were detained in Istanbul in June.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s views also have grown more stridently anti-LGBTQ over time. Before the 2002 election that brought the Justice and Development Party (AKP) he co-founded to power, a younger Erdogan said at a televised campaign event that he found mistreatment of gay people inhumane and legal protections for them in Turkey a “must.”
“And now, 20 years into this, you have an entirely different president that seems to be mobilizing based on these dehumanizing, criminal approaches to the LGBTQ movement itself,” said Mine Eder, a political science professor at Bogazici University in Istanbul.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu has called LGBTQ people “perverts.” In 2020, Erdogan defended the head of religious affairs after he claimed homosexuality “brings disease and causes the generation to decay.” While championing his long-held belief that the identities of women are rooted in motherhood and family, the Turkish leader last year urged people to dismiss what “lesbians schmesbians” say.
Turkey also withdrew from a European treaty protecting women against violence, after lobbying from conservative groups that claimed the treaty promoted homosexuality.
The country could become more unwelcoming for the LGBTQ community. The Unity in Ideas and Struggle Platform, the organizer of Sunday’s event, said it plans to push for a law that would ban the alleged LGBTQ “propaganda” that the group maintains is pervasive on Netflix and social media, as well as in arts and sports.
The platform’s website states it also favors a ban on LGBTQ organizations.
“We are a Muslim country and we say no to this. Our statesmen and the other parties should all support this,” said Betul Colak, who attended Sunday’s gathering wearing a scarf with the Turkish flag.
Haunted by “the feeling that you can be attacked anytime,” Willie Ray thinks it would be a “total catastrophe” if a ban on the LGBTQ organizations that provide visibility, psychological support and safe…