Children in Turkey are being discouraged from drawing rainbows during the COVID-19 pandemic amid fears that they will “turn children gay.”
Turkish art museum Istanbul Modern had previously encouraged children to “draw their own rainbow and paste it into the window of their home,” as part of efforts to “give hope” to the country during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
But the move angered conservative religious figures in the country, according to The Jerusalem Post, who believed the rainbow drawings were part of attempts to spread acceptance of LGBTQ people.
That backlash reportedly prompted Turkey’s Ministry of National Education to order teachers to discourage children from drawing rainbows.
Teachers’ trade union Egitim-Sen told the Al-Monitor that school principals were reporting orders from local education directorates to now allow students to participate in the Istanbul Modern’s project, “saying it was an LGBTI plot to turn children gay,” Al-Monitor reports.
Kaos GL, one of the largest LGBTQ rights organizations in Turkey, told Al-Monitor that”commentators on mainstream and social media have stepped up their attacks on the LGBTI community during the coronavirus pandemic.”
“This is hardly new, but it is particularly perturbing that this hate speech is repeated by officials who portray the LGBTI as the culprits, rather than victims, of the pandemic,” said Kaos GL’s Yildiz Tar. “I am concerned that this hate speech, which has intensified over these critical days, will continue after the pandemic, becoming a permanent fixture of the political rhetoric.”
Human rights lawyer Güley Bor said teachers were being accused of “LGBTI+ propaganda,” and called backlash to the rainbows part of an “awful wave of hate speech and phobia is ongoing in Turkey against LGBTI+s.”
Bor noted that “many LGBTI+s drew rainbows of their own,” quoting a tweet from advocacy organization SPoD LGBTI, which had shared images of some of the rainbow drawings, writing, “There is no color of hate in the rainbow!”
In response, many LGBTI+s drew rainbows of their own: "There is no place for hatred in the rainbow!" https://t.co/ZnUF1dHenY
— Güley Bor (@BorGuley) April 27, 2020
Turkey has become more conservative in recent years due to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Islamist-influenced government, which has made moves away from the Muslim-majority nation’s previously secular nature.
Last month, Erdoğan was criticized for defending a religious leader who said that homosexuality “brings illnesses,” and calling criticism of the cleric an “attack on the state.”
Ali Erbas, president of the state-funded Directorate of Religious Affairs, claimed that homosexuality causes disease, corruption, and is condemned in Islam during a weekly sermon.
Erbas’ comments were criticized by lawyer’s group the Ankara Bar Association, which said they could lead to hate crimes against LGBTQ people and that his comments “came from ages ago.”
But Erdoğan pushed back against the criticism, saying “an attack against the Diyanet chief is an attack on the state. “Erdoğan added: “What he said was totally right.”
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