Several thousand people took part in a march in Istanbul, Turkey on Sunday that had been organized to call for the government-enforced shuttering of all LGBTQ organizations and a ban on any public expressions of LGBTQ identity or depictions of same-sex relationships in media.
The marchers, including representatives or organizations with close ties to the country’s authoritarian leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, demanded that all LGBTQ associations or organizations in the country be closed down.
Many of the demonstrators, claiming the mantle of “family values,” included women in hijabs holding signs reading: “Protect your family and your generation,” “Say no to society without gender,” and “Father + Mother + Baby = Family.”
Some marchers even called for the re-criminalization of homosexuality, which was decriminalized in Turkey in 1858. It was unclear whether those calling for criminalization support the death penalty for LGBTQ individuals, or would prefer lengthy prison sentences for those proven to be LGBTQ or engaging in same-sex relations.
A speaker for the event, Kursat Mican, told Euronews that organizers had also collected 150,000 signatures on a petition calling for a ban on what they call LGBTQ “propaganda” — which, outside of the United States, typically refers to any depiction or portrayal of LGBTQ individuals or same-sex couples in a positive light or from a neutral viewpoint — in social media, sports, arts and Netflix.
An advertisement for the demonstration was shown on state-run television after being approved by the country’s broadcasting council, which deemed it as being in the “public interest.”
The demonstration was criticized by human rights organizations.
“We are calling on all political parties to condemn the march, and on Turkish authorities to ensure full protection for the LGBTI+ community,” the LGBTQ rights organization ILGA Europe tweeted. “The Turkish state needs to uphold its constitutional obligation to protect all its citizens against hate and violence.”
Turkey’s Amnesty International office said the public service announcement advertising the march violated the country’s nondiscrimination principles.
LGBTQ rights supporters criticized the demonstration on social media, using the hashtag “#NefretYürüyüşüneHayır,” or “#NotoHateMarch.”
“This shameless gathering against LGBTQI+ was supported by Radio and Television Supreme Council of Turkey,” tweeted one user. “From Pride Parades of +100,000 people in Istanbul to this. A hate march was held today in Istanbul where homosexuality has been legal since 1858. Going backwards everyday.”
“Radical Islamist groups organized an anti-Lgbti hate march today in Istanbul, Turkey, with government support. LGBTI+ individuals living in Turkey are in danger,” tweeted another user.
“I love Turkey but since that president Erdoğan took over, he’s winding the country backwards on LGBTQ before him,” a third tweeted. “It use to be pretty laid back, I went 4 times and had a great time. Pity its (sic) changed for the worse.”
Even though homosexuality has been decriminalized for nearly two centuries, same-sex relations are not legally recognized, and are still frowned upon by large segments of Turkish society, and Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has exploited that sentiment to appeal to socially conservative voters in order to stay in power.
According to France24, the Turkish government dropped the Istanbul Convention on protecting women’s rights, claiming that it encouraged homosexuality and threatened traditional family structures.
In 2014, Istanbul hosted more than 100,000 for a Pride celebration, but in the years since, the Erdogan government has clamped down on such demonstrations, using police to violently shut down Pride parades and arrest participants. According to Kaos GL, a Turkish LGBTQ group, the Turkish government banned 10 LGBTQ-related events throughout the country this past June, detaining over 530 participants over a 37-day period.
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!