Metro Weekly

Turkey’s President Proposes Anti-Gay Amendment to Retain Power

Recep Tayyip Erodgan hopes to force left-wing opposition into a political bind as his ruling AKP party is being barraged with criticsms.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president of Turkey, during a state visit to Poland. – Photo: Senat RP/Polish Senate, via Wikimedia.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has proposed an anti-LGBTQ “family values” amendment that would deny legal recognition of LGBTQ rights.

“The concept of family is indispensable for us. A strong family is a prerequisite for a strong nation,” Erdoğan told reporters while returning from a visit to the Czech Republic.

He accused left-wing parties of introducing the idea of recognizing LGBTQ identity into society, conflating support for LGBTQ rights with the deterioration of the family unit, vowing to “do what’s necessary” to bolster support for “family values.”

The Turkish authoritarian president said preparations to approve a constitutional amendment in parliament are underway, adding that he had already discussed the matter with Devlet Bahçeli, an ally and the leader of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), reports the news website Turkish Minute.

“Let us see what position he will take here,” Erdoğan told reporters, referring to Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the head of the country’s largest left-wing opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP).

Erdoğan proposed the amendment in an attempt to counter the CHP’s decision to introduce an amendment to the constitution to enshrine into law a woman’s right to wear a headscarf. By introducing a larger amendment that attacks the LGBTQ community, the Turkish president is hoping not only to rally social conservatives to his side, but to force the left-wing CHP to either come out in favor of his proposed amendment or reveal their pro-LGBTQ sympathies and risk losing the votes of devout Muslims.

Erdoğan’s political machinations come at a time when his Islamist-backed ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is trailing narrowly behind the opposition bloc in polls ahead of next year’s elections, according to a recent survey from the Piar polling company. The party has been criticized over its economic stewardship, with people struggling to make ends meet as prices of items and the cost of living continue to increase, the Turkish lira continues to depreciate, and inflation steadily rises. 

AKP has also been criticized by the political Left and human rights activists for its crackdowns on journalists, political dissenters, and religious and ethnic minorities, as well as allegations of government corruption and using state resources to benefit his family and political allies, according to Turkish Minute.

Adding to Erdoğan’s sense of urgency is a resurgent Left, who have bristled as AKP embraces its more fascistic tendencies and caters to radical Islamists who seek to impose further restrictions on freedoms in the name of religion. According to a recent public survey, 50% of respondents claimed their lifestyle is under threat, with nearly 85% of CHP backers agreeing with that sentiment.

According to Metropoll president Özer Sencar, secular people and those who have embraced more Western attitudes were more likely to say their lifestyle was under threat, especially from the government — a shift from over a decade when it was more conservative and religious segments of society who felt under attack.

That said, Erdoğan is betting that CHP’s left-wing impulses override its political instincts, allowing AKP to retain power as socially conservative voters return to the fold, despite the government’s recent failings. Just last month, thousands of people took to the streets of Istanbul to demonstrate for “family values,” demanding the government shutter all LGBTQ organizations and ban all media depictions of LGBTQ people from airing in the country.

Although homosexuality was decriminalized by the Ottoman Empire back in 1858, homosexuality is widely frowned upon by large segments of Turkish society, especially in more rural areas and among political supporters of AKP.

Last year, the government withdrew from the Istanbul Convention on protecting women’s rights, claiming it would encourage homosexuality and threaten traditional family structures. That same year, the country’s Interior Minister issued a string of tweets bashing LGBTQ individuals as “deviants” and “deranged,” prompting Twitter to flag his tweets as potentially problematic and  place warnings on them.

In 2020, Erdoğan attacked LGBTQ people in order to deflect from the COVID-19 pandemic, claiming that LGBTQ individuals have been “trying to poison” young people in Turkey and undermine societal structures by “normalizing” homosexuality.

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