Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attacked the LGBT community at a party meeting on Monday, saying his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) would lead the country into the future not with LGBT young people but with others.
Erdoğan attended via videoconference the provincial meetings of his party in Adana, Antalya, Bursa and Muğla provinces, where large crowds gathered despite the coronavirus pandemic.
During an exchange with Ali Bayram Doğan, head of the AKP’s Antalya youth branch, Erdoğan said: “God willing, we won’t build our future with LGBT young people. You are the youngsters who are at the keyboards of their computers. Not LGBT youths, not those destroying and ruining. To the contrary, you are the young people who heal broken hearts. I believe in you and trust you.”
Erdoğan’s remarks came in the wake of the arrest of two students from the İstanbul-based Boğaziçi University over the weekend on charges of inciting hatred and insulting religious values in a poster depicting the Kaaba, Islam’s most sacred site, with LGBT flags.
Following the detention of the students on Saturday, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu tweeted that “LGBT perverts” had been detained for “disrespecting the Great Kaaba.” A spokesperson from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) also slammed the artwork as a provocation, calling it an attack on holy values.
Although homosexuality has been legal throughout modern Turkey’s history, gay people regularly face harassment and abuse.
In recent years, LGBT events have been blocked including İstanbul Pride, which was banned in 2015 after taking place every year since 2003.
In April 2020 Erdoğan had defended Ali Erbaş, head of the state’s Religious Affairs Directorate, after he said homosexuality caused disease and corruption. Prosecutors opened investigations into bar associations that had accused Erbaş of inciting hatred.