Twitter flags Turkish interior minister’s tweets targeting LGBT community

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Twitter has restricted access to two recent tweets by Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu that referred to LGBT people as “perverts,” saying the tweets violated the platform’s rules on hateful conduct, Deutsche Welle’s Turkish edition reported on Tuesday.

Soylu’s tweets came after two students from the İstanbul-based Boğaziçi University were arrested on Sunday on charges of inciting hatred and insulting religious values in a poster depicting the Kaaba, Islam’s most sacred site, with LGBT flags.

The students were detained on Saturday after top Turkish officials slammed its display at an exhibition on the university campus. Boğaziçi University students as well as academics have been demonstrating for weeks in protest of the appointment of a pro-government rector by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Following the detention of the students on Saturday, Soylu tweeted that “LGBT perverts” had been detained for “disrespecting the Great Kaaba.”

After reviewing complaints from its users, Twitter restricted access to the tweet, flagging it as a violation of the platform’s rules while saying that the tweet would remain accessible because “it may be in the public’s interest.”

Soylu posted another tweet on Tuesday featuring an image repeating the same wording, which was also flagged by Twitter.

On Monday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attacked the LGBT community at a party meeting, saying his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) would lead the country into the future not with LGBT young people but with others. 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.”

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.

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