A tweet posted by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s far-right ultranationalist ally Devlet Bahçeli that referred to students protesting the appointment of a pro-government rector to Boğaziçi University as “poisonous snakes whose heads need to be crushed” has been removed by Twitter.
Bahçeli, leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), posted a series of tweets on Wednesday, calling those demonstrating against Melih Bulu, a member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) recently appointed as rector by Erdoğan, “terrorists,” “vandals” and “barbarians.”
The MHP leader also said students taking part in the Boğaziçi protests were “not the children of this country” but were “poisonous snakes whose heads need to be crushed.”
The tweet that included remarks likening protesting students to poisonous snakes disappeared from Twitter on Thursday and was replaced with a notice that said, “This tweet is no longer available,” due to violating rules that ban threats of violence.
The far-right leader is the second senior Turkish politician whose tweets about the Boğaziçi University protests have been restricted by Twitter.
On Tuesday Twitter limited access to two tweets by Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu referring to LGBT people as “perverts,” which were posted after two Boğaziçi students had been arrested on Sunday on charges of inciting hatred and insulting religious values in a poster depicting the Kaaba with LGBT flags.
The Kaaba in Mecca is the holiest site in Islam, with believers across the world praying in its direction.
Although the platform placed Soylu’s tweets behind a notice warning that his message violated its rules about “hateful conduct,” it also said it had decided to allow people to click to view Soylu’s tweet on the grounds that there was potential public interest in keeping them accessible.
Following Twitter’s move to remove Bahçeli’s post, Soylu targeted LGBT people in a tweet once again and said the social media platform had “formed a protective shield for terrorist organizations and the deviant LGBT.”
Referring to Twitter as a “toy of imperialism,” Soylu claimed it was trying to “disrupt the chemistry of countries, democracy and peace.” The minister also posted a photo of the far-right leader’s removed tweet, saying he condemns Twitter’s “intolerant” attitude.
Erdoğan also targeted the LGBT community in a recent speech about the Boğaziçi protests. “As for LGBT, there is no such thing,” he said dismissively, adding that Turkey will walk to the future with “moral values.”
“We condemn homophobic and transphobic comments by officials, inciting hatred & discrimination against LGBT people,” the United Nations Human Rights Office said in a tweet on Wednesday.
US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price also said they “strongly condemn the anti-LGBTQI+ rhetoric surrounding [Boğaziçi] demonstrations” on Thursday.
Since early January, hundreds of protestors have been detained in over 30 provinces across Turkey for demonstrating against Boğaziçi’s new rector Bulu, calling for his resignation and for the university to be allowed to elect its own president.
The youth-driven demonstrations have echoes of protests in 2013, known as the Gezi Park protests, that erupted against plans to demolish a park in İstanbul’s Taksim neighborhood before spreading nationally and presenting a direct challenge to Erdoğan’s rule.