Turkey’s Ministry of Education temporarily suspended a teacher and a school principal for using a rainbow decoration at a school event after public criticism from the former mayor of Ankara, Melih Gökçek, who accused the teacher of promoting homosexuality, local media reported on Tuesday.
The suspensions drew protests from parents.
Emine Yaşhi, the teacher, and the principal, both from İstanbul’s Sarıyer Emirgan Elementary School, faced disciplinary action after Gökçek shared a photo of Yaşhi and a student in front of the rainbow decoration on Twitter. The decoration was used during a ceremony on June 16. In his tweet Gökçek called for Yaşhi’s suspension and equated the rainbow decoration with promoting homosexuality among children.
BU KADIN ÖĞRETMENSE DERHAL AÇIĞA ALINMALI…
ÇOCUKLARIMIZI EŞCİNSELLİĞE İTENLER ÇOCUKLARIMIZIN KATİLLERİDİR,.. https://t.co/qEVvBL6Z0m
— İbrahim Melih Gökçek (@06melihgokcek) June 16, 2023
Parents of students at the school have since protested the suspensions and launched a Change.org campaign calling on the authorities to reverse the decision. The campaign has garnered more than 13,000 signatures so far. Parents argue that they organized the ceremony that featured rainbow decorations and that the colors used in the decorations were misinterpreted as promoting LGBTQ issues, leading to Yaşhi’s suspension.
Although homosexuality was decriminalized by the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor of modern Turkey, in 1858, it is widely frowned upon by large swaths of society, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), while same-sex couples are not legal.
In 2021, the government withdrew from the Istanbul Convention on protecting women’s rights, claiming it encouraged homosexuality and threatened the traditional family structure.