Discriminatory State Rhetoric Is Threatening Turkey’s LGBTQ+ Community

Among the negative consequences of Recep Erdoğan’s Presidency, his leadership has been harmful to the rights and safety of Turkey’s LGBTQ+ community. For example, in June 2021, Istanbul’s Pride parade was broken up by riot police. Tear gas and rubber bullets were used to forcibly disperse the crowd and prevent participants from getting to more populated areas of the city. According to Reporters Without Borders, local media reported at least 20 people were detained, including an Agence France-Presse photojournalist who has since been released. This forceful response to Istanbul’s Pride parade is yet another event in a broader crackdown on LGBTQ+ rights in Turkey. Moreover, it represents the state’s increasingly hostile and discriminatory attitude towards minority groups. A Pride parade has been held in Istanbul annually since 2003. The event attracted thousands of people every year, and it was the largest LGBTQ+ rally in the Muslim world. In 2014, 100,000 attended the march. Officials subsequently banned the parade, citing a concern for public safety. People have nevertheless continued to march in celebration and protest in solidarity. According to The Washington Post, participants in this year’s parade were chanting “rainbow is not a crime – discrimination is,” in defiance of the recent increase in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and actions, particularly in the last two years. In April 2020, Ali Erbas, who leads the state’s Religious Affairs Directorate, said that Islam condemns homosexuality because it leads to “illness and decay.” In response, Erdoğan supported Erbas’ message and defended his discriminatory characterization. Following such statements by state officials, activists have reported increased verbal and physical attacks on Turkey’s LGBTQ+ community.