by Rosie Alfatlawi
Turkish authorities have issued an “indefinite” ban on events held by LGBT groups in Ankara, ostensibly over concerns for “public security.” For many, however, the move is yet another restriction on freedoms imposed by an increasingly conservative state.
The prohibition aims to prevent “danger to public safety” resulting from the provocation of “social sensitivities,” a statement from the governor’s office indicated on Saturday.
LGBT “cinema, theater performances, panels, interviews and exhibitions” in the Turkish capital all fall under the blanket ban, described as “worrying” and “shameful” on Twitter.
We are outraged by news out of Turkey that the governor of Ankara announced an indefinite ban on all #LGBTQ film screenings, panels & exhibitions & other public events. How can these peaceful events be a threat to public security? This ban must be lifted. https://t.co/ofe2w1Z5wG.— HumanRightsCampaign (@HRC) November 19, 2017
Still, for anyone who has followed recent developments in Turkey, the decision was sadly predictable. It “was only a matter of time” @eleonoratafuro tweeted, while @HesteBesta claimed “Turkey is getting more backwards every year.”
Governor bans all #LGBTIQ+ related events in #Ankara #Turkey. Perfect example of shrinking #civilsociety space. This btw is two days before #TDOR and Turkey has the highest number of reported murders of #trans people in #Europe. https://t.co/696QX7TTUa #LGBTI #LGBT— Dodo Karsay (@DKarsay) November 19, 2017
While homosexuality is not illegal in Turkey, unlike in many of its neighbors, the LGBT community is increasingly facing challenges to their rights.
Ankara is home to a vibrant LGBT civil society, the banning of events is another move to limit freedoms of LGBT activism--freedoms that have become increasingly limited during the past few years. https://t.co/zHlBlWOtj7— Louis Fishman (@Istanbultelaviv) November 19, 2017
Only last Wednesday, a German gay film festival was banned in the city. Pink Life Queerfest, which had run since 2011, advertises itself as “the first queer festival in Turkey.”
In June, the Istanbul Pride march was banned for a second year, with 25 arrested for attempting to hold it anyway.
As with the most recent ban, both decisions were justified on security grounds.
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However, they are more likely the result of the apparently growing influence of what has been described as "rigidly conservative Islam" on the policies of President Erdogan’s government.
Writing in The Guardian, Soner Çağaptay claimed “Erdoğan is building a new country, but one that sees itself as profoundly Islamist in politics and foreign policy...”
“The end product is that Turkey now discriminates against citizens who do not first and foremost identify through conservative political Islamism,” the senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy suggested.
Earlier this month, the president slammed the pro-secular opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) after a quota was implemented for LGBT candidates in one district.
He accused the CHP of leaving behind Turkey’s moral values and claimed they would learn “the lesson they deserve” in future elections.
“We have no business with those who have declared war on the people’s values,” he said.
It is not only on LGBT issues that the effects of this conservatism have been felt. A new school curriculum introduced this year removed evolution, adding to what had been seen as the growing emphasis on religion in education.
In a joint statement on Sunday, the LGBT associations of Ankara said they would take legal action against the “discriminatory and arbitrary prohibition” which it claimed contravened Turkish law.
It described NGOs campaigning for LGBT rights, many of which are officially registered, as “reputable organizations” and decried the damage the ban would cause to their efforts.
Ankara'da eşcinsel film festivali yasaklanırken Avustralya'da türbanlı lezbiyen bacımız LGBT yürüyüşünde "allah eşitliği sever" pankartı açtı pic.twitter.com/iuMPZTbq6x— Kâfir (@ateisthafiz) November 17, 2017
While gay film festival is prohibited in Ankara, our lesbian hijabi sister in Australia opens a banner saying 'Allah loves equality' during the LGBT march. (translation: @Red_Masnou)
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