Last week, Turkish authorities detained four students of the Bogazici University in Istanbul, because of what they described as an "attack on religious beliefs." However, local sources noted that the four students' arrest is linked to an artwork they created, involving LGBTQ+ symbols.
the collective because one of the art works, a collage, included a picture of the Kaaba as well as a LGBTIQA+ flag. Then the country's interior minister called the students "perverts" and a whole massive hate campaign began that included all the major pro-gov outlets and trolls. pic.twitter.com/hN8rGshQOo— Kenan Sharpe (@kenan_sharpe) January 30, 2021
The artwork featured the pride flag that refers to the LGBTQ+ community, in addition to an image of the Kaaba, a black building at the heart of Mecca believed to have been built by Abraham, making it Islam's holiest site. The artwork also included the Shahmaran, which is a mythical creature in ancient Middle Eastern civilization, which is half a woman and half a snake.
Turkish authorities arrested the four young students considering their artwork an "ugly attack and a mockery of religious beliefs," according to BBC. Yet, the arrests are only part of a wider crackdown against university students, who have been protesting a new rector.
My university taught me a lot in linguistics, philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, computer science and cognitive science. Now they are teaching everyone a more important lesson in democracy and freedom: https://t.co/D7YsN99E3R #AşağıBakmayacağız #AsagiBakmayacagiz— Emre Sevinç (@EmreSevinc) February 2, 2021
In response to the news, many Turkish social media commentators condemned the government's decision, saying that freedom of speech expressed through art should be protected in a democracy.
I took my first Turkish class on the campus of Boğaziçi University, whose faculty and alumni are rightly some of the proudest I know. Tonight that campus is under attack by security forces. Peaceful protesters are being vilified, beaten, and detained. Again.#AsağıBakmayacağız— Lisel Hintz (@LiselHintz) February 1, 2021
Some comments argued that Turkey is increasingly becoming homophobic, highlighting the fact that the Istanbul Pride Parade has been denied permission for the last 5 years, linking this to the more conservative policies of the ruling party headed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
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