Homophobia has become a rallying cause for Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as it has for fellow populists Hungary’s Viktor Orban and Poland’s Andrzej Duda, who also rely on polarizing issues to whip up support. However, in a stunning rebuke of the Turkish strongman’s anti-gay rhetoric, Turks of all stripes came out in defense of Turkish Olympic volleyball star Ebrar Karakurt when she faced online abuse after posting intimate photos of herself with a woman on Instagram. …
Erdogan has taken to homophobic salvos of late and makes no secret of his disapproval for lesbians. “Let’s not dwell on what lesbians shmezbians say. Let us heed our mothers. The mother is the pillar of the family,” he said in February, at the height of mass protests over his appointment of a despised rector to Istanbul’s Bogazici University. Melih Bulu’s first order of business was to ban the university’s LGBT club.
Turkey’s interior minister has called gay people “perverts” and Gay Pride marches have been banned since 2016. Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention on combating violence against women, a document that was championed by Erdogan in his reformist days, was justified on the grounds that it somehow encouraged homosexuality. The anti-gay messaging is also being spread by the powerful State Religious Affairs Directorate. Its president, Ali Erbas, claimed in a sermon last year that homosexuality “brings disease in its wake and causes generational rot and decay.”
Yildiz Tar, media and communication program coordinator for Kaos GL, Turkey’s oldest LGBT+ advocacy group, said she wasn’t surprised by the sea of support for Karakurt. “We have made huge strides. Turkey’s society is far more accepting of the LGBT+ community but the government has fallen behind society and is persisting in anachronistic and homophobic policies,” Tar told Al-Monitor.
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