Skip to main content

Turkish opposition sparks debate with pro-LGBTQ Pride campaign

CHP-held municipalities across the country show their support, attracting condemnation from AKP officials
LGBT rights activists gather to try to march for a pride parade, which was banned by the governorship, in central Istanbul (Reuters)
By Ragip Soylu in Ankara

In an unprecedented move, dozens of Turkish opposition-run municipalities celebrated LGBTQ Pride Day on Sunday, triggering rebukes and strongly worded statements from ruling party officials and their supporters.

Among the first officials to show their support for Pride was Canan Kaftancioglu, the chairwoman of Istanbul Republican People’s Party (CHP) who is believed to be the strategist behind the opposition victory in Istanbul's repeat election.

“Salute to people who were born free and live free... #pride2019,” she tweeted.

Following this tweet, in a coordinated effort, dozens of opposition-run municipalities shared exactly the same rainbow flag image and announced their support of Pride.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


However, the wide outpourings of support were met by equally wide condemnations from government supporters and commentators.

gay pride istanbul tweets
Opposition-run municipalities in Turkey celebrated Gay Pride 2019 with Twitter messages (Screengrab)

Online, dualling pro- and anti-Pride hashtags began trending in Turkey, with “LGBT is a perversion, immoral" (#LgbtSapıklıktırAhlaksızlıktır) being used in response to the official #Pride2019 hashtag.

The debate quickly became a national issue, with Hamza Dag, one of the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) deputy chairmen, criticising Izmir Mayor Tuncy Soyer for his message of support for Pride.

“Wholeheartedly supporting the subversive ideas under the guise of freedom, which target our national and religious values, is a contempt against our nation,” Dag wrote.

Women and Democracy Association (KADEM), a feminist group that is closely connected to the government, issued a statement condemning the CHP-run municipalities.

“Praising homosexuality is legitimasing perverse orientations that are against the ontological reality. [Municipal posts] are attacking the continuation of generations and society’s values and beliefs. We will continue to strive against every idea and movement that threaten family,” the statement read.

In the face of such condemnation by AKP members and supporters, others were moved to recall LGBTQ-supportive statements by the ruling party's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

OdaTv, a popular opposition website, posted footage of Erdogan from 2002, in which he says: “It is an imperative to legally guarantee the rights and freedoms of homosexuals.”

The website also shared images from Erdogan’s 2014 presidential campaign, in which rainbow flags were waved by some of his supporters at rallies.

Meanwhile, on Sunday Turkish police dispersed an LGBTQ Pride parade in Istanbul using tear gas - the fifth time they had done so since banning it in 2013. Six people were arrested.

“Those who ban our march based on copy-paste and irrelevant reasons such as general morality, general health, or peace and security of the general public once again showed that they cannot govern the state," the parade's organisers said.

"The ones who threaten general public order aren’t Pride marches, but the law enforcement that attack the people for the last five years.”

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.