US expresses concern as Turkey’s interior minister calls student protesters “LGBT deviants”

US expresses concern as Turkey’s interior minister calls student protesters “LGBT deviants”
Faculty members at Bogazici University in Istanbul turned their backs on the rector's office and held up signs to protest against the detention of 159 demonstrators. / Screenshot, Cumhuriyet news video report.
By bne IntelIiNews February 3, 2021

The US on February 3 expressed its concern about demonstrations at Istanbul’s Bogazici University and condemned anti-LGBT rhetoric surrounding them. The concern was relayed by US State Department spokesperson Ned Price.

Intensifying weeks of tension at a top Istanbul university, Turkey’s interior minister Suleyman Soylu on February 3 called student protesters “LGBT deviants” on Twitter, prompting the social media platform to put a rare warning on his comment.

"Should we tolerate the LGBT deviants who insult the great Kaaba? Of course not," Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said in his tweet, which Twitter said violated its rules about hateful conduct. On February 1, students shared images on social media of themselves placing a picture on the ground that mixed LGBT symbols and Islamic images, including the Kaaba shrine. During the day, police arrested 159 protesters, partly with the aim of breaking up a plan to hold an all-night vigil outside the rector’s office at Bogazici University.

Breaching a government ban on demonstrations, students and teachers at Bogazici have held protests for the last month against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's appointment of academic and former political candidate Melih Bulu as rector. They said the move was undemocratic.

Hundreds of protesters who gathered in Istanbul's Kadikoy district on February 2 carried signs that said, "LGBTQs will never walk alone", among other slogans.

In Ankara, police clashed with protesters, some of whom chanted: "Shoulder to shoulder against fascism." Local reports said 69 were detained.

Erdogan ‘won’t allow another 2013’

Erdogan said on February 3 his government would not allow the demonstrations to grow into anti-government protests similar to those in 2013. He described the protesters as "terrorists".

In the 2013 demonstrations hundreds of thousands of people marched against government plans to build replica Ottoman barracks in Istanbul's Gezi Park.

"This country will not be run by terrorists. We will do whatever is needed to prevent this," Erdogan told members of his AKP party, adding that young protesters lacked Turkey's "national and spiritual values".

"Are you students or terrorists trying to raid the rector's room?" Erdogan said. "This country will not again live a Gezi event in Taksim, will not allow it. We have not stood with terrorists and we will not."

Erdogan praised his party's youth wing for "not being the LGBT youth".

Soylu added on live television on February 2 that it was his duty to preserve families against "LGBT deviants", also remarking: "I am a believer, and in my belief, this is deviant. As a Muslim, I am responsible to say this, to protect the institution of family."

Bulu, who once applied to run for parliament as an AKP candidate, told broadcaster HaberTurk that the "crisis will be totally finished within six months".