By Gökçe Sandal, 99GetSmart
Istanbul’s LGBTI parade during ‘Pride Week 2015’ had earlier been declared unlawful by the Istanbul Governor, the reason being that Pride and the Islamic holy month of Ramadan coincided with each other. The Governor’s declaration outlawing Pride, combined with excessive police violence against the Pride-goers, added more flames to the already homophobic assessment of the mainstream pro-government media and resulted in boosting of prejudices and homophobia even further in the society.
The reason for the sudden ban was stated to be the parade’s coinciding with the holy month of Ramadan. This statement declares a division between the faithful, moral Muslims, and the members and/or supporters of the LGBTI groups, and defines the two camps as two naturally conflicting identities that cannot coexist. Therefore the statement strengthens the preconceived idea of these two identities as two distinct groups and leads to increased tensions between the two groups. The religious reasoning behind the ban has brought about discussions about the “people of Loot”, a tribe that in Islamic belief was wiped out by Allah due to their practice of homosexuality.
Only a week after the events that took place in Istanbul – the police intervention into Pride –, the Ankara-based ‘Young Islamic Defense’ group hung posters all over the capital, with the following Hadith passage: “Whoever you find doing the deed of the people of Loot, kill them.” This open call for massacre and hate crime is directly targeting the members of the LGBTI groups in Turkey, as the poster has a photo from the previous week’s parade in its background.
The group has also posted a manifestation on their website which declares the LGBTI members to be remnants of the Loot tribe that need to be destroyed, thus encouraging various kinds of hate crimes by justifying them on the grounds of religion.
Even though homosexuality is not conceived of as a crime in Turkey, it is not recognized, or even referred to, in the laws. In addition, general public awareness of and tolerance towards the LGBTI movement in Turkey is not very high. The state’s own interruption of the movement legitimizes these negative views held by the public and provides a freer environment for hate speech, while making LGBTI people all the more vulnerable to actions that may result from this atmosphere charged with hate and intolerance.