Head of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), Ali Erbaş used a sermon at the start of Ramadan to call on people to “work together” against the beliefs of LGBTQ+. He said, “Islam curses homosexuality. Homosexuality brings with it, illnesses and decay to lineage. Let’s work together to protect people from such evil.”
These provocative remarks stirred quite a reaction in the country. The sermon has prompted a bigger row in the country, with anti-LGBTQ+ figures rushing out to defend the state official. Whereas, LGBTQ+ and human rights groups openly condemned them.
However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has protected the high-ranking Islam representative. On the 27th of April, Erdogan declared that an attack on Diyanet’s head of the Turkish religious organization, Ali Erbaş, was an “attack on the state”.
Erdogan emphasized what Erbaş said was “absolutely right”. In his sermon at the beginning of Ramadan, the religious leader had said verbatim: “Islam regards fornication as one of the greatest sins and condemns homosexuality.” Because both would bring “diseases with them”.
The diseases mentioned here include HIV and AIDS. Erbaş’ broadcasted his sermon on Friday online and shared all over social media. The cleric claimed that “Islam curses homosexuality”. He said: “Hundreds of thousands of people are exposed annually to the HIV virus, which is caused by this great haram, known as adultery in Islamic literature. Let’s fight together to protect people from this kind of evil.”
Turkey’s President Erdogan says anti-LGBTQ+ message was ‘totally right’
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan conducted a public address on the 27th of April. There, he waded into the row affirming that “an attack against the Diyanet chief is an attack on the state”. He added: “What he said was totally right.”
Allies of the president within his right-wing Justice and Development Party have gone further in their attacks on LGBTQ+ groups. Government official Ömer Çelik praised the cleric for “defending Islamic values”. Çelik also believes that Erbaş rightly criticized the “fascist mentality” of the protestors; after all, they are attacking “the most natural right for people to speak according to the value system they believe in”.
Reuters reported on Monday that prosecutors have launched a probe into the Ankara Bar Association. They claim that the group’s condemnation of the cleric is an insult to religious values.
History of Erdogan’s government with human rights abuses against LGBTQ+ people
It’s technically legal to be gay in Turkey, but the LGBTQ+ community in the country have a legally restrained lifestyle. They face extreme stigma – where Pride parades are still often brutally repressed by police. In June 2019, police officials fired tear gas at Istanbul Pride marchers to disrupt the event. This was the fifth consecutive year where the authorities stopped the parade violently.
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In November, Turkey levelled charges against 19 people for attending another peaceful Pride event in Ankara. According to reports, the police serenaded the event with pepper sprays, tear gas and plastic bullets, eventually arresting 22 people.
President Erdogan claimed in 2017 that representation of LGBTQ+ people is at odds “with the values of our nation”. Unsurprisingly, the President’s homophobic stance couples sexist beliefs. Once, he declared that its “against nature” to “put women and men on an equal footing.”