In recent years, Turkey’s LGBTQ community has faced increasing challenges in expressing their identities and advocating for their rights. Online platforms like Velvele, an LGBTQ online magazine, are at the forefront of this battle, constantly facing the threat of censorship and legal action from Turkish authorities. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s divisive political agenda, coupled with a struggling economy, has created an environment where media freedom is scarce, and homophobia is on the rise.
Media Freedom Under Threat
Turkey’s poor media freedom record casts a shadow on outlets like Velvele. With a history of internet blocks and legal threats, journalists in Turkey are always concerned about being targeted for their work. Despite no direct action against Velvele yet, the ever-present worry of censorship hangs over the team. Since the failed coup attempt in 2016, numerous news outlets have been shut down, creating a chilling atmosphere for independent media.
Homophobic Rhetoric as a Political Tool
President Erdogan’s reelection campaign saw him using homophobic and transphobic rhetoric to appeal to the conservative Muslim base and divert attention from economic issues. Painting the LGBTQ community as a threat to “Turkish family values,” Erdogan sought to consolidate his support in the conservative heartland of the country. The symbiotic relationship between political leaders and state media further perpetuates this harmful rhetoric.
Rising Homophobia and Discrimination
The consequence of Erdogan’s rhetoric is a surge in homophobia across Turkey. Studies indicate that acceptance of gay rights is declining, and LGBTQ individuals face increasing discrimination and harassment. While homosexuality itself is not illegal in Turkey, societal attitudes and government actions have contributed to an environment where LGBTQ rights are severely limited.
LGBTQ Rights and the Media Landscape
Turkey ranks second to last in Europe in terms of LGBTQ rights, as per the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association-Europe’s index. The media, once a platform for diverse voices, has now become a tool for propaganda and hate speech, exacerbating the challenges faced by the LGBTQ community.
Emotional Toll on the LGBTQ Community
The emotional toll of such hostile rhetoric and media portrayal takes a toll on LGBTQ individuals, both within and outside Turkey. Velvele’s editor, Ilker Hepkaner, emphasizes that even those living abroad experience anxiety and stress while reading news from their home country. The LGBTQ community is left feeling marginalized and stigmatized, leading to increased discrimination and violence.
Distraction from Economic Woes
Experts believe that the government’s homophobic propaganda serves as a distraction from Turkey’s economic troubles. High inflation, unemployment, and debt have plagued the economy since 2018. However, instead of addressing these issues, the government chooses to focus on perceived threats to “family values.”
The struggle for LGBTQ rights in Turkey intensifies as media outlets like Velvele face constant threats of censorship and harassment. President Erdogan’s divisive rhetoric further exacerbates the situation, fueling homophobia and discrimination against the LGBTQ community. Despite these challenges, Velvele and others continue to strive for media freedom and representation for LGBTQ voices. As the international community observes the situation in Turkey, it is crucial to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community and advocate for their rights to be protected and respected. Only through collective efforts can we hope to create a society where all individuals are free to express their identities without fear.