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Erdogan attacks LGBT students amid Turkish university protests

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Erdogan attacks LGBT students amid Turkish university protests

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has slammed LGBT students while glorifying the youth wing of his conservative party in the wake of protests at the capital Istanbul’s Bogazici University.

Among the many police raids and arrests against students protesting the appointment of a supporter of Erdogan to head the university was a group of students that posted a piece of LGBT artwork.

Erdogan targets LGBT students

Erdogan had lashed at the LGBT students in a video broadcast to members of his AK Party, praising the younger members for not being “LGBT youth.”

“We will carry our young people to the future, not as the LGBT youth, but as the youth that existed in our nation’s glorious past,” Erdogan said.

He added, “You are not the LGBT youth, not the youth who commit acts of vandalism. On the contrary, you are the ones who repair broken hearts.”

Many students at the Bogazici University have been protesting Erdogan’s appointment of 51-year old Professor Melih Bulu as its rector, accusing the Turkish president of interference with academic freedoms.

Erdogan’s statement led to more protests at the university that resulted in 159 people arrested. However, around 100 were released the day after.

Students arrested over LGBT artwork

Among those that were arrested were a group of four students that were arrested over a piece of artwork that reportedly combined the LGBT rainbow flag with the image of the Islamic site, the Kaaba in Mecca.

The students were accused of “inciting hatred” and insulting religious values. Of the four, two students are still in detention over the incident.

Aside from arresting the four students, police had also raided Bogazici’s LGBTI+ student club. Police investigation alleged that terrorist propaganda was found in the club.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said in a tweet, “Four LGBT perverts who denigrated the Kaaba at Bogazici University have been arrested.”

Soylu also said some of the detainees were linked to terror groups. Later on, Twitter tagged the tweet with a disclaimer of inciting hatred.

Ali Erbas, the president of the Turkish’s top religious body, Diyanet, also posted on Twitter: “I condemn the attack on the Muslim’s holy site, the Kaaba and on our Islamic values.”

Critics slam Erdogan, Turkish state

Legal experts and lawyers have criticized Erdogan and the state for their actions against the student protests.

“Interior Minister Soylu’s statements are an example of hate speech,” said constitutional law expert Serkan Koybasi.

Sule Ozsoy Boyunsuz, a constitutional law expert at Galatasaray University, said the European Convention on Human Rights defended the freedom of artistic expression with regard to the artwork.

“The two students were arrested for ‘incitement of hatred and ill will’ and for ‘insulting religious values.’ But I do not see any criminal offense such as the incitement of hatred and ill will,” Boyunsuz said.

Deniz Yuksel, a Turkey advocacy specialist at Amnesty International, told VOA that the anti-LGBT statements of Erdogan were “not only a reflection of the government’s homophobia but also a calculated political strategy.”

In the wake of the protests, the US government has expressed concern, said State Department spokesperson Ned Price.

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