Erdogan slams LGBT, students after protests

By: AFP      Published: 07:33 PM, 3 Feb, 2021
Erdogan slams LGBT, students after protests

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday blasted the LGBT movement as incompatible with Turkey's values and compared student protesters to "terrorists" as a month of youth-driven rallies shook his rule.

More than 300 students and their supporters were detained in Istanbul and the capital Ankara in increasingly violent and politically-charged altercations with the police this week.

The protests first erupted after Erdogan appointed party loyalist Melih Bulu as the head of Istanbul's elite Bogazici University at the start of the year.

The appointment created a stir because students saw it as part of Erdogan's effort to centralise control over most strata of Turks' daily lives.

Erdogan lashed out on Wednesday in one of his most heated attacks to date against a movement that threatens to grow into a serious challenge to his 18 years in power.

"Are you students or terrorists who dare to raid the room of the rector?" Erdogan demanded in a televised video linkup with his party faithful.

"This country will not be a place where terrorists prevail. We will never allow this."

The student demonstrations have echoes of 2013 protests that sprang up against plans to demolish an Istanbul park before spreading nationally and presenting a direct challenge to Erdogan's rule.

The dispute over the rector intensified after protesters hung a poster near his office depicting Islam's holiest site covered in LGBT imagery last week.

Erdogan on Monday distanced his party's supporters from what he dubbed the protest movement's "LGBT youth".

He redoubled those attacks on Wednesday. 

"The LGBT, there is no such thing," he said dismissively. "This country is ... moral, and it will walk to the future with these values."

No thoughts of resigning

Erdogan's comments came a day after police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to dispurse crowds of over 1,000 in Istanbul and several hundred in the capital Ankara.

Police reported making more than 170 arrests.

The rector at the heart of the protests flatly ruled out bowing to protester demands and quitting.

"I never think about resigning," Bulu told the HaberTurk daily. "I initially predicted this crisis would be over within six months and it will be so."

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said 79 of the detainees were "members of terror groups" such as the far-left Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP/C).

"They have occupied the rector's office. I cannot allow this when I am interior minister," he said. 

The LGBT movement was not initially spearheading the protests against the rector and Erdogan's policies as a whole.

But the scandal over the poster has thrust it in the centre of Turkish politics and seen it come under growing political attack.

Soylu tweeted on Saturday that "four LGBT freaks" had been detained for "inciting hatred" with their poster.

Twitter hid that post and a similar one Soylu sent on Tuesday under a warning that they violated the platform's "hateful conduct" rules.

Homosexuality has been legal throughout modern Turkey's history but Istanbul Pride has been banned since 2016.

Bogazici University's LGBT club was disbanded after the incident but the rector insisted that he "respects every identity".

"I am a person who defends the rights and freedoms of LGBT individuals," Bulu told the paper.