Turkish prosecutors investigate bar association after it complains about Diyanet homophobia

(Updates with Erdoğan's comments on paragraphs 7-10)

Turkish prosecutors have launched an investigation into the Ankara Bar Association after it filed a criminal complaint against the head of the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) for a sermon in which he said that Islam cursed homosexuality and it resulted in illnesses and decay, news outlet T24 said on Monday.

Ali Erbaş, the head of the powerful Diyanet, also said in a sermon on Friday: “Let’s work together to protect people from such evil.”

The Ankara Bar Association and the Human Rights Association responded by filing a criminal complaint against Erbaş, accusing him of hate speech. The bar association also accused Erbaş of not doing enough to tackle the abuse of children and feeding a hostile environment towards women and LGBT people. It said no one should be surprised if Erbaş were to incite men to burn women like witches.

The Ankara chief prosecutor’s office said in a statement it had started an investigation into whether the bar association had committed the crime insulting religious values.

“It all started with children drawing rainbows and hanging them to their windows during lockdown, an activity designed by school teachers for morale. They were then accused of LGBTI+ propaganda,” Istanbul-based lawyer Güley Bor said in a tweet.

“There is no place for hatred in the rainbow!” said Bor. The next day, April 23, Turkey’s Children’s Day, the hashtag “LGBTI children exist” went viral, with many users tweeting photos of themselves as a child. A day later, Erbaş gave his sermon targeting the LGBT community.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in a speech on Monday evening, stood behind Erbaş and said, “An attack against (Erbaş) is an attack against our state.”

Erdoğan said Erbaş’s comments were “only binding for those who call themselves Muslims,” and, “true to the end.”

Religious advice “is not a matter that the Ankara Bar Association has authority over,” Erdoğan said. “All will know their place.”

Erdoğan accused the bar of attacking Islam and “glorifying perversion in the name of equality,” saying that comments by the Ankara lawyers were “a reflection of the swamp of hate we face,” and “the most primitive version of fascism.”