‘Nevermind the lesbians’, Erdoğan tells his ruling party’s women

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said turkey shouldn’t “look at what these lesbians and the like say,” and instead heed the mothers, who are what keeps families together, in a speech given via video call to women’s congresses of his ruling party in several provinces on Friday, Sözcü newspaper reported.

“I always say that heaven lies beneath the soles of mothers’ feet. Mothers are sacred. We will walk with them, and build our country to prosper,” Erdoğan said. “Don’t look at what these lesbians and the like say. We will march into the future with our mothers.”

The reason young people have joined student protests against the president’s appointment of a rector loyal to his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to the prestigious Boğaziçi University is because their connection to the “values of the country, the nation in their minds and hearts” was severed.

“Youth must be protected,” said the president, “on the condition that they are not connected to terrorism.”

Earlier in the week, the president said there was “no such thing as LGBT”, while his Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu repeatedly called LGBT people “deviants”. Back in April last year, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the head of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), Ali Erbaş, had accused homosexuals of causing the coronavirus pandemic.

The LGBT community in Turkey has come into focus recently over their involvement in the Boğaziçi protests that kicked off in the first week of January, but escalated last week over a pro-LGBT piece of art that included a depiction of the Muslim holy site Kaaba and that government officials have accused of being insulting and Islamophobic.

Erdoğan’s government has been criticised in the past for having extended the country’s anti-terror laws too much. In a 2018 statement, the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner said Turkey’s laws “continue to generate some of the most serious violations of freedom of expression.”

A U.S. State Department official told Ahval that the United States was monitoring the peaceful protests at Boğaziçi, and “stands up for and defends the rights of LGBTQI+ people,” and “firmly opposes abuses against LGBTQI+ persons.”

Referring to the Capitol raid, Erdoğan said, “It is hypocritical for those who call people raiding the senate in their own countries terrorists to call people raiding a rectory in Turkey rights defenders,” in reference to the Boğaziçi students who allegedly held the exits of the rectory building, not allowing staff and appointed Rector Melih Bulu to leave.

Turkey’s Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun said earlier in the week that the students had committed several crimes, including depriving a person of their freedom.

Erdoğan concluded his message to AKP’s women with, “Keep your children in check. Allah willing, we will tear this trick apart together.”