Turkey’s interior minister slams LGBTI+ ‘deviants’ following Boğaziçi detentions

(Updated with France access ban on Soylu tweet, remarks from Erdoğan aide)

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu lashed out at the LGBTI+ community following the detention of four students from the group protesting at Boğaziçi University over the appointment of a pro-government rector.

"Four LGBT deviant, who disrespected the Islamic holy site, the Kaaba, have been detained at Boğaziçi University,’’ Soylu said on Twitter.

The students were detained on Saturday over an investigation launched by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office following an exhibition on campus. 

Later on Saturday, arrest warrants were issued for two of the detainees, while other two were released on house arrest, Medyascope TV reported.

The students are accused of laying a photo of the Kaaba on the ground in a Boğaziçi University exhibition alongside a rainbow flag.

Meanwhile, a statement by the İstanbul Governor’s Office that rainbow flags had been "seized'’ during a police search of the detained students sparked a debate in social media, with users denouncing the homophobic language used by the office.

"The government has been criminalizing LGBTI+ individuals since 2015 when it put a ban on İstanbul Pride. This situation has become more frequent for the last year’’, lawyer Levent Pişkin told Artı Gerçek. "It is wrong to use the phrase ‘seized’ for something that is obvious and which everyone is proudly carrying,’’ the lawyer said.

The head of the Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs, Ali Erbaş, on Friday weighed in on the incident.

"I condemn the hateful attack on our Islamic values. As the Directorate of Religious Affairs, we will follow the issue and we will take legal action against those who disrespected the Kaaba," Erbaş said.

Turkish Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun on Saturday also blasted the detained students, accusing them of attempting to "corrupt generations through their deviant thoughts and lifestyle.''

Their only motivation is to "belittle that which is sacred to us,'' Altun said on Twitter. 

Meanwhile, France has blocked access to Soylu’s tweet, accusing the Turkish official of carrying out a hate crime, IMCHaber24 news site reported on Saturday.