You can be gay in Turkey so long as you support Erdoğan - top activist

In Turkey, you can be gay provided you support President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and do not demand more rights, fashion designer and leading Turkish LGBT activist Barabaros Şansal said.

Şansal spoke after Erdoğan’s spokesman Fahretttin Altun said LGBT “propaganda” posed a serious threat to freedom of speech in Turkey.

“If you are pro-regime, and pro-Erdoğan, you can be a homosexual. But if you are opposition, you are sin,” Şansal told Reuters in an article published on Wednesday.

Altun had rushed to the aid of Kerem Kinik, head of the Turkish Red Crescent, this week after the latter said he would “fight against those who violate healthy creation”. Kinik had spoken on worldwide Pride Day on Sunday and his comments drew a swift rebuke from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).  

On Monday, without naming homosexuality, Erdoğan warned of an assault on Turkey’s traditional values.

“Some people insidiously attack our national and moral values by normalising perversions that have been condemned throughout history and aim to poison young minds,” Erdoğan said.

The president called on all Turks to confront “any type of perversion forbidden by our God, and those who support them”.

Hashtags have appeared on Turkish social media calling for a ban on LGBT activities and for shoppers to boycott companies expressing solidarity by using rainbow colours. The hashtags have been trending since Sunday.

Şansal is a frequent critic of Erdoğan and his rule. He took part in the nationwide Gezi Park protests of 2013 against the government.

In January 2017, Şansal was arrested at an airport in Istanbul for “inciting the people to hostility or hatred” under the Turkish penal code. He had criticised Turks in a YouTube video for celebrating the New Year saying scores of journalists were in jail, children were being sexually abused and corruption and bribery were everywhere.