The increasing religiosity of Turkey: Istanbul bans transgender and gay pride parades

Just a quick note to mark the increasing official religiosity of Turkey. Because I love that country, and have visited several times (once speaking about evolution to an appreciative audience of 1200), it causes me great pain as President Recep Erdoğan continues his authoritarian transformation of the Turkish government, infusing it more and more with Islam. Freedom of the press is largely banned, and those who criticize the President face legal action. Is it any wonder that the EU balks at letting Turkey become a member?

As the Guardian reports, Istanbul has now banned public parades in support of gays and transgender people:

Authorities in Istanbul have banned transgender and gay pride marches this month, citing security concerns after ultra-nationalists warned they would not allow the events to take place on Turkish soil.

A march in support of transgender people was planned for Sunday [today!] in the city centre, while an annual gay pride parade – described previously as the biggest in the Muslim world – had been due to take place a week later on 26 June.

The Istanbul governor’s office said on Friday the marches had been banned amid concern for public order. Security in the city remains tight after a series of bombings blamed on Islamic State and Kurdish militants in recent months.

The ban also follows a warning from an ultra-nationalist youth group, the Alperen Hearths, that it would not allow the marches, calling them immoral and threatening violence. “To our state officials: do not make us deal with this. Either do what is needed or we will do it. We will take any risks, we will directly prevent the march,” the group’s Istanbul provincial head, Kürşat Mican, told journalists on Wednesday.

The Alperen Hearths is a youth wing of the right-wing and Islamist Great Unity Party. The article continues:

“Degenerates will not be allowed to carry out their fantasies on this land … We’re not responsible for what will happen after this point,” he said, citing a Turkish proverb: “If you’re not taught by experience, you’re taught by a beating”.

Unlike many Muslim countries, homosexuality is not a crime in Turkey. But if Erdogan has his way, it might be. And, of course, this all reflects the dictates of Islam. As the Guardian notes;

Historically the gay pride parade in Istanbul – a city seen as a relative haven by members of the gay community from elsewhere in the Middle East – has been a peaceful event.

But last year police used teargas and water cannon to disperse participants, after organisers said they had been refused permission because it coincided with the holy month of Ramadan, as it does again this year.

Turkey has a secular constitution, the handiwork of one of my heroes, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who almost singlehandedly wrested his land from the grips of religiosity to enforce a kind of mosque-state separation. Now, after a century, Erdogan and his minions are trying to dismantle that, creating a regressive theocracy. If this continues a once secular and vibrant land will become increasingly like Iran or Afghanistan.

Atatürk would roll over in his grave.



  1. Posted June 19, 2016 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    Why aren’t the terrorists threatening violence the ones being jailed? Because Erdogan is on their side. It sickens me!

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted June 19, 2016 at 1:17 pm | Permalink


    • rickflick
      Posted June 19, 2016 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

      Well, maybe that’s the only answer. Very brave people refusing to capitulate. Of course that will happen at considerable cost. Maybe Turkey will, at some point, collect it’s wits and return to liberty.

  2. Posted June 19, 2016 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    This is so sad. Too many places recoiling from progress.

  3. Posted June 19, 2016 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    “…calling them immoral and threatening violence…”

    I can’t actually think of anything suitably incredulous/dismayed/angry to write about the way their minds work.

  4. Simon
    Posted June 19, 2016 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Erdogan, Ataturk, birds of a feather. Ataturk was also one of Hitler’s heroes, citing him as an inspiration. It is often said that Stalin persecuted the religious because they were competitors to his cult. I’d say the same about Ataturk, who should be reviled for his part in the extermination of Greeks in Asia Minor and in the Armenian genocide.

    • Simon
      Posted June 19, 2016 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

      Lest anyone be misled by my bad grammar, it was Hitler who cited Ataturk as an inspiration, not the other way round.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted June 19, 2016 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

      Criticizing an individual on the basis that someone noxious held that individual up as a personal hero — there oughta be a name for that logical fallacy.

      • Posted June 19, 2016 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

        Perhaps we could call it a Kukec fallacy? After all, if there is no name until now, you should get the credit.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted June 19, 2016 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

          According to Stigler’s Law, no discovery is ever named after its original discoverer. (Stigler’s Law is autological; it was actually discovered by somebody named Merton.) So I guess we’ll have to name the new fallacy after you — or Simon. 🙂

          • Posted June 21, 2016 at 1:54 am | Permalink

            Let’s share it, then: The Doc Kukec Law. 🙂

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted June 21, 2016 at 2:40 am | Permalink

              Sounds great. Would’ve made my folks proud, too; they always wanted one of us kids to go to med school and find honest work. 🙂

              • Posted June 21, 2016 at 2:41 am | Permalink

                And I always wanted to add on a law degree. Such a deal!

      • Posted June 21, 2016 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

        I think you’re missing the point. He’s not being criticized because Hitler thought highly of him; he’s being criticized *for the reasons* Hitler thought highly of him. He was an integral part of the Armenian Genocide and the mass murder and deportation of Greeks and other non-Turk minorities from Anatolia, in an overt campaign of “ethnic cleansing.” It is very odd that Jerry considers him a personal hero.

  5. RichardS
    Posted June 19, 2016 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Yes, I lived in that lovely country for nearly eight years. It would have been inconceivable 40 years ago. I feel so sorry to see this happening.

  6. Cindy Hauert
    Posted June 19, 2016 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    I hate “whataboutery” comments, but I’m about to write one.
    While most humanist/secular/atheist spokespeople focus on anti-gay policies and religious persecution within Islam, I would like to point out that in almost the whole of Africa homosexuality is not only illegal, but leads to ostracism, imprisonment, rape and even murder. Many of these countries are predominantly Christian, of the evangelical/pentacostal brand. This is so even in South Africa, the only African country which constitutionally protects gay and lesbian rights.
    I wonder why more people are not speaking up about this horrendous situation. Is it because they fear being branded as racists?

    • Simon
      Posted June 19, 2016 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      Uganda being a prime example, where the death penalty is being proposed for homosexual acts. Xtian groups from the US have been implicated in nurturing such policies.

      I think that the activities of Dominionists in sub-Saharan Africa are dangerous and largely under reported.

      • Alexander
        Posted June 19, 2016 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

        And the idiots in the UK wearing fish hats, saying that homosexuality is sin.

      • Posted June 19, 2016 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

        Agreed. Historians have shown that Dominionism began (like a wolf in sheep’s clothing)in the 1940s, infiltrating many positions at the bottom level with the intent that the more who do so, the more likely and sooner that any one of them will reach the power-advantaged top. GW Bush reached the top, and many Dominionists started coming out of the woodwork. Sad that the historians have largely been ignored, and the sheep continue to welcome those cloaked wolves. For more, google Dominionism and Seven Mountains. The latter shows where the Dominionists started infiltrating and why.

        They aren’t satisfied with taking over the USA. Subsaharan Africa is fertile ground, particularly with the Dominionists’ occult leadership’s long term views and plans.

    • somer
      Posted June 19, 2016 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

      JUNE 2016

      • Posted June 19, 2016 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

        And right there, on the map in the second link, is miniscule little Israel, surrounded by a sea of Muslim countries, barely visible for its blue shield, the sign recognizing its protection of LGBTQ rights. I think that says something.

      • rickflick
        Posted June 19, 2016 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

        I don’t know if I should feel glad that there are many countries with liberal laws or dismayed that there are many who are so intolerant. Let’s hope the trend is in the right direction.

    • Posted June 23, 2016 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

      Turkey is very close to EU, borders EU countries, a small part of it is actually on the European continent. It pushes itself for EU membership, visa-free travel to EU will be soon given to Turkish citizens. Racist or not, such a country is held to a much higher standard than African countries.

  7. p. puk
    Posted June 19, 2016 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    he said, citing a Turkish proverb: “If you’re not taught by experience, you’re taught by a beating”.

    As someone with ample experience with Muslims in the EU I can tell you that this is true of all of North Africa and the Middle East.

    This is the reason that Muslim many immigrants find it so easy to misbehave in western society and why the EU prison population has an over representation of Muslims.

    The freedom in EU is too much to handle for some people and because of the lack and laxity of punishments and the absence of police beatings for minor infractions events like Cologne are possible.

    Some people are taught from childhood to respect their fellow members of society and treat them and their possessions accordingly. Others are taught entirely different lessons and these are reflected in their actions.

  8. Diana MacPherson
    Posted June 19, 2016 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    And this makes satire, like that presented by German comedian Jan Boehermann so importatant! (His V for Varoufakis bit is great too).

    When I read the English translation to my parents, my mother thought it was horribly vulgar, to which I replied, “yeah but it’s funnier in German because it rhymes”. Then, serendipitously, a friend sent me a Wikipedia article about how people are more likely to believe things that rhyme (which of course led to us rhyming insults about each other but that’s beside the point).

    • Posted June 19, 2016 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      A bit of context that often gets lost in the reporting about this: the poem was introduced explicitly as an example of things it would be illegal to say about a foreign monarch under Germany’s ridiculous laws.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted June 19, 2016 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

        Yes, the article I point to explains that. I didn’t want to mention German laws because the last time I did that here, all hell broke loose!

  9. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted June 19, 2016 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    a city seen as a relative haven by members of the gay community from elsewhere in the Middle East

    Well, when partaking of a quiet beer one evening in a bar in the hotel district near Ataturk Airport, I gave one of the female hookers the brush off. So her pimpess came over asking if I wanted a man instead.
    Business certainly recognises the existence of a significant homosexual population and caters for them.

  10. philfinn7
    Posted June 19, 2016 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    Saddened and angered by this. I have been visiting Turkey for over 20 years, lived there for 4 years, and am currently holidaying there, at a small hotel in the south. Our hosts, who have become our friends over the years, say that the local council (AKP, Erdogan’s mob) harass them regularly about minor infringements of regulations and have made it clear that the hassling would stop if they would simply put up a sign saying ‘No alcohol served here.’ And someone my wife employed several years ago is an organizer for an LGBT group, someone at risk from these thugs.

  11. Posted June 19, 2016 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    This my friends is the gay agenda the Christian Right loves to use as a criticism. The right to not be ridiculed, beaten, imprisoned and even murdere, that’s our agenda. It is truly sad how quickly the progress we have made over the last decades is being eroded by these idiot religious zealots.

  12. Posted June 23, 2016 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    In other news:

    “At album celebration event held in İstanbul on Saturday night for the British rock band Radiohead, participants were attacked by a group of men, who claimed they were reacting to alcohol consumption during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

    Speaking at an iftar, Erdoğan commented on an attack and stated, “Using brute force is as wrong as this event which spread to the street in Ramadan.””

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