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.