Turkey axes German gay festival
Turkey has axed a German gay film festival the day before it was due to open, claiming to have responded to public safety concerns and a terror threat.
Four German films were due to be shown over the weekend.
A governor’s office spokesman in Ankara said: “Intelligence reports show that terror organisations are seeking to attack dissident groups, this film screening could be provocative.”
Michael Roth, deputy Europe minister in Berlin’s foreign ministry, tweeted that “the freedom of the arts and minority rights are sacrosanct. This must also apply to Turkey”.
Pink Life QueerFest, which was organising the event, said the move could legitimise people and institutions hoping to undermine gay rights.
Same-sex relations are not illegal in Turkey but public displays of affection are prohibited under “public morality” laws and gay marriage is not recognised.
Turkey’s increasingly dictatorial president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose stance is heavily influenced by religion, has done much to change attitudes in a country that prided itself on being secular since the creation of the modern Turkish republic under Kemal Atatürk in 1923.
Homosexuality has been legal since then and it was legal under the Ottoman Empire from the mid-19th century.
Earlier this month, Erdogan criticised the existence of a quota for gays on a neighbourhood committee, saying it was at odds with Turkish values.
The last three annual gay pride parades have been banned in Istanbul with activists being hit with water canon and shot with rubber bullets in an attempted demonstration last weekend.
Police reportedly fired rubber bullets at pride activists who were marching to protest against the event’s cancellation.
The last pride march in Turkey took place in 2014, with an estimated 100,000 people attending in possibly the largest ever LGBT celebration in a Muslim majority country.
Gay activists have regularly condemned mistreatment, including harassment, abuse and rape.
Last year Hande Kader, a 22-year-old transgender woman was mutilated, burned and murdered in Istanbul with Transgender Europe reporting that Turkey has a higher number of trans murders than any European country.
The move will add to already-strained bilateral relations with Germany. Last week Deniz Yucel, a German-Turkish journalist detained by Ankara since February, has accused Erdogan of subjecting his entire society to a “regime of fear” and said Turkey was drifting towards fascism.
Istanbul gay pride 2013. Picture credit: Wikimedia