Turkey’s capital city of Ankara has issued an indefinite ban on public LGBTQ events, citing ambiguous safety concerns as the impetus for the crackdown.
A statement from the governor’s office released to the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet claims that such activities risk “posing an open and imminent danger.” The ban went into effect on Saturday, though the statement wasn’t issued until Sunday:
“Starting from Nov. 18, 2017, considering public sensitivities, any events such as LGBT ... cinema, theater performances, panels, interviews and exhibitions are banned until further notice in our province, in order to provide peace and security,” the Ankara Governor’s Office stated on Nov. 19.
“A part of society with different qualities in terms of social class, race, religion, sect, or region could therefore explicitly incite another part [of the society] to grudges and enmity, posing an open and imminent danger in terms of public safety,” the statement also said.
Authorities in Ankara had already banned a German gay film festival on November 15, the day before it was scheduled to start, asserting that it posed “public safety and terrorism risks.”
The festival, a joint effort of the German embassy and the group Pink Life QueerFest, would have featured four movies by German directors over the course of two days. Pink Life released a statement condemning the sudden cancellation:
“Suggesting that these screenings could be provocative or targeted by terror groups only serves to legitimize those people and institutions that produce hate speech towards us and see our existence as a threat.
“It only goes to deprive us of our constitutional rights under the name of ‘protection.”
The Human Rights Campaign has also called for the ban to be lifted.
Homosexuality is not a crime in Turkey, but it is met with widespread hostility. Pride parades, for instance, have been prohibited in Istanbul for the last two years. In both 2016 and 2017, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets into crowds of people who gathered to celebrate despite the ban; this year, at least 41 people were detained.
Unfortunately, this latest restriction is in keeping with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s tightening on civil liberties. Earlier this month, he accused Turkey’s main opposition party of moving away from the country’s “moral values” after an opposition-run municipality instated a quota for LGBTQ candidates running for a neighborhood committee. “We have no business with those who have declared war on the people’s values,” he said.
Last year, a woman was given a 14-month suspended sentence for sharing a quote mocking the president to her Instagram account in 2014.