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Turkey: Four students allegedly depict the Kaaba next to LGBTQ flag, detained and called ‘deviants’ by Interior Minister

Condemning the artwork as an 'ugly attack' on Islam itself, the cops detained four students on the 'suspicion' of denigrating religious values.

In a display of intolerance, the Turkish police have detained four students on Saturday for supposedly insulting Islam’s holiest site at Boğaziçi University in Istambul.

As per reports, the development comes after student protestors exhibited an artwork that showed a rainbow flag (LGBT symbol) alongside a picture of Islamic building ‘Kaaba’ in Masjid-al-Haram in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. They had hung the artwork opposite the office of the rector on Friday. The protestors had also hung another artwork featuring mythical half-snake and half-human character, Shahmaran.

Condemning the artwork as an ‘ugly attack’ on Islam itself, the cops detained four students on the ‘suspicion’ of denigrating religious values. While arrest warrant was issued for two students, the other two were put on house arrest. The students had been protesting against the appointment of a new rector, Melih Bulu, at the Boğaziçi University by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Criticism of artwork by the Turkish govt officials

In a tweet, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu labelled the four student protestors as ‘LGBT deviants’ and said that they have been detained. His tweet drew fierce criticism from several activists and prompted France to block his tweets for hate speech.

Screengrab of the tweet by Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu

The official spokesperson of Turkish President, Ibrahim Kalin, also tweeted that ‘disrespect’ towards Kaaba did not constitute freedom of speech or the right to protest. “This deviance will receive the punishment it deserves both before the law and in the righteous conscience. Your bankrupt intentions and abusive actions are heedless, deceitful, and disappointed,” he warned.

Screengrab of the tweet by Ibrahim Kalin

Earlier in January, Erdogan had referred to the student protestors as ‘terrorists’. It must be mentioned that homosexuality is legal in Turkey but LGBT members are often subjected to abuse and harassment. However, the society is conservative and the woes of the community have increased since the rise of Erdogan to power. The government had banned the Istambul Pride March for 5 years till 2019. At the same time, the march could not be carried out last year due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Criticism of Turkish govt’s high-handedness

While speaking about the student protests, lawyer Levent Pişkin said, “The government has been criminalizing LGBTI+ individuals since 2015 when it put a ban on İstanbul Pride. This situation has become more frequent for the last year.” He also criticised a statement of İstanbul Governor’s Office for the homophobic language used against the detained students. “It is wrong to use the phrase ‘seized’ for something that is obvious and which everyone is proudly carrying,” he added.

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