Homosexuality has been legal in Turkey since the republic was founded in 1923, and gender confirmation surgery was legalized in 1988. But LGBTQ rights activists say their community faces discrimination and stigmatization, including at the hands of the government, PBS News reports.
LGBTQ "cinema, theater performances, panels, interviews and exhibitions are banned until further notice in our province, in order to provide peace and security," an English translation of the statement reads, as reported by Mashable.
The statement claims the ban will "maintain public order," according to The Guardian. The outlet also reports that authorities have shut down Istanbul's annual gay pride rally for the past three years. Each time, they have cited safety and security reasons.
Kaos GL and Pink Life, two LGBTQ rights organization based in Turkey, described the ban as "arbitrary" and pointed out that the governor's statement was incredibly vague, PBS reports. The organizations also voiced concerns that the ban is a dangerous step towards taking away the rights of LGBTQ residents and increases the risk of violence towards the already-marginalized members of the community.
The ban didn't go unnoticed by the Human Rights Campaign, America's biggest LGBTQ advocacy organization. "We are outraged by news out of Turkey that the governor of Ankara announced an indefinite ban on all
#LGBTQ film screenings, panels & exhibitions & other public events," the organization tweeted on Sunday afternoon. "How can these peaceful events be a threat to public security? This ban must be lifted."
It's unclear if the Human Rights Campaign plans to take any action at this time. Refinery29 has reached out to the organization for comment.
The actions taken by Turkish authorities this weekend and over the past several years are cause for alarm. The fact that homosexuality and gender confirmation surgery are legal in Turkey rings hollow when the government actively suppresses the LGBTQ community from publicly celebrating and embracing their sexuality. Furthermore, the vague reason that these cultural events could incite violence sends the deeply discriminatory message that it's the responsibility of the LGBTQ community to prevent bigoted individuals from committing hate crimes.
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