Twitter restricts Turkish interior minister’s homophobic tweet calling protesters ‘LGBT perverts’

Suleyman Soylu labelled student protestors in Istanbul ‘LGBT perverts’

Colin Drury
Tuesday 02 February 2021 18:58
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Turkish riot police detains protestors during a protest against Turkish President Erdogan's appointed rector at the Bogazici University
Turkish riot police detains protestors during a protest against Turkish President Erdogan's appointed rector at the Bogazici University

Twitter has limited access to a tweet by Turkey's interior minister after he referred to protesting students as "LGBT perverts".

Suleyman Soylu made the remark about youngsters who are demonstrating against a government loyalist being appointed as rector of Istanbul’s prestigious Bogazici University.

Opponents say Professor Melih Bulu has been given the top job as part of growing attempts by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to exert control on higher education in the country.

Now, after some 159 demonstrators were arrested on Monday on what they say were trumped-up charges of inciting hatred and insulting religious values, Mr Soylu took to social media to say the government would not tolerate “"LGBT perverts who attempted to occupy the rector's office".

The outburst on Tuesday led Twitter to place the missive behind a warning that the post violated its rules about "hateful conduct".

The social media giant said it had decided to allow the tweet to remain, albeit behind the wall, on the grounds that it was in the public's interest to have access to a post by the elected politician.

It all follows months of protests at Prof Bulu’s appointment to what is one of Turkey’s most prestigious academic posts.

Traditionally, the university’s academics elect the powerful rector within their own ranks. But by naming his own appointee Mr Erdogan has, protestors say, is seeking to further stretch his control of the country’s social and cultural life.

The new flashpoint was sparked on Friday when protesters hung an artwork opposite the new rector's office depicting the Kaaba – one of Islam’s most sacred sites – draped in a rainbow flag.

Police responded by arresting dozens of demonstrators both outside the university and in the capital Ankara, while Mr Erdoğan himself labelled his student opponents “LGBT youth” during a dismissive speech on Monday.

"We will carry our young people to the future, not as the LGBT youth, but as the youth that existed in our nation's glorious past,” he said in a video message broadcast to members of his AK Party.

Homosexuality is legal in Turkey but rights have been eroded under the country’s current ultra-conservative current government.

In a speech in July last year, Mr Erdogan accused LGBT activists in the country of undermining "our national and spiritual values" and "poisoning" young people.

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