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Turkey’s Capital Banned LGBT Events — Here’s Why Activists Are Worried

Turkey is on a roll that is deeply troubling to human rights activists.

The governor of Ankara, the country’s capital, announced a ban on all LGBT-related events — including public film screenings, theater performances, panels, and exhibitions — on Sunday, Reuters reported, citing public safety concerns.

The new policy came just days after the government banned a German gay film festival in Ankara and a mere week after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused his main opposition of “waging war against the values of our nation,” after it announced a plan to introduce a “gay quota” for local municipal committees. 

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Governor Mehmet Kiliclar’s statement announced that LGBT-related events would be banned indefinitely due to fears that such events threaten “public order” and would “[provoke] reactions within certain segments of society,” the Guardian reported.

But activists believe the announcement has deeper implications. 

“Time and time again, we witness governments using security as an excuse to curtail the rights of LGBTIQ people. In reality, this ban is sweeping, indefinite, and representative of a broader shift right-wing in Ankara and across Turkey,” Executive Director of OutRight Action International, Jessica Stern, told Global Citizen.

Though homosexuality is not criminalized in Turkey, as it is in nearby Syria and Lebanon, activists say homophobia is pervasive, according to the BBC, and that members of the LGBT community have experienced discrimination, harassment, and sexual assault.

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In 2003, Turkey was celebrated as the first Muslim majority country to allow a gay pride march. But that win for Turkey’s LGBT community is now a distant memory as police forces broke up this year’s annual pride parade in Istanbul for the third consecutive year, CNN reported.

Read more: Fans Arrested at a Concert in Egypt After Raising Rainbow Flag

Turkey, a secular nation, has increasingly suppressed its LGBT community and civil society as Erdogan moves to replace the country’s secular governance with one that adheres more strictly to Islamist values, his critics say. And activists are worried that the past week’s announcements foreshadow future policies that will further restrict the rights of Turkey’s LGBT community.

“We are extremely worried about the safety of LGBTIQ people in Ankara and those who defend their human rights,” Stern added.