A university in Turkey canceled a panel debate on homosexuality after receiving threats from the İlke Haber Ajansı media outlet, affiliated with the Sunni-Islamist-Kurdish movement known as Turkish Hezbollah (largely unconnected to the Shi’ite Lebanese movement Hezbollah). The move came days after Ankara announced plans for the segregation of LGBT prisoners.
The İlke Haber Ajansı (İLKHA) not only condemned the event, but also targeted its organizer, academic Levent Şentürk.
However, İLKHA stated that the cancellation was not enough and said Şentürk should leave the city (Turkish link), also calling on him to prove that he is not homosexual.
Mardin Artuklu University issued a statement explaining its actions.
Our scientific events never insult any kind of beliefs, ethnicities, languages, religions or lifestyles. They do not humiliate any group of people or their values. Despite this, as we saw with the latest incident, we are targeted, insulted and threatened. No one in this institution deserves such treatment.
Not to be confused with Lebanon’s Hezbollah, the Kurdish-Turkish movement is Sunni Islamist but also has a history of commitment to violence, as well as origins in support from post-revolutionary Iran.
This relatively small organization is not alone in Turkish persecution of lesbians, gays and transsexuals. Earlier this month Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag announced plans to segregate openly gay prisoners in what he termed a move aimed at “protecting convicts.”
Turkey’s political landscape has in recent months become increasingly polarized between the opposition and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted AK Party government, seen as pushing a more conservative agenda on a range of issues.
“Projects are under way for the construction of separate penitentiaries to house inmates with divergent sexual orientations,” Bozdag also said in the response, published on parliament’s website.
[Photo: Turkish Flame / Wiki Commons]