01/02/2021 | Writer: Yıldız Tar

The smear campaigns over a collage work from an exhibition at the Boğaziçi University has evolved into a full-fledged hate campaign with calls for violence against LGBTI+'s and "banning LGBTI+ associations".

Slander, investigations, and hate campaigns against LGBTI+’s at Boğaziçi University Kaos GL - News Portal for LGBTI+

The process that started by the Boğaziçi Islamic Studies Club (BİSAK) with a smear campaign over a collage from an exhibition, turned into an intense hate campaign with increasing hate speech and slanders against LGBTI+'s.

BİSAK wrote, media showed the targets, prosecution initiated the investigation

Within the scope of the demonstrations that started to protest the appointment of the rector to Boğaziçi University, an exhibition has been held on the campus for a week.  BİSAK said the following on social media regarding a collage in the exhibition of the works that were gathered through an open call:

“On Thursday, an illegitimate painting exhibition was held in South Square by people whose identity is uncertain, on the pretext of protesting the appointment of the rector at our university.

“In one picture in this exhibition, the most sacred place of Islam, the qibla of Muslims, Kaaba-i Muazzama has been insulted and defaced. We are not accepting the legitimization and the unlimited defense of this immorality under the pretext of art.

“As Boğaziçi University Islamic Studies Club, we will never allow our Islamic values ​​to be ridiculed at our university."

Upon this statement of BİSAK and the subsequent news in the media, the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office hastily initiated an investigation. The investigation was initiated with the allegation of "public humiliation of the religious values ​​adopted by a section of the population".

5 students detained, 2 of them arrested

Two students were detained while leaving school on the evening of January 29. It was reported that the number of those detained increased to 5 later. According to the report of Boğaziçi Solidarity, one of the 5 detained students was released. Two of them were arrested after their testimonies.

On the other hand, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said, "4 LGBT perverts were detained!" and committed hate speech against LGBTI+'s.

Following the Minister of Interior, the Governorate of İstanbul made a statement, said that 5 people were detained and they are still searching for 2 other people.

Hate speech against LGBTI+’s

The Governorate of Istanbul stated that the Boğaziçi University Fine Arts Club and Boğaziçi University LGBTI+ Studies Club were searched too. The Governorate included having the "LGBTI flag" in the Boğaziçi University LGBTI + Studies Club to the report as "LGBTI flags and various posters and banners used in the protests were seized". Even though they did not constitute evidence of any crime, the LGBTI+ flags are taken from the club room by the police.

"We will take legal action against those who commit this disrespect," said Ali Erbaş, President of Religious Affairs Administration, on Twitter.

The rectorate of Boğaziçi University also launched an administrative investigation. In the statement made by the university, it was reported that an administrative investigation was initiated by the Rectorate regarding the said Kaaba image. Melih Bulu, the appointed rector of Boğaziçi University, said the following on his social media account:

“Attacking the holy symbols of Islam by a group of presumptuous people is by no means acceptable. This has no place in Boğaziçi values. A comprehensive investigation has been launched against those responsible for this incident.”

Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül, said, “It is the order of God Almighty; 'keep my house clean from all dirt.' The law cannot tolerate the disrespect against our sacred Kaaba by the these people whose hearts are rusted with hatred. An investigation was initiated by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office against this infamous act and a detention order is issued for the perpetrators”.

Main opposition party CHP’s Spokeperson Faik Öztrak also targeted the students. Faik Öztrak, the Spokesperson and Vice Chair of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), also shared a message on Twitter, which also sparked reactions:

"We cannot accept any attack or humiliation targeting the sacred values of humanity. We vehemently condemn this open provocation. We expect the seen and unseen responsible parties to be identified as soon as possible."

Campaigns involving intense hate speech and discrimination have started on Twitter via the tags #BoğazicindelgbtRezaleti (The LGBT Scandal at Boğaziçi) and #KabeKutsalimizdır (Kaaba is Our Sacred). Both tags took place in Turkey’s TT list of Twitter for almost a day.

The campaign against LGBTI+ associations

In this storm of hate speech, Mil-Diyanet Sen (Union of Religious Affairs Administration Workers) called for a campaign against the LGBTI+'s freedom of expression and organization by saying "We are giving a petition to the Ministry of Interior for the Closure of LGBT Associations". LGBTI + associations were targeted with the image circulating on social media with the signature of Mil-Diyanet Sen.

LGBTI+ rights are human rights

On the other hand, the campaign against hate speech started with the hashtag #LGBTİHaklarıİnsanHaklarıdır (LGBTI+ rights are human rights) on Twitter. The tweets sent in the scope of the campaign, which rose to the first rank of Twitter Turkey TT list, called attention to the human rights of LGBTI+’s.

Boğaziçi University LGBTI + Studies Club said on its social media account, "We are standing with our detained friends against those who attack LGBTI+'s. We do not accept trustees who run smear campaigns against their own students."

Several members of parliament from Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) and CHP also supported LGBTI+ rights.

What happened at Boğaziçi?

Protests continue against the appointment of Melih Bulu, an AKP candidate for parliament in 2015, as the Rector of Boğaziçi University.

An external rector was appointed to Boğaziçi University for the first time since the 1980s with a midnight appointment made at January 1, 2021, and students and faculty members who declared that they would resist the "trustee rector" continue their demonstrations and activities inside and outside the campus.

Students from different universities who protested Prof. Dr. Melih Bulu's, a parliamentary candidate from the AKP for 2015, appointment as the rector of Boğaziçi University on January 4, were detained on January 5. LGBTI+ activists Yıldız İdil Şen and Havin were among those detained on January 5th. Kadınların Kurtuluşu (Women's Liberation) member Yıldız İdil Şen and Kızıl Okyanus LGBTI+ (Red Ocean LGBTI+) member Havin were also subjected to intense hate speech on social media following their protest in Boğaziçi. Havin and Yıldız announced that they were subjected to insults, physical violence, sexual violence and threats of rape during their detention.

LGBTI+'s from Boğaziçi were frequently targeted in the media during these demonstrations and events. Boğaziçi University LGBTI+ Studies Club (BÜLGBTİ+) announced that the stickers on the door of the club room have been scraped off.

And lastly, the process that started with the calls of attack against an exhibition, which includes the works that came through an open call, turned into a hate campaign against LGBTI+'s.

Translation: Yiğit E. Korkmaz

*This article was prepared within the scope of the Strengthening Advocacy for Equal Rights Project supported by the European Union. This does not mean that the content of the article reflects the official view of the EU.

Tags: human rights, education