In a surprising television interview, ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy chair Mehmet Özhaseki has said that LGBT+ are “created by God” and God does not create anything “less than perfect.”
“There is nothing we can do other than to respect and respect their preferences until the end,” he said.
The Turkish AKP-led government has cracked down on LGBT+ communities, especially since the Gezi Park protests of 2013. The annual LGBT+ pride parade in Istanbul and other major Turkish cities has been banned since 2016, and those that have attempted to gather have been met with tear gas and police violence.
More recently, LGBT+ artists and activists have been charged with crimes - earlier this year, a young group of artists at Istanbul’s Boğaziçi University protesting their pro-AKP trustee rector were arrested for “offending religious values” when they displayed a work of art that superimposed the folklore figure Shahmaran on top of the Kaaba, surrounded by trans and gay pride flags. The arrests sparked further protests, during which both President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu used deeply offensive language to describe the LGBT+ students.
The statement by Özhaseki, then, comes as a surprise. On the program “Politics at Home with Deniz Tural” on the TV100 channel, the deputy chairman was asked about his stance on LGBT+ people. In response, he told the story of Sümbül Efendi.
One day, the story goes, Sümbül Efendi gathered his students in Istanbul and asked them, what they would do if they were God. Some said they would eradicate hunger, while others said they would eradicate poverty. But the last student said he would leave everything as God created it, which Özhaseki said was the right answer.
“Almighty Allah has not created anything unnecessary! There is wisdom in every creation,” Özhaseki said while telling the story.
“Since Allah created [LGBT+ people], they all have a place in our heads,” Özhaseki said. “I would leave everything as it is. Allah has created everything in balance.”