Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović has penned a letter to Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu and Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül, calling on Ankara to stop stigmatization of LGBTI people.
“I am concerned about the visible rise in hateful rhetoric and the propagation of homophobic narratives by some politicians and opinion-makers in Turkey, including high ranking central government and public officials,” she wrote in her letter.
“Portraying LGBTI people as a 'threat to family values, religion or the traditions of the nation', 'perverts', or as 'attempt[ing] to undermine the humankind, its nature and the family', are only a few examples of this language,' she said.
The Commissioner further warned that a series of restrictions on activities of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and freedom of association imposed by the government in recent years have also negatively impacted on the work of LGBTI organizations.
She said that the use of judicial proceedings to silence human rights defenders, NGOs and lawyers and curtail civil society activism continues and that it has increasingly affected those who have stood up for the rights of LGBTI people.
She called on Soylu and Gül to endeavor to reverse these negative trends and ensure effective protection of the human rights of LGBTI people in Turkey.
“This requires, as a first step, that public authorities, politicians and opinion leaders stop engaging in hate speech or any discourse stigmatizing LGBTI people and firmly denounce and counter such narratives, including when they originate from private parties,” she said.
Turkey's LGBTI community has been enduring brutal attacks under the reign of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Earlier this year, Istanbul's Boğaziçi students organized an art exhibition on campus, where one picture showed the Kaaba — a holy shrine of Islam — side by side with a rainbow flag, the symbol of the LGBTI scene.
Prosecutors launched an investigation, and four students were detained, two of whom were subsequently arrested, while government politicians made transphobic remarks, including Erdoğan, who has flatly denied the existence of transgender people.
Soylu wrote on Twitter about the detentions of "LGBT deviants."
"Should we be lenient towards those LGBT perverts who insult the Kaaba? Of course not. Should we be lenient towards the LGBT perverts who attempted to occupy the rectorate building? Of course not," Soylu said, referring to the protests at Boğaziçi University against Erdoğan's anti-democratic rector appointment.
Twitter later limited engagement on Soylu's tweets over hateful conduct, a first such step by the social media giant taken against a government official in Turkey.