President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan once again praised the role of women as “mothers” in society, saying the government will “not worry about what lesbians say.”
“Our families are very important for us. The backbone of the family is a mother. Let's not worry about what lesbians say, but let's look at what our mothers are saying. We will walk to 2023 with our mothers,” Erdoğan told the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)'s provincial congresses of women's branches via video link on Feb. 5.
It was not clear whom Erdoğan was referring to by “lesbians,” but in the past he has received the criticism of women rights groups for saying “a woman is above all else a mother.”
Erdoğan also targeted Boğaziçi University students in his speech, accusing them of links to “terrorism.” “We will have no pity on those who have become involved in terror and violence and put them in front of the judiciary. It is our duty both as the party and government to embrace every child of ours,” he said.
Some 600 people have been detained since Jan. 4 after Boğaziçi University protests spread in Istanbul and Ankara. Most have been released, despite repeated statements from officials that the protesters are "terrorists."
Two people who were detained at an Istanbul protest on Feb. 2 were arrested overnight.
Government response to the protests and condemnation of an art display including a picture blending Islamic and LGBT images has alarmed the United States and United Nations, both of which have criticized what they called homophobic rhetoric. Ankara dismissed the criticism as interference in its domestic affairs.