Turkish Culture Ministry withdraws support from Istanbul Film Festival over anti-LGBTI+ smear campaign

Turkish Culture Ministry has withdrawn its support from the 43th Istanbul Film Festival after the smear campaign of pro-government newspapers and social media users against the festival over LGBTI+ themed movies.

Duvar English

Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Ministry has withdrawn its support from Istanbul Film Festival organized since 1982 after pro-government newspapers and social media users targeted sponsors over LGBTI+ themed movies featured in the festival.

Islamist groups have been targeting Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, Kadıköy and Beyoğlu district municipalities In addition to the Culture Ministry for a week for supporting the festival which is alleged to organized for "LGBT propaganda,” according to the LGBTI+ association UniKuir.

The ministry's logo was removed from the festival's "our supporters" section in its website.

Pro-government Islamist daily Yeni Şafak targeted films in the festival programme such as Unicorns, The Summer with Carmen, All Shall be Well, Woman of… claiming that the festival organized by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) was trying to "normalize LGBT.”

The festival features some LGBTI+ themed movies every year under the section “Where Are You My Love?” The section’s name comes from the famous slogan used by Turkey’s LGBTI+ movement.

While the movie Woman of… narrates the story of a Polish trans woman, The Summer with Carmen focuses on the tale of two gay friends in Greece and All Shall be Well tells the story of a lesbian couple living in Hong Kong.

Former Mayor of the capital Ankara, Melih Gökçek of ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), also called Turkish Parliament for the festival to be banned.

Gökçek who known for his adherence to conspiracy theories and extravagant spending of public funds during his mayoral tenure claimed that Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu “tries to turn children into LGBT.”

On the other hand, İKSV on April 22 released a statement regarding the news reports and stated, "In our festivals that receive support from the Culture and Tourism Ministry, we ensure logo visibility after the support (procedure) is finalized. For the 43rd Istanbul Film Festival, the ministry logo was featured in some media while our application for support was under evaluation. However, as per the legislation, the logo should not be used during the evaluation process, updates were made in the relevant media. Following the finalization of the ministry's support, the visibility of the logo will also be ensured on the festival website, catalogue and other relevant media."

Turkish government often targets the country’s already marginalized community using conspiracy theories. 

Culture and Tourism Ministry has previously demanded the return of its funding for Emin Alper’s new movie Burning Days (Kurak Günler), which gives place to a homosexual relationship, citing “scenario change.” The ministry requested the funding to be paid with its interest 20 months after it was given.