Turkish legal experts on anti-LGBTI march: ‘It is not freedom of speech’

Turkish legal experts have emphasized that an anti-LGBTI+ demonstration held in Istanbul over the weekend cannot be considered within the framework of freedom of speech.

Özlem Kara / DUVAR

Turkish legal experts have commented on the anti-LGBTI+ demonstration held in Istanbul over the weekend, saying that since it was driven by hate speech, it cannot be merely considered within the framework of freedom of speech.

On Sept. 18, a rally was held in Istanbul’s Fatih district under the name of “Big Family Gathering.” The rally targeting LGBTI+ individuals drew widespread condemnation among the public, with several social media users reacting against it with the hashtag of “No To Hate Speech.”

Istanbul University Law Faculty Criminal Law Department’s head Prof. Dr. Adem Sözüer touched upon the public service ad released by the Radio and Television High Council (RTÜK) on the march, saying that the organization had misused its power.

“The information on the public service ad should be in line with the truth and scientific principles. But the public service ad in question contains manipulations and errors. Also, since it pits people against each other and contains hostility, we cannot say that it seeks out public benefit. All citizens in a society have the right to use their constitutional rights and to live as equal individuals,” he said.

He said that there were double standards with regards to the prevention of rallies. “On one hand, those using their constitutional right to conduct peaceful demonstrations are being intervented against, prevented; force is utilized and (demonstrators) are detained. On the other hand, a rally that tries to legitimize the extermination of people due to their sexual orientation, sexual identity or life style is being held with state support,” he said.    

The lawyer of the “We Will Stop the Femicides Platform,” Esin Yeşilırmak, said the authorities had totally disregarded the principle of equality with the rally. Yeşilırmak said that a fraction of society was insulted during the rally and that the refusal of the authorities not to prevent it from being held “showed us the state had encouraged crime.” She said that every action that “provokes society into hatred or hostility” requires a sentence of from six months to one year.

Kaos GL Media and Communication Program Coordinator Yıldız Tar similarly emphasized that the rally in question cannot be considered within the freedom of speech.

“The rally has a demand that a group of society does not use their rights. It (rally) is a collective hate action that demands the closure of LGBTIQ+ associations and that they do not appear in the press. These groups had undertaken similar demonstrations previously, but its different this time is that it has received the support of the state,” Tar said.

“This is a lynch call for which RTÜK has issued a public service ad and the state’s all opportunities have been mobilized. The most dangerous issue with regards to this rally is the state support behind it.”  

Tar also said that he expects oppression on LGBTI+ individuals to increase following this rally.

(English version by Didem Atakan)