Turkish university targets student for unfurling LGBTI+ flag at graduation ceremony

A student who unfurled a rainbow flag during the graduation ceremony at Uşak University on July 17 is receiving death threats. The university administration called the flag an "LGBT rag" and announced an investigation launched against the student.

Cihan Başakçıoğlu / Gazete Duvar

University student Melisa Caymaz on July 17 unfurled a rainbow flag during the graduation ceremony at Uşak University and began to be targeted by social media users and pro-government newspapers.

Pro-government daily Yeni Şafak published Caymaz's footage and name and reported the incident with the title "LGBT perversion propaganda at the graduation ceremony." The daily added, "LGBT perversion, which targets the Turkish and Muslim family structure and demolishes public morality, has risen at the university" and called the student a “provocateur.” 

Threats against Caymaz gained momentum after the daily targeted her and she began to receive numerous death threats. One of the users who shared Caymaz's images pointed to the website "anitsayac.com," a digital memorial created for women who were murdered as a result of male violence, and said, "As soon as possible, we will write your name in golden letters on the memorial."

Uşak University on July 19 issued a statement full of hate speech and called the rainbow flag an "LGBT rag." The university administration stated, “During the graduation ceremony, one of the graduating students opened an LGBT rag hidden in her clothes with a sudden move for provocation without the permission and knowledge of any authority. It is impossible for the administrative units of our university to approve and support this personal action.”  

The rectorate added that official procedures have been initiated against the graduate.

Speaking to Gazete Duvar, Caymaz said, "This is not a one-day process. Oppressive policies have been pursued against women and LGBTI+s for years. The statements on social media and the university's statement demonstrated how serious the attacks are. On the other hand, it also shows how strong we are. I did this to draw attention to femicides, LGBTI+ murders, and attacks on Pride Marches." 

She also stated that the allegations of the investigation were shared by the pro-government daily even before the university’s press release. 

Turkish authorities in 2023 banned nearly all pride week events and attacked pride marches across the country. Dozens of LGBTI+ activists have been detained and subjected to violence. Turkish authorities have been implementing a de facto ban on “rainbow” flags and objects with the same colors even though there is no official law against them. 

(English version by Can Bodrumlu)