As Turkey prepares for a crucial election this month, incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has once again resorted to attacking his political rival, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, by accusing him of being “LGBT.” Erdogan’s government has long viewed LGBT ideology as a foreign import, alien to Turkish morals. In his speech at a rally in Giresun, Erdogan accused not only Kilicdaroglu, but also his political allies, of being “LGBT,” labeling the CHP, IYI party, and HDP as such. He reiterated his commitment to the “sacred” nature of family, which he believes is crucial to building a strong nation.
Erdogan’s comments come as Kilicdaroglu has promised to reinstate the Istanbul Convention, a treaty signed by 45 countries plus the European Union in 2011 aimed at strengthening legal penalties for violence against women. Turkey withdrew from the treaty in 2021, citing concerns that it had been “hijacked by a group of people attempting to normalize homosexuality.” The treaty’s inclusion of transgender women as women may have been a point of contention.
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu has also accused Kilicdaroglu and his allies of attempting to “ungender” society under the guise of LGBT ideology. Soylu has gone so far as to claim that the “LGBTQ” designation includes the marriage of animals and humans. He characterizes LGBT activism as a “religion” that is completely under the control of America and Europe.
Kilicdaroglu has not engaged in personal attacks on Erdogan or Soylu, instead focusing on pro-Western rhetoric in his speeches. He has promised to restart EU accession talks immediately upon taking office and implement the reforms demanded by Brussels. Opinion polls currently show Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu in a statistical dead heat.
Erdogan’s rhetoric is indicative of a larger trend in Turkey and other countries, where conservative leaders often use attacks on LGBT individuals and groups to appeal to their base. While Erdogan’s accusations against Kilicdaroglu and his allies may have some resonance with voters who prioritize family values, it remains to be seen whether such rhetoric will ultimately sway the election outcome. Ultimately, what is at stake is the future of Turkey’s relationship with the West and its own cultural identity.
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