Creating a piece of art that includes LGBTQ pride flags got four students arrested in Turkey.
According to BBC News, the students at Bogazici University in Istanbul were arrested because the Istanbul Governor’s Office saw the artwork as an “ugly attack” that “mocked religious beliefs.” Ibrahim Kalin, the chief advisor to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, also said that “neither freedom of expression nor the right to protest” could defend the artwork.
The interior minister, Suleyman Soylu, tweeted that the students were “deviants” for the artwork. Soylu specifically wrote, “4 LGBT deviants who committed the disrespect to the Kaaba-i Muazzama were detained at Bogazici University”.
The artwork in question shows a sacred Islamic site- the Great Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia – and the popular Middle Eastern mythical creature called the Shahmaran. Then, the Gay Pride Flag, Lesbian Pride Flag, Trans Pride Flag, Asexual Pride Flag are placed on the image’s corners.
…organized as a part of current student protests in Boğaziçi. A conservative students club took issue with the use of Kabaa, and now 5 students are detained and our minister of interior is openly marking the lgbt+ community as a target. Mine field.
— zeynep 🦋🏳️🌈 (@zeinoviah) January 30, 2021
The picture was intended to be included in an exhibit at the university’s South Campus, according to Duvar English. Unfortunately, the university’s Islamic Studies Club (BİSAK) noticed the artwork and deemed it an insult towards Islam.
“An art exhibition was launched on the campus on Thursday [Jan. 28] via using the ongoing protests against the rector appointment as an excuse,” BİSAK tweeted on Jan. 29. The tweet references a series of protests that have occurred over the past month in objection to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s anti-democratic appointment to the university.
“We will never allow our Islamic values to be made fun of within our university. We don’t accept this immorality to be legitimized under the guise of art,” BİSAK added.
Üniversitemizde rektör atamasını protesto etme bahanesiyle perşembe günü Güney Meydan’da hiçbir meşru temele dayanmayan, ne idiği belirsiz kişilerce bir resim sergisi açılmıştır.
— BİSAK (@bisakboun) January 29, 2021
Boğaziçi Üniversitesi İslam Araştırmaları Kulübü olarak üniversitemiz dahilinde İslâmî değerlerimizin fütursuzca alaya alınmasına asla müsaade etmeyeceğiz.
— BİSAK (@bisakboun) January 29, 2021
Unfortunately, that tweet then went viral as conservative news outlets and politicians latched onto the story. The artwork and students have thus become tools to turn the public’s opinion against the protests.
On January 30, the Istanbul Governor’s Office announced that a raid was carried out at the university’s LGBTI+ Club and LGBT flags were “seized.” Many social media users in support of LGBTQ rights condemned this message and questioned whether it was a crime to have Pride flags.
Boğaziçi Üniversitesi Güney Kampüsünde Kabe görüntüsü içeren resim ile ilgili
🔍 Basın Açıklaması pic.twitter.com/36y4uvd946
— TC İstanbul Valiliği (@TC_istanbul) January 30, 2021
After two students were arrested and two others placed under house arrested “for insulting religious values,” the four students released a message on social media. They asked that people not be worried and to support them.
— boğaziçihukuk (@boaziihukuk1) January 30, 2021
Vice President Fuat Oktay, Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun and AKP spokesperson Mahir Unal condemned the “attack on Kabba.” Altun also argued that, “the aim of this perverted thinking and lifestyle is to harm our generations.”
A spokesperson for the opposing Republican People’s Party (CHP) unfortunately released a statement condemning the “attack” as well.
“We can never accept an attack or insulting against humanity’s sacred values. We strongly condemn this heinous provocation. We expect all those responsible to be revealed,” Faik Oztrak wrote.
İnsanlığın mukaddes değerlerine yönelik hiçbir saldırıyı ve aşağılamayı kabul edemeyiz. Bu alçak provokasyonu şiddetle kınıyoruz. Görünen ve görünmeyen sorumlulularının bir an önce ortaya çıkarılmasını bekliyoruz.
— Faik Öztrak (@faikoztrak) January 30, 2021
Protesters at Bogazici University then released a statement in support of their classmates in jail.
“Those who resist shake the government that promises nothing more than oppression and trustees,” a group of protesters wrote on Twitter. “We have a government that turned this country into an open-air prison due to its ‘sensitivities.’ We are on the side of those struggling.”
İçişleri Bakanı ve kayyum rektör Melih Bulu'nun hedef göstermesi üzerine yapılan gözaltı ve tutuklamalara karşı açıklamamızdır. Tutuklanan arkadaşlarımızın da dediği gibi #bundansonrasıbizde #ArkadaşlarımızSerbestBırakılsın pic.twitter.com/Sv8pqc8qq3
— Boğaziçi Dayanışması (@boundayanisma) January 30, 2021