In a visible sign of the shift, the anti-LGBTQ march went ahead without any police interference. Since 2015, LGBTQ groups have had their freedom to assemble on security and morality grounds, with officials citing both security and morality grounds.
The police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the Pride march planned for that year. The event was banned by government officials. More than 370 people were arrested in Istanbul in June, and activists tried to gather anyway.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's views have become more stridently anti-LGBTQ over time. Before the 2002 election that brought the Justice and Development Party AKP to power, a younger Erdogan said at a televised campaign event that he found the treatment of gay people inhumane and legal protections for them in Turkey a must. Now, 20 years into this, you have an entirely different president that seems to be mobilizing based on these dehumanizing, criminal approaches to the LGBTQ movement itself, said Mine Eder, a political science professor at Bogazici University in Istanbul.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu has called LGBTQ people perverts. In 2020, Erdogan defended the head of religious affairs after he claimed homosexuality brings disease and causes the generation to decay. The Turkish leader last year urged people to dismiss what lesbians schmesbians say, while championing his long-held belief that women's identities are rooted in motherhood and family.
Turkey withdrew from a European treaty protecting women against violence after lobbying from conservative groups that claimed the treaty promoted homosexuality.
The country could become more unwelcoming for the LGBTQ community. The organizer of Sunday's event, The Unity in Ideas and Struggle Platform, plans to push for a law that would ban the alleged LGBTQ propaganda that the group maintains is pervasive on Netflix and social media, as well as arts and sports.
The platform s website says it supports a ban on LGBTQ organizations.
We are a Muslim country and we say no to this. The statesmen and the other parties should all support this, said Betul Colak, who attended Sunday s gathering wearing a scarf with the Turkish flag.
Willie Ray thinks it would be a total catastrophe if a ban on LGBTQ organizations that provide visibility, psychological support and safe spaces were enacted.
Eder said it would be illegal to close down LGBTQ civil society based on ideological, Islamic and conservative norms - even if Turkey s norms have shifted to using violent language, violent strategies and legalizing them. The Social Policy, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Studies Association, a nongovernmental LGBTQ advocacy and outreach organization in Istanbul, commonly known as SPoD, is one of the LGBTQ groups that stopped posting their addresses online after receiving threatening calls.
It's easy for a maniac to try and hurt us after all the hate speech from state officials, said SPoD lobbyist Ogulcan Yediveren, 27. Security concerns, this atmosphere of fear, doesn't stop us from work and reminds us every time how much we need to work. Gay activist Umut Rojda Yildirim, who works as SPoD's lawyer, thinks that the anti-LGBTQ sentiments on view Sunday aren't dominant across Turkish society, but that the minority expressing them seem louder when they have government funds when they are supported by the government watchdog. You can shut down an office, but I'm not going to disappear. My other colleagues aren't going to disappear. We'll be here no matter what, Yildirim said.