Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan complained about “LGBT colors” at the U.N. during his recent visit to the U.N.’s New York City headquarters. But the brightly colored decorations he complained about weren’t displayed to recognize the queer community; they were promoting the Sustainable Development Goals, a set of 2030 goals to fight worldwide hunger, poverty, and climate change.
“One of the issues that bothers me the most… is that when entering the United Nations General Assembly, you see the LGBT colors on steps and other places,” Erdoğan said, according to Reuters. “How many LGBT are there in the world right now? However much right they have on these steps, those against LGBT have as much right as well.”
Police reportedly assumed the man was on his way to an unauthorized Pride march.
Erdoğan said he wanted to discuss the issue with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, but the 17 colors used to decorate the building’s steps and inner chamber weren’t the colors typically used to celebrate LGBTQ+ rights, nor were they in the usual order of the rainbow.
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Homosexuality is technically legal in Turkey, but LGBTQ+ people have been harassed by police under laws that ban “public exhibitionism” and “offenses against public morality.” Under Erdoğan’s rule, Turkey’s government has become increasingly authoritarian and anti-LGBTQ+, with police using tear gas and rubber bullets to shut down the annual Istanbul Pride parade.
Turkey has been working with the video-sharing app TikTok to ban LGBTQ+ and other political content in Turkey.
The Guardian reported, “An entire section of the [TikTok censorship] rules was devoted to censoring depictions of homosexuality. ‘Intimate activities [holding hands, touching, kissing] between homosexual lovers’ were censored, as were ‘reports of homosexual groups, including news, characters, music, TV show, pictures.’ Similarly blocked was content about ‘protecting rights of homosexuals [parade, slogan, etc.]’ and ‘promotion of homosexuality.’ In all those guidelines, TikTok went substantially further than required by law.”
In 2021, Erdogan withdrew from the Istanbul Convention – an agreement between 45 countries to better protect women from violence – after stating it was “hijacked by a group of people attempting to normalize homosexuality.”
In April 2020, when the head of the Turkish government’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) Ali Erbas called homosexuality “evil” and said it “brings illnesses and corrupts generations,” Erdoğan said that the cleric was “totally right.”
During the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Turkish government ordered schools to stop having kids draw pictures of rainbows and hang them in windows to bring other people joy because it was an international “plot to turn children gay.”