ISTANBUL, April 21, 2014 (AFP) – A Turkish university cancelled a panel on gay rights after it came under harsh criticism from Islamic extremists who branded the event as “immoral”, a liberal daily reported yesterday.
The Ilke news agency, which is close to Turkey’s Islamist Hezbollah movement made up of ethnic Kurds, condemned the timing of the conference, which had been planned for last Thursday, because it coincided with a week of events dedicated to the birth of Prophet Mohammed, the newspaper Radikal reported.
Ilke, based in the Kurdish-majority southeastern city of Diyarbakir, also challenged the organiser, assistant professor of architecture Levent Senturk, to prove that he was not a homosexual, the report said.
Neither the university nor the agency was immediately available for comment.
After the conference was cancelled, 12 academics from the Artuklu University in Mardin, another southeastern city where the event was to have been held, released a joint statement saying: “Our scientific events should not be prevented by hate speech, defamation or ostracism. Our academic events never insult any kind of beliefs, ethnicities, languages, religions or life styles.”
Unlike other Muslim countries, same-sex relationships are not illegal in Turkey, a formally secular nation where prostitution and sex-change operations are legal. But traditional Islamic values hold sway over large sections of society in Turkey, particularly in the Anatolian hinterland in the southeast of the country, where Kurds are the majority.
Turkey’s Hezbollah, which is unrelated to the Shiite Lebanese group of the same name, is designated as a terrorist organisation by the Turkish government.
Huda-Par (The Free Cause Party), the political wing of Hezbollah which is aiming to establish a state based on strict Islamic sharia law, participated in local elections for the first time on 30 March, hoping to lure Kurdish votes from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party. But the party won only 0.19 percent of the vote nationwide, according to provisional results.