Turkish Olympian inundated with homophobic abuse over selfie with another woman

Ebrar Karakurt

Turkish Olympic volleyball player Ebrar Karakurt has been targeted with shocking homophobic abuse after sharing a photo of herself with a woman on social media.

Karakurt, 21, played as opposite hitter on the Turkish national volleyball team in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, where her team rose to the quarter final.

Standing 6ft 5in tall with bright pink hair, the star drew a lot of attention from Turkish media – but this quickly soured after she posted a photo of herself to Instagram, showing her holding a blonde woman by the waist, her face covered by the phone taking the picture.

“Ebrar Karakurt’s biggest secret has been revealed!” screamed the conservative newspaper Takvim, which labelled her apparent sexuality “scandalous” and claimed “it might affect the youth in Turkey adversely”.

This prompted a storm of homophobic slurs on social media, led by the controversial imam Cübbeli Ahmet Hoca on Twitter.

He called on the Turkish government to take “urgent intervention” against Karakurt for “exposing lesbianism”, insisting that “if those who encourage homosexuality on social media are not prevented, our generation will suffer greatly.”

“Those who do not see homosexuality and lesbianism as morally immoral in the name of freedom today will abuse children tomorrow,” he claimed. “Who can assure us that they will not justify incest and even animal abuse?!”

Turkish supporters rally around Ebrar Karakurt

After Karakurt removed the photo in response to the backlash an array of Turkish public figures rushed to her defence.

“Ebrar Karakurt is a good teammate, a sportsman, a hard worker, a winning character who has scratched with her nails, plays for the national team because she has merit, can practice her profession at an international level, does not give up until the end,” tweeted sports presenter Ismail Senol. “You can take [her] example with peace of mind.”

“Successful, brave and free. You are beautiful Ebrar. Just be happy, that’s enough!” wrote Turkish journalist Erk Acarer in support of the athlete.

Professional basketball player Sinan Güler offered his advice: “Keep going with your ambition, your fight, and with your reflection of the game’s joy to the audience, Ebrar,” while the author Ahmet Ümit asked: “What’s people’s love to you, what’s it to you whom people love, what’s it to you, what’s it to you?”

“Her private life is none of anyone’s business besides her own. Period!” tweeted Turkish pop singer Demet Akalin.

Karakurt’s teammates soon joined in. “Always be who you are, because the Ebrar we know is very special, very beautiful,” wrote Hande Baladin.

“No matter what the conversation is about, the most important thing to keep in mind is that Ebrar doesn’t care about anything said about her!” said another teammate, Naz Aydemir Akyol.

“She only cares to do her job the best she can. The rest is none of my business, or yours, or anyone else’s.”