Turkey’s president Erdoğan doesn’t know what Pride colours are, makes UN complaint anyway

President Erdogan

Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has complained to the United Nations (UN) about what he has described as “LGBT colours” at its General Assembly.

The colours displayed were not those of the Pride flag.

On Thursday (21 September), Erdoğan complained that he was uncomfortable with the drapes which decorated the space at a convention to promote the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals – a scheme started by world leaders in 2015 with a deadline of 2030 to create a more sustainable future.

The president, who vowed during an election rally in May that his Justice and Development Party (AKP) and other parties in their alliance will “never be pro-LGBT because family is sacred to us”, said he wished to discuss his complaint with the UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres. 

“One of the issues that bothers me the most … is that when entering the United Nations General Assembly, you see the LGBT colours on steps and other places,” he said, as reported by Reuters. 

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“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,” he added.

Some UN diplomats have suggested that Erdoğan has confused the 17 different colours associated with the sustainable development goals with the colours of the Pride flag, which represent the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community and the spectrum of human sexuality and gender.

Erdoğan, who has been president of Turkey since 2014 and won a new five-year term in May 2023, used his latest presidential election win to continue his attack LGBTQ+ rights – so his complaint to the UN comes as no surprise. 

Erdoğan called queer people ‘poison’

In his pre-campaign speech he said that the queer community is “poison” before going on to claim that they are the “calamity that threatens the survival of our society”. 

He previously, in 2021, described LGBTQ+ youth as vandals, adding that he respects all views and identities as long as they aren’t linked to “terror, immorality, perversion and violence”.

Anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment in Turkey, which in September was supported by the country’s media watchdog after it approved an advert for an anti-LGBTQ+ event, has seen Pride parades banned, with the 2023 march seeing more than 100 people detained for resisting the ban.

In September 2022 thousands took to the streets of Istanbul calling on the government to ban LGBTQ+ “propaganda” in what the Associated Press described as the “largest demonstration of its kind in Turkey”.

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