ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Twitter on Tuesday limited access to a tweet by Turkey’s interior minister, who referred to students protesting the appointment of a government loyalist to head their university, as “LGBT perverts.”
For weeks, students and faculty at Istanbul’s prestigious Bogazici University have been protesting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s appointment of Melih Bulu, a figure who has links to his ruling party, as the university’s rector. They have been calling for Bulu’s resignation and for the university to be allowed to elect its own president.
Late on Monday, police clashed with demonstrators who staged protests demanding the release of a group of students who were arrested over the weekend on charges of inciting hatred and insulting religious values for a poster displayed at Bogazici University, that depicted Islam’s most sacred site with LGBT flags. Authorities said 159 people were detained in the clashes, although several were later released.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu tweeted on Sunday that “LGBT perverts” had been detained for “disrespecting the Great Kaaba.” On Tuesday, he repeated the slur, saying on Twitter that the Turkish government would not tolerate “LGBT perverts who attempted to occupy the rector’s office.”
That prompted Twitter to place Soylu’s tweet behind a notice warning that his message violated the social media platform’s rules about “hateful conduct.” Twitter said, however, it had decided to allow people to click to view Soylu’s tweet on grounds that it was in the public’s interest to have access to a tweet by the elected politician.
Erdogan himself leveled criticism at the protesters during a speech on Monday, by praising the youth wing of his conservative and Islam-oriented party for not being like the “LGBT youth.”
Meanwhile, police in Istanbul used tear gas and rubber bullets to break up a new demonstration to denounce Bulu’s appointment, Halk TV television reported. The station’s reporter was slightly hurt in the melee.
Police in the capital, Ankara, also dispersed a demonstration by students who gathered near the city’s main square in a show of solidarity with the Bogazici students. At least 69 demonstrators were detained, Halk TV television reported.