Closure of websites intensifies ‘homophobic atmosphere’ in Turkey

ISTANBUL – The closure of several internet forums for gays is another example of homophobia and a new step towards silencing gay organisations in Turkey. That’s the view of spokespersons for huge gay forums that were closed this week on the order of a government organisation.

The sites seem to have been closed because of ‘inappropriate content and immoral actions’, but according to the organisations themselves, they keep a close eye on whether the content breaks any laws. The sites fulfil an important role in Turkey, where even in the big cities it is not easy to be openly gay. Istanbul does indeed have a lively gay scene and in Ankara and Izmir too there are active gay organisations, but for many gays it’s too big a step to become an official member of such an interest group. So internet is one of the ways to get gays in touch with each other and to inform them about culture, activities, media and health. The forums that are now closed, hadigayri.com and gabile.com, have tens of thousands of active visitors.

For Turkish gays, the ban revives memories of last year, when the biggest gay organisations were almost closed because of ‘immorality’. ‘The judge decided not to ban the organisations’, says a spokesperson from gabile.com on the news website bianet, ‘so now the authorities are trying to destroy social networking sites. These efforts are very serious.’

The sites were closed down on the authority of the Telecommunication Directorate (TIB), an institute that was set up a few years ago by governing party AKP, a party that is lead by practising Muslims. Earlier a famous transsexual was banned from TV after the media watch- dog, lead by an AKP man, pressured the TV station to take her off the air. ‘There is a homophobic mentality prevailing’, both internet forums say in a joint statement. The TIB couldn’t be reached for a comment.

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