Mandatory Statement on the Religious Affairs Director’s Address
27 April 2020
Ali Erbaş, the Director of the Directorate of Religious Affairs, alleged in his khutbah (Islamic sermon) address on the very first Friday of Ramadan (24 April 2020) that “all evil and epidemic diseases stem from homosexuality.” İHD’s Ankara Branch in response issued a statement about the address identifying it as hate speech and indicated that the branch would accordingly file a criminal complaint. Other professional organizations, NGOs, and political party representatives have also harshly criticized the address.
Turkish legislation, too, defines hate speech even if it is not sufficient enough. Moreover, as per Article 90 of the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey international agreements on fundamental rights and freedoms have the power of law and in the case of a conflict between such agreements and domestic law due to differences in provisions on the same matter, the provisions of international agreements shall prevail. Turkey is the first country to sign and ratify Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention-2011) and Article 4 of Convention prohibits gender-based discrimination including sexual orientation and gender identity while protecting gender equality. The European Court of Human Rights, ruling on the rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights, clearly held in its recent judgment in the case of Beizaras and Levickas v. Lithuania (App. No. 41288/15) that the Convention prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
In the light of these facts, one can see that human rights organizations’ activities against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity are quite natural, even a mandatory consequence of their raison d’être. The Human Rights Association is an organization based on human rights principles and one that promotes and defends these values for everyone in Turkey.
Following the press statement by İHD’s Ankara Branch, numerous e-mails and social media posts addressed to İHD have presented various comments and assessments about Islam insinuating that İHD was insulting religions. As has been explained above, the Human Rights Association is an organization that respects everyone’s dignity and firmly stands against hate speech targeting all faiths including Islam itself. Advocating for LGBTI+ individuals’ rights cannot simply be interpreted as insulting religion, on the contrary, this is a part of human rights organizations’ duty to protect human dignity.
Certain groups, however, have been attempting to intimidate human rights organizations, which they cannot overcome with words, by hate speech. Consequently İHD is merely the latest target of this ongoing process.
İHD, thus, would like to reiterate that it respects all religions and faiths in the world, prominently Islam, defends freedom of religion and belief to the full extent and underlines that it has never insulted anyone’s religion or faith while those who do so violate others’ freedom of religion and belief.
Having said that, nobody is entitled to render a group or an individual living on earth an object of hate abusing religion as an excuse. Human rights thought cannot adopt this approach either. Therefore, İHD believes that the matter at hand should be evaluated without confusing the words of hate used by the Director of Religious Affairs and Islam.
İHD respectfully brings to public attention.
Human Rights Association