Turkey boy­cotts con­test over LGBT singers


Turkey’s boy­cott of the Euro­vi­sion Song Con­test for in­clud­ing gay and trans­gen­der per­form­ers, such as bearded Aus­trian drag queen Con­chita Wurst, was crit­i­cised on Thurs­day as an at­tempt to “erase the LGBT com­mu­nity” in the coun­try.

Turk­ish Ra­dio and Tele­vi­sion (TRT) head Ibrahim Eren said Turkey was un­likely to take part again next year be­cause the spec­ta­cle fea­tures LGBT singers.

The coun­try has not par­tic­i­pated in the long­est-run­ning in­ter­na­tional an­nual TV mu­sic com­pe­ti­tion since 2012.

“As a pub­lic broad­caster we can­not broad­cast live at 9pm, when chil­dren are watch­ing, an Aus­trian with a beard and a skirt, who claims not to have a gen­der and says ‘I am a man and a woman at the same time’,” Eren said.

Turkey would re­turn to the con­test once this “con­fu­sion in men­tal­ity is cor­rected”, he said, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by the state-run Anadolu news agency on Sat­ur­day.

Eren’s com­ments pro­voked dis­may among Turks liv­ing in Bri­tain.

“It’s a chain of events,” said Musa Igrek, a Lon­don-based jour­nal­ist. “First they banned Pride in 2015, then the film fes­ti­val in Ankara and now Euro­vi­sion. It’s an at­tempt to erase the LGBT com­mu­nity within Turkey.”

De­spite le­gal­is­ing gay sex in 1858 un­der the Ot­toman Em­pire, mod­ern-day Turkey re­stricts cer­tain gay rights. Same-sex mar­riages are not recog­nised, for ex­am­ple, and les­bians do not have ac­cess to IVF.

In July this year, Turk­ish riot po­lice used tear gas and rub­ber bul­lets against ac­tivists who as­sem­bled in the cap­i­tal Istanbul in protest at the gay pride ban.

Euro­vi­sion has a long tra­di­tion of LGBT pre­sen­ters and per­form­ers.

In 1998, Dana In­ter­na­tional be­came the first trans­gen­der per­former to win the con­test.

Wurst be­came a gay rights icon af­ter win­ning the com­pe­ti­tion in 2014. She has since cred­ited the show with be­ing a “bub­ble of in­clu­siv­ity and re­spect”.

“The Euro­vi­sion Song Con­test’s val­ues are of uni­ver­sal­ity and in­clu­siv­ity and our proud tra­di­tion of cel­e­brat­ing di­ver­sity through mu­sic,” said a spokesman for the Eu­ro­pean Broad­cast­ing Union, which pro­duces the show.

“TRT has made a huge con­tri­bu­tion to the con­test in the past, in­clud­ing host­ing the event in Istanbul in 2004, and we would very much wel­come them back should they de­cide to par­tic­i­pate again,” the spokesman added.

Con­chita Wurst rep­re­sent­ing Aus­tria per­forms in the Euro­vi­sion Song Con­test 2014.

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