The humanitarian network is distancing itself from an LGBT-related post made by Vice President Kerem Kınık on Sunday.
“The anger and hurt we all felt – it is simply unacceptable”, a spokesperson told The Perspective.
The comments were made on Sunday, which marked the end of Istanbul pride week. Kınık was elected head of the Turkish Red Crescent in 2016, and became one of five Vice Presidents for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFCR) in 2017.
The tweet, posted in Turkish from his official account, starts with: “We will not let you step on human dignity.”
Dignity, onur in Turkish, can also be translated as pride – as in the word used in Istanbul Pride March (İstanbul Onur Yürüyüşü).
It continues: “We will protect natality and the mental health of our children. We will fight against those who violate healthy creation, who make abnormal look normal by using their power of communication and impose their paedophiliac dreams cloaked as modernity on young minds. It is not going to happen!”
As it is common in some conservative and religious circles in Turkey to associate pedophilia with homosexuality, many Twitter users questioned the timing of the post.
On Monday, IFRC released a statement on Twitter. It read that the comments made by Kınık do not represent the views of the network, calling them offensive. It furthermore condemned any form of homophobia and hate speech.
According to Matthew Cochrane, spokesperson for the Red Cross and Red Crescent’s global department, it is too early to say what course of action the network will take.
“I wish I could provide more information, but the process started today. As of now, it is too early to reach any conclusion”, he told The Perspective on Monday evening, saying that the network’s Compliance and Mediation Committee would be responsible for handling the issue.
“But the anger and hurt we all felt – it is simply unacceptable”, he said regarding the tweet.
Cochrane did not know whether or not the network had already been in contact with Kınık.
Later on Monday, Kınık posted two more tweets, saying that he is “strongly against any act of sexual abuse and violence against children”, and that he considers his approach to be “fully coherent with our values and principles as the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement”.
He did not make any reference to the post being made on the last day of Istanbul pride week.
According to the IFRC’s Strategic Framework on Gender and Diversity, one of their functions is to implement gender-targeted programming – which, among other things, includes combating discrimination against the LGBT community.
While homosexuality is not illegal in Turkey, it is widely resented by some segments of society.
In April this year, Ali Erbaş, head of the country’s Directorate of Religious Affairs, said that homosexuality “brings illnesses and corrupts generations”, and encouraged his followers to “fight together to protect people from such evil”.
On Twitter, the hashtag “Ali Erbas is not alone” trended, with prominent Turkish politicians joining in.
“An attack against the Directorate of Religious Affairs chief is an attack on the state”, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said of the event, adding that “what he said was totally right.”
“Ali Erbaş, who voiced divine judgement, is not alone”, the President’s spokesperson, İbrahim Kalın, wrote on the social media platform.
How Pride in Turkey has changed from celebration to rebellion
According to a report by Amnesty USA, harassment and discrimination of the LGBT community are daily occurrences in Turkey, reinforced by the government’s stance.
Pride parades in Turkey have attracted tens of thousands of participants since 2011, culminating up to 100,000 people marching in Istanbul in 2013 and 2014. Since 2016, the parade has been banned by the local government, citing public order concerns.
One participant from Izmir, the country’s third-largest city, told The Perspective that the government approach has lately become increasingly hostile towards the LGBT community. Fearing losing her job – her employer is a joint venture partly owned by the government – she requested anonymity.
“In 2013, the Izmir parade had a festival spirit. There were performance stages, dance shows, and mini-concerts. I barely remember seeing any police officers – at least not feeling threatened by their presence”, she said.
In contrast, she describes the 2018 parade as more of a protest than a celebration, since more Turks had become aware of the life-threatening approach towards the LGBT community.
“The government’s attitude made it that way. We held commemorations of the ones who committed suicide due to domestic violence, became excluded from society, were fired, and raped. Our slogans were no longer cheerful, but rebellious.”
Regarding Kınık’s tweet, she is certain of who the targetted group was.
“This is a well-designed tweet. While he doesn’t say anything about LGBT on the surface, you could capture the ideology behind it when you dig deeper. And the reaction are more important here, as people replied with anti-LGBT hashtags,” she says.
The Perspective reached out to Kerem Kınık, but did not receive a reply.