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Turkey bans LGBTI events in Ankara 'to maintain public order'

Bulent Kilic / AFP | LGBTI activists hold rainbow flags as they march in front of modern Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's picture, in Istanbul, on July 2, 2017.

Turkish authorities on Sunday announced a ban on all LGBTI cultural events in Ankara province until further notice to "maintain public order".

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The move follows a ban on a festival of German-language gay films in the capital on Thursday, imposed on the grounds it could incite hatred and be at risk from terror attacks.

"Since (Saturday) 18 November and until further notice, all film and theatre events, screenings, panels, colloquium, exhibitions, etc... have been banned," the Ankara adminstration said on its website.

It argues that LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex) events are likely to "provoke reactions within certain segments" of society and has issued the ban to "maintain public order".

But organisers of Thursday's film festival wanted authorities to instead offer greater protection, denouncing the move as a violation of their constitutional rights.

The ban announcement has fuelled concern amongst LGBTI activists in Turkey that their right to freedom of expression is being curtailed under the Islamic-rooted government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Two groups Kaos GL and Pink Life denounced the latest measure as "illegal, disciminatory and arbitrary" which "legitimises the violations of LGBTI rights."

"This ban... has no place in a democratic society," they said in a joint statement.

Homosexuality has been legal since the creation of the modern Turkish republic in 1923, and was also legalised in the Ottoman Empire from the mid-nineteenth century.

However, LGBTI individuals in the country frequently complain of mistreatment including harassment, abuse and rape as well as animosity.

The annual gay pride rally in Istanbul -- once a hugely popular event --- has been blocked by authorities for three years in a row also on security grounds.

Activists accuse the government of banning such events in a bid to impose a conservative morality on the hugely diverse country. But authorities insist they are acting to protect citizens' safety.

Earlier this month, Erdogan was outraged at the existence of a quota for gays on a neighbourhood committee, saying it was at odds with the nation's values.

(AFP)

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