ISTANBUL: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shared a Ramazan dinner with Turkey’s best-known transgender celebrity hours after the Istanbul riot police broke up an LGBT rally, pictures distributed by his office on Monday showed.
The conservative president and his headscarf-clad wife on Sunday shared their traditional iftar meal at the end of the Muslim fasting day with a group of artists including Turkish trans celebrity and actress Bulent Ersoy.
Photos distributed by Erdogan’s office show the couple sharing a meal with “The Diva”, as Ersoy is known in Turkey, at the official presidential residence in the Istanbul suburb of Tarabya.
Ersoy, 64, underwent sex reassignment surgery in London in the 1980s. She became a celebrity but also faced verbal and even physical attacks at home.
Earlier on Sunday, Istanbul riot police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to prevent a “Trans Pride” event taking place during Ramadan.
Several hundred riot police surrounded the main Taksim Square – where demonstrations have been banned since major anti-government protests in 2013 – to stop the protest from taking place.
The demonstrators unfurled a rainbow flag, a symbol of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community, and then tried to read a statement but were prevented from doing so by the police.
Istanbul authorities said on Friday they had banned the annual gay pride parade set for June 26 to “safeguard security and public order” after a string of bombings around Turkey over the past year, some of them blamed on the Islamic State group, others claimed by Kurdish militants.
Critics have accused Erdogan of leading a creeping Islamisation in Turkey since he came to power as premier in 2003, undermining the secular foundations of the modern republic.
He has repeatedly annoyed activists with his comments on sex and family planning, but has generally steered clear of publicly commenting on gay issues.