ISTANBUL, Turkey (Reuter) - A lesbian and gay festival set to start in Istanbul this weekend was banned by authorities for being out of line with public morals, an official said Friday. "It was forbidden because it did not respect the morals of our society,'' Nihat Kemal Eren, assistant governor, told Reuters.

The festival, organized by Lambda, a Turkish gay group, and scheduled for Sept. 2-10, was to have included the showing of gay-themed films and panel discussions. A festival in 1993 was banned for the same reason. Regional authorities in Muslim but secular Turkey can ban public meetings and festivals on a variety of grounds.

Public morals is no excuse to banning a gay and lesbian cultural week. Turkey is a "democratic" country, and Istanbul is not a city under Martial Law. Nor are these activities are associated with the anti-terrorism act. Therefore the excuse offered is totally arbitrary, and the only way to stop this from happening again is to condemn the decision and embarass the officials on the national and international platforms.



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