HRC Blog

The Rainbow Stairs of Turkey

Post submitted by Karim, HRC Global Engagement Intern

On August 26th, Huseyin Cetinel, accidentally became an LGBT hero in the Cihangir neighborhood of Istanbul.  The 64-year-old Turkish retiree spent four days and 40 kilograms of paint to beautify the 145 steps connecting the Findikli District to Cihangir.

Every three steps were painted a color of the rainbow, causing the staircase to coincidentally take on the appearance of the LGBT flag. The stairway became an immediate sensation with the local LGBT community and attracted tourists from all over the area. When asked by the Turkish media if there was a political motive, Cihangir responded: “I didn’t do it for a group or as a form of activism. I did it to make people smile.”

Unfortunately, on the morning of August 30th, the people of Cihangir woke to find the stairs repainted grey. After much speculation, Mayor Ahmet Misbah Demircan of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) eventually admitted to ordering the rainbow to be covered up in a “dawn raid.”

Mayor Demircan claimed that the reason for repainting the steps was that the government had gotten some complaints from the local community. A similar case also occurred back in May 2011, when a Turkish nurse named Sule Yuksel Yilmaz painted the public clinic where she worked in rainbow colors. The municipal officers soon instructed her that the clinic had to be repainted grey because the colors that she had chosen “were not the colors of the state.”

However, unlike Yilmaz’s clinic, the repainting of the stairway caused a huge commotion in the Turkish media. Many locals and even Serkan Altunigne, a famous cartoonist, pledged to repaint the steps in rainbows colors once again. Surprisingly, a day after the stairs had been painted grey; another “dawn raid” was organized by the municipal government to restore the stairway’s rainbow colors.
 

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