On Friday, the independent Turkish news website Diken reported that, after hounding from the pro-government press, the Zorlu Performing Arts Center in Istanbul had canceled a performance by the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus.
Shortly thereafter, the choral organization sent out a press release in Turkish and English stating “we have a signed contract with the Zorlu Performance Center for our June performance, and we have every expectation that the concert will go on as planned.” The statement went on to note that tour organizers have a meeting at the Zorlu Center this coming Wednesday to “clear up any miscommunication.” The Chorus declined to make any further comments about the matter.
Diken noted the Zorlu Center had removed the webpage providing information and ticket sales for the performance. While the performance can still be found on TicketMaster Turkey, the link for purchasing tickets has been deactivated. Thus far, no one affiliated with the Center has officially verified cancellation or responded to requests for comments.
Multiple pro-government, Turkish newspapers and websites learned about the Chorus’s scheduled performance in recent days, prompting a flurry of articles denouncing the sexual orientation of the group’s members and their choice to perform in a Muslim country, especially during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Some of the same news organizations that had criticized the group published articles on Friday celebrating the purported cancellation of the Chorus’ performance.
Most Turks are socially conservative, with nearly 80% believing homosexuality is unacceptable. At the same time, however, Istanbul has one of the most visible and active gay rights movements in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. In 2013 and 2014, the Istanbul Pride Parade attracted an estimated 100,000 participants. The Boston Gay Men’s Chorus’ performance, which is scheduled for June 27, 2015, would fall during this year’s Istanbul Pride Week.
The Boston Gay Men’s Chorus, which has previously toured Europe, is also scheduled to hold multiple performances in Israel this summer. It is the first gay choral group to tour in the Middle East.