“It is difficult to say I am Kurdish and Gay!”

Source: İpek İzci, “Kürdistanlı Bir Eşcinselim Demek Zor!,” (“It is difficult to say I am Kurdish and gay”) Radikal, 22 October 2013, http://www.radikal.com.tr/hayat/kurdistanli_bir_escinselim_demek_zor-1156541

There is a new LGBT entity in Turkey: Hêvî LGBTI. The activists of Hêvî talk about the first and only Kurdish LGBT association in Istanbul…

“The experience of sharing during the Gezi Resistance, that solidarity, and people truly embracing each other made us hopeful for a humane and mutual life,” says Asya as she explains why they named the first and only Kurdish LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex) initiative in Istanbul as Hêvî LGBTI. “Hêvî” is Kurdish for “hope.”

Hêvî LGBTI Initiative was founded by a group of friends who met in the LGBT Block during the Gezi Resistance. They established the initiative formally on 1 September 2013, coinciding with the World Peace Day. However, the real founding day is 22 September 2013 when the manifesto was declared. One of the activists, Asya, is from Diyarbakır, the others are from Mardin, Siirt, and Van… But, it would be wrong to assume that Hêvî LGBTI Initiative is composed only of Kurdish people. Hêvî LGBTI Initiative concentrates on geography rather than ethnicity. There are Turkish activists among them as well.

But if there are also Turkish activists in the initiative, why do we deem Hêvî a Kurdish initiative? What makes it different from the other entities? Mehmet says, “The difference between Hêvî and other entities centered in Istanbul is that Hêvî puts the Kurdish issue on its agenda. What happened in Rojova is not an event of homophobia or transphobia; it is directly about Kurds and it is one of the items on our agenda, just like the Roboski massacre. Roboski is also not about LGBTI hate crimes, but it is also on the agenda and we will be on the streets on 28 December. We will also commemorate the Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day on 24 April, because it is also one of the realities of this land. Hêvî is a constituent of the Democratic Congress of the People (HDK). We declare our political attitude and we, of course, have a political side.”

Asya, who adds that all issues that concern humans are on Hêvî’s agenda, says; “There is a war in Syria. Kurds, Armenians, Alevis, and Christians are all slaughtered; there is a serious massacre there. Our primary issue is LGBT rights, yes, however, we are Kurdish, Turkish, Armenian, Christian along with our LGBT identity and we cannot turn our backs to problems based on ethnicity and religion.”

What Asya means by “not turning our backs” is that Hêvî will release statements or organize demonstrations when needed. “We do not say: Okay, we have released a statement and we are done,” says Mehmet and continues, “We will also ask other LGBT associations to sign and call them to attend demonstrations with us. We will do our best to make our voices louder.”

“Hêvî supports the idea that LGBTI politics should be evaluated within a broad political perspective. The issues of class, ethnicity, sexism, colonialism, and the rights and freedoms of nature and humans are inseparable parts of LGBTI politics. Hêvî has an anti-militarist structure. Hêvî believes that the contribution of LGBTIs to the politics of peace is the responsibility in achieving an inclusive and stable peace an it aims a world in which all citizens have equal rights opposing the heterosexist and patriarchal order.”

If you call yourself a “Kurd,” do not say you are “Gay”…

Hêvî’s main working issue is bringing an end to hate crimes and hate-motivated killings committed against LGBTI people in Kurdistan, where homophobia, transphobia and biphobia exist at extremely high levels. Hêvî also works against LGBTI and women homicides committed in the name of honor.

“If you call yourself a Kurd, then do not say that you are gay. If you call yourself gay, do not say that you are Kurd.”Apparently, Kurdish gays who reveal their identity always hear this phrase. “It is difficult to say that I am a gay Kurd,” says Rosida and points out that Hêvî exists to create LGBTI visibility in Kurdistan.

“They would not let a Turkish gay person be part of an LGBT entity that dances the halay under the posters and slogans of Apo (Abdullah Öcalan) and they would not permit you to invite other Turkish gay people to such an LGBT entity; they would kill you. We think that you are not aware of this and needed to warn you about it.” This is just one of the threats that one Hêvî activist received recently… Asya and Mehmet state that they are threatened especially by nationalists on Twitter and Facebook. There is an event entitled “No to Racist LGBT!” “We are not a racist initiative; the best examples are Mertkan and I. We are Turkish. If this was a nationalist Kurdish group, what would we do here?” asks Mehmet.

Hêvî’s agenda also includes the issue of socialist parties taking LGBTI people for granted. Mehmet states that LGBTI people are not the only ones taken for granted; “marginal” groups residing in Western Turkey or in general, all people who are not pro-system are. Mehmet objects to this situation and adds that all political parties should do something for the LGBT movement; “20 years ago, there were 10 people on the streets protesting for LGBT rights. Today the number has reached 70.000 people, which means we are now visible. So will the political parties propose a candidate or include LGBTs in a quota, we do not know, but they must do something…”

Asya states that they hear political parties say, “society is not ready for LGBT people,” but points out that “during the protests we shared our food, we laughed, we cried together, we treated our wounds together.” She adds, “We understand this: Society was already ready for us. It’s only the state, the system who are not ready! That is why the political parties who want our votes should care about our interests too. We demand our right for equal citizenship.”


  1. Hello,I look at the news and mainly at the situation of the Kurdish, again oppressed by the Turkish government, and I am very disappointed by the abandonment(relinquishment) in which they are left in the face of this aggression.
    I possess a big ground and would want to make my small contribution by accommodating one or two young Kurdish gays. Friendly

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