LGBTI NEWS TURKEY’s Summary of Rights Violations Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Turkey

LGBTI NEWS TURKEY submitted this document at the Core Group Luncheon Hosted by the European Union for LGBTI activists in New York on 9 December 2013. The same document has been serviced to the United Nations Press Office for International Human Rights Day.

Human Rights Violations in Turkey and LGBTI People

  • Violations of human rights in Turkey are well documented: During the 2013 Gezi demonstrations, 5 protestors were killed, more than 8,000 people were injured. Unofficial detentions and arbitrary arrests were recorded.
  • Turkey has one of the world’s worst records in press freedom: Data from October 2013 puts the number of imprisoned journalists at 65 for allegedly aiding terrorism and coup attempts. The trial of Hrant Dink’s murder is pending since 2007. Gag orders are widespread and media highly biased.
  • Though a wide-range of individuals and groups have faced rights violations, LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex) people in Turkey have long been one of the most obvious targets due to deep-seated social and political prejudices that almost naturalize and render invisible some blatant forms of discrimination.
  • These violations occur in almost total disregard of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is binding for Turkey under international law. ECHR also takes priority over domestic law, put in motion by Article 90 of the Turkish Constitution.

Rights Violations Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity 

  • Between 2007 and 2012, 34 trans women and 33 gay men were murdered and their rights to life violated. The murders of 5 trans women have been recorded so far in 2013. Killers have often been rewarded with “unjust provocation” and “good behavior” penalty reductions and averted life imprisonment.
  • Cases regarding discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity have led to decisions of non-prosecution, biased decisions through the use of vague concepts such as “general morality” and hearings often drag on, lasting in the majority of cases beyond reasonable time, as required by the right to a fair trial. The environment of effective impunity thus created is a violation of the prohibition of discrimination.
  • Football referee Halil İbrahim Dinçdağ’s privacy was violated when his sexual orientation was outed and the Turkish Football Federation no longer assigns him matches. The legal case he has initiated in 2010 on the violations of his right to respect for private and family life and the prohibition of discrimination is still pending.
  • Literature with homosexual content has been banned as exemplified by the censoring of Guillaume Apollinaire’s work in 2013, violating the freedom of expression.
  • The application of Mersin 7 Colors LGBT to register as an association was rejected on the grounds of it being unethical, violating the freedom of association. The decision is presently under review. State ministers and state employees continue their hate speech against LGBTI people. Parliamentarian Türkan Dağoğlu of the ruling Justice and Development Party stated being LGBT to be an abnormal behavior on 29 May 2013.
  • The Turkish Armed Forces continues to treat homosexuality as a “psychosexual disorder” based on Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-II of 1973.
  • LGBTI refugees, most of them Iranians, are vulnerable to verbal, physical, and sexual assault in their temporary locations in Turkey’s interior due to homophobia and transphobia, especially from their neighbors. They are barred from employment, housing, health care and are often further victimized by Turkish institutions.

LGBTI Activism in Turkey and Demands from the Government

  • There are at least 10 registered LGBTI rights associations and an increasing number of initiatives across Turkey. The Istanbul Pride in 2013 attracted more than 50,000 LGBTI people and allies.
  • LGBTI rights associations continue to lead political and social lobbying campaigns: major opposition parties have promised to work with LGBTI candidates; lawyers and politicians have been trained to recognize discrimination; and a legal battle against the media’s “hate speech” has been waged.
  • LGBTI rights associations in Turkey emphasize the social domino effect of the State and the media’s homophobia and transphobia. Hate speech from representatives and institutions of the State, as well as the environment of impunity regarding hate crimes and discrimination, lead to a social understanding that hate, discrimination, and violence against LGBTI people is acceptable.
  • Turkey must urgently put in motion a set of constitutional and legal amendments to eradicate rights violations. The terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” must be included in the Constitution’s Article on Equality, the ban on discrimination, and hate crime legislation drafts.
  • Prime Minister Erdoğan’s “Democracy Package” was submitted to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey on 5 December 2013 and the proposed hate crime legislation does not include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” This is worrying.
  • The Turkish government must urgently start sensitivity trainings for state employees, law enforcement agencies, and members of the judiciary. These trainings must include education on the European Convention on Human Rights, European Court of Human Rights decisions, and the Turkish Constitution to reveal the rights violations against LGBTI people and the State’s complicity.
  • LGBTI rights associations are in a solid position to assist the Turkish government in taking positive steps towards protecting the lives and rights of LGBTI people in specific and human rights in general. 
  • As Turkey’s LGBTI rights associations and initiatives, we call on the representatives of Turkey, the international community and the press to promote LGBTI rights in Turkey by recognizing these shortcomings and taking immediate and lasting constructive steps.

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