Human Rights Violations in Turkey

UPR Submission: “Human Rights Violations of LGBT Individuals in Turkey”

“The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States. The UPR is a State-driven process, under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, which provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfil their human rights obligations. As one of the main features of the Council, the UPR is designed to ensure equal treatment for every country when their human rights situations are assessed.”

The UPR Pre-Session of Turkey will take place on 3 December 2014. This session will allow civil society organisations engaged in the UPR to give their recommendations to Member States. We will be taking the floor to present our joint submission (Kaos GL, LGBTI News Turkey, IGLHRC, ILGA) and to put forth the following recommendations:

  1. Include the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” in constitutional clauses on equality and non-discrimination, as well as in hate crimes legislation.
  2. Take all administrative measures, both on the national and local levels, to prohibit and prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, in order to provide effective protection of LGBT individuals in Turkey.
  3. Conduct full and independent investigations into all allegations of harassment, violence, or abuse of LGBT individuals, and prosecute perpetrators.
  4. Monitor, aggregate, and publish data on the number of complaints of violence against members of the LGBT community.
  5. Provide mandatory trainings on the international standards of non-discrimination to government officials, police, military, prison/detention staff and to the judiciary with specific emphasis on sexual orientation and gender identity.
  6. Provide a comprehensive framework for public school education on sexuality that includes sexual orientation and gender identity.
  7. Cease to categorize homosexuality and transsexuality as illnesses of any sort.
  8. Ensure that an individual’s mere existence as an LGBT individual is never considered “unjust provocation” of a criminal act, nor “contrary to law and ethics”.
  9. Provide legal protection and equal treatment for LGBT people who have faced discrimination and abuse due to their actual or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
  10. Guarantee the freedom of speech and assembly for LGBT community members and their allies.

Links to our full report:

Turkish: EPI-LGBT

English: UPR-LGBT

A young gay Syrian’s story – from Syria to Turkey

This is the story of Maher, who had to escape and migrate from Syria to Lebanon, then to Sudan, and finally to Turkey. A life wrapped in the war in Syria and dual discrimination both as a Syrian and as a gay man in Turkey. 

Source: Yıldız Tar, “Suriye’den İstanbul’a eşcinsel bir gencin hikayesi” (“A young gay’s story from Syria to Turkey”). Kaos GL, 24 October 2014, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=17785

Millions of Syrians were forced out of their homeland as a result of the war in Syria and ISIS assaults. Some headed over to Europe; many lost their relatives during as their travels was well as the war.

Maher  Daoud, who we interviewed in a coffee shop in Kurtuluş, Istanbul, was  among the millions who had to leave their homeland. He had to leave Latakia in the 23rd year of his life which began in the city. Maher tells  the story of migration from Latakia [al-Lādhiqīyah]  to Lebanon, then to Sudan, and finally to Istanbul. He speaks fast, telling his story at once, as if someone were following us.

“Art is like breathing”

Maher,  who is now 24, is a young gay artist. He studied architecture in Syria.  However, he was forced to leave before being able to graduate. He also draws aquarelle and acrylic illustrations. Maher says that, in each of  his drawings, a gay story is hidden. To Maher, to make art is to breathe.  Because Syria does not have a “gay life,” art is the only space within which he can breathe.

I ask about the situation in Latakia. Maher says that life in Latakia is horrible:

“Latakia is Bashar al-Assad’s city. As such, the pressure was always intensive.  To speak, to do something was almost impossible. It was so in art too. I  had to put a lot of effort to be able to open my second art exhibit.  You have to get signatures from a lot of places. I had to deal with  almost every police officer in the police station. They examine each and every painting, find some to be “appropriate” and some “inappropriate.”  They kept asking why I was making such paintings. They were trying to judge whether I was against Bashar al-Assad.”

maherdaoud

Maher dislikes talking about politics. This also has to do with the notion that “it is a sin to speak politics in Syria.” He thinks that politics changes nothing. He desires more art.[1]

Things became even tougher with war. He says that the war between Bashar al-Assad, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)  made things much more difficult in Syria. To Maher, the rebellion for “freedom” was initially beautiful. However, everything changed when Assad began the massacres and when those opposing Assad began using the same methods [sic].

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Public Abuse of Trans Individuals by Police

Source: Yıldız Tar, “Mersin’de Polisten Translara Sokakta İşkence!” (“Public Abuse of Trans Individuals by Police!”) KaosGl.org, 22 July 2014, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=17153.

 

In Mersin, police officers attacked trans women in public, shouting “Get out of here” and assaulting them with batons.

The violent treatment of trans women by the police has gone unstopped. Citing a misdemeanor law, the police attacked and publicly abused 7 trans women.

Police used tear gas on the trans women while violently attacking them. Among them were activists from the solidarity group, “7 Renk” (“7 Colors”). A 7 Renk activist, Ece Yiğit, recounted the events to KaosGL.org.

Beating for Disturbing the Peace!

“We were hanging out last night on İsmet İnönü Boulevard with the other girls. There were seven of us and we were only chatting. There was also a man next to us sipping beer. Then the police came out of nowhere and said: ‘Get the hell out of here. You are disturbing people in the vicinity.’ Honestly, we did not understand what was going on. We were not making any noise. The man next to us reacted to the police, ‘what is the harm of these people to you? They are just sitting here.’ Police attacked him first with batons. Then, they started pepper spraying us. After we protested, they assaulted us with batons.”

Police denies the events!

The trans women were later taken to the police station. No legal proceedings took place at the station. The police also declined the trans women’s request to file a report. According to the members of the LGBTI solidarity organizations, Mersin 7 Renk and Pembe Hayat (“Pink Life”), police denied the events, claiming: “There is no report of such an incident. How do you come up with this stuff?”

After no legal proceedings took place, the trans women left the station. Now they are demanding that the abuse be investigated through footage to be obtained from the security cameras.

Perpetrators of Hate Murders are unpunished!

A trans woman named Cansu was attacked in Mersin, on May 25th in an attack alluding to Miraç Kandili[1]. In December, a trans sex worker called Deniz was attacked with sticks and knives in Pozcu. Four transphobic hate murders have been committed in Mersin since 2006. However, these murders are not recorded as hate crimes and the perpetrators are not handed down the appropriate sentence.

[1] Lailat al Miraj – A religious day commemorating Prophet Muhammad’s ascent to heaven –trans.

On the Dismissal of Police Officer F.E.: “These kinds of officers are to be cleaned out immediately!”

Source: Burcu Karakaş. “Bu tür memurlar hemen ayıklanır!” (“These kinds of officers are to be cleaned out immediately!”) Milliyet, 16 June 2014, http://www.milliyet.com.tr/bu-tur-memurlar-hemen-ayiklanir–gundem-1897738/

Police officer F.E. had been dismissed from office with a disciplinary investigation because he is gay. When he went to court to amend the decision, he received the following answer from the Ministry of Internal Affairs: “The law foresees that these kinds of officers are to be immediately cleaned out!”

Police officer F.E. was subjected to disciplinary investigation because he is gay and the investigation resulted in his removal from office. He went to the court to appeal the decision. His suit was rejected by every court that he applied to. Upon his appeal to the Council of State, he received a written response from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Deputy Legal Advisor. The statement included scandalous phrases. One Ministry official stated the following: “It is without a doubt that if civil services are run by officers who are less than reputable, this would damage people’s confidence in the administration. The law aims to prevent these kinds of developments and foresees that those who are responsible are removed from civil service and thus eliminated from the instruments of administration.” Even though the Council of State Investigation Judge wrote a dissenting opinion noting the right to “private life,” F.E.’s plea was overruled by majority voting.

“Embarrassing actions”

In 2009, there was a denunciation against Istanbul police officer F.E. with allegations that he kept child pornography. The police raided his house based on the allegations, which turned out to be false. It was decided that there was a lack of grounds for legal action. However, certain documents were found on F.E.’s computer, which pointed to the fact that he is gay. This resulted in a disciplinary investigation on his behalf. The investigation ended with the Ministry of Internal Affairs High Disciplinary Commission ruling for F.E.’s removal from civil service due to the charge of “acting in shameful and embarrassing ways that do not agree with the qualities of civil service.” Upon this decision, the police officer went to the 8th Administrative Court in Istanbul to demand that the decision be reversed. The court maintained that the ruling was within legislation and rejected F.E.’s appeal.

After this rejection, F.E. appealed to the Council of State. The 12th Department of the Council of State studied and rejected F.E.’s appeal eight months ago, thereby approving the decision of his removal from office. At this time, F.E.’s lawyer Fırat Söyle took the appeal back to the 12th Department of the Council of State with a request to revise the decision.

Council of State Investigation Judge Şevket Polat argued that the actions, which resulted in F.E.’s removal from office, were to be considered within the framework of “private life” in accordance with the 20th article of the Constitution as well as the 8th Article of the European Convention on Human Rights. Polat thus put forth that these actions did not constitute a disciplinary breach and advised for an issue of stay order. However, members of the department unanimously rejected the judge’s request with the justification that “the reasoning presented did not constitute due grounds for a stay order.”

“He lives with a woman who is of legal age”

The Ministry of Internal Affairs delivered a statement in response to the appeal about revising the decision. The statement included the justifications for why F.E. had to be removed from office. The Ministry Deputy Legal Advisor Adnan Türkdamar authored the statement, which explains that there were times when F.E. shared the same living quarters with two men who are known to be gay. Also, F.E.’s living together with a woman was described as a “shameful and embarrassing action.”

The Ministry responded with the following in relation to the discrimination appeal: “The law aims for civil service to be carried out by credible, trustworthy and socially prestigious agents. It is without a doubt that if civil services are run by officers who are less than reputable, this would damage individuals’ confidence in the administration and result in undesirable developments in the relations between individuals and the administration. As such, the law aims to prevent such a development and foresees that those who are responsible are removed from civil service and that these kinds of officers are eliminated from the instruments of administration.”

UPR Submission by Turkey’s LGBT Organizations

We are excited to be sharing our Universal Periodic Review submission of “Human Rights Violations of LGBT Individuals in Turkey” to the United Nations. 

The Universal Periodic Review

The Universal Periodic Review “has great potential to promote and protect human rights in the darkest corners of the world.” – Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States. The UPR is a State-driven process, under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, which provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfil their human rights obligations. As one of the main features of the Council, the UPR is designed to ensure equal treatment for every country when their human rights situations are assessed.

The UPR was created through the UN General Assembly on 15 March 2006 by resolution 60/251, which established the Human Rights Council itself. It is a cooperative process which, by October 2011, has reviewed the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States. Currently, no other universal mechanism of this kind exists. The UPR is one of the key elements of the Council which reminds States of their responsibility to fully respect and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms. The ultimate aim of this mechanism is to improve the human rights situation in all countries and address human rights violations wherever they occur.

The Universal Periodic Review of Turkey

The second-cycle review of Turkey will take place in January-February 2015. While Turkey submits its own State report, Turkey’s civil society organisations is providing their reports on Turkey’s human rights situation. The joint report by the Human Rights Joint Platform highlights Turkey’s failure in applying the accepted recommendations in the first-cycle and human rights violations since 2010. The joint LGBT submission highlights human rights violations of LGBT individuals in Turkey since 2010.

Human Rights Violations of LGBT Individuals in Turkey

This report is a joint submission by Kaos GL Association, LGBTI News Turkey, and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) (ECOSOC accredited NGO), to the United Nations Human Rights Council on the occasion of the 21st Session of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review. This submission presents human rights violations in Turkey on account of actual or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity. These violations consist of acts of violence against LGBT individuals, discriminatory domestic laws, arbitrary administrative measures, and hostile approach of State officials towards the LGBT community.

In preparing this submission, we relied on documentation and data from the following sources: LGBT organizations and allies in Turkey; reports by national and international human rights NGOs; the European Commission’s Annual Progress Report; Concluding Observations of the UN Human Rights Committee’s review of Turkey’s compliance with the ICCPR; recommendations from Turkey’s first-cycle UPR; Turkey’s Constitution and recent legislation; and media reports of violence and discrimination against LGBT individuals.

Please see the full report here: UPR: Human Rights Violations of LGBT Individuals in Turkey

Republican People’s Party Vice-President Sezgin Tanrıkulu’s Statement on Roşin Çiçek and LGBTI Protection

Source: “Genel Başkan Yardımcısı Sezgin Tanrıkulu: “Sayın Başbakan her seferinde “Yaradılanı Yaradandan ötürü seviyoruz” nutukları attığı halde, LGBTİ bireylerin korunması konusunda hiçbir adım atmaması onu bu ayrımcılığın temel aktörlerinden biri haline getirmektedir,” (“Republican People’s Party Vice-president Sezgin Tanrıkulu: “Although Mr. Prime Minister preaches ‘We love the Created for the sake of the Creator’ at every turn, the fact that he never took steps for the protection of LGBTI people made him one of the main partners in this discrimination,”) 10 February 2014, http://www.chp.org.tr/?manset=genel-baskan-yardimcisi-sezgin-tanrikulu-sayin-basbakan-her-seferinde-%E2%80%9Cyaradilani-yaradandan-oturu-seviyoruz%E2%80%9D-nutuklari-attigi-halde-lgbti-bireylerin-korunmasi-konusunda-hicbir-adi

Vice-President Sezgin Tanrıkulu remarked that Roşin Çiçek case, which was heard at the Diyarbakır Third Criminal Court for Aggravated Crimes today, is that of a hate killing. Here is the his written statement:

“LGBTI people who are subjected to systematic discrimination, harassment and attacks are also targets of hate killings. Roşin Çiçek’s case, which will be heard at the Diyarbakır Third Criminal Court for Aggravated Crimes today is a case of hate killing. The fact that Roşin Çiçek, who was in the prime of his life, was killed on 2 July 2012 by his father and uncles, once again showed us the consequences of homophobia in this country.

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Provocation Reduction for Bishop’s Murderer

Source: Burcu Karakaş, “Rahip katiline tahrik indirimi,” (“Provocation reduction for Bishop’s murderer,”) Milliyet, 24 January 2013, http://gundem.milliyet.com.tr/rahip-katline-tahrik-indirimi/gundem/gundemdetay/24.01.2013/1659533/default.htm

Murat Altun, who was being tried for life in prison for the murder of Bishop Padovese in Iskenderun in 2010, benefited from the unjust provocation reduction and was sentenced to 15 years in prison in January 2013.

Bishop Luigi Padovese, Representative of the Catholic Church in Anatolia, was stabbed to death in his home on 3 June 2010 in the Iskenderun region of Hatay. His murderer Murat Altun was tried for life in prison but received only 15 years jail time. The Iskenderun Second High Criminal Court agreed with the prosecutor’s reasoning that “the defendant’s claim that there was a demand for sexual intercourse must be considered given the principle that the suspect benefits from doubt even though the deceased cannot prove otherwise.” Based on this reasoning the court ruled on the “unjust provocation reduction” for the defendant.

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