Şevval Kılıç

Turkey’s LGBTI File Criminal Complaints for Attacks Against Istanbul Pride- Hear Them Out!

Turkey LGBTI

“We are here today to make a complaint against the Governor of Istanbul, Minister of Interior Affairs, General Chief of the Police in Istanbul and Istanbul police who attacked the protestors at the gay pride on 28th of June”, says lawyer and LGBTI rights advocate Yasemin Öz. Behind her looms the giant complex of the Caglayan Justice Palace. Though LGBTI activists doubt that the perpetrators of the violence against Istanbul Pride will be brought to justice, they vow to use every legal mechanism at their disposal.

Pride is a special day for Turkey’s LGBTI, who regularly face discrimination in all aspects of social life, if they are not already victims of hate crimes. University student and drag queer Madır Öktiş says, “Pride is the day I can express my pride with almost a hundred thousand people like me and it’s the only day I can, you know, I can feel that solidarity, that strong”.

Madır was getting ready to join the parade when they heard that police attacked pride-goers. They wore a pom pom hat and a hundred per cent gorgeous t-shit and “A police officer told me that I could not walk in with that outfit”.

Until this year, twelve Istanbul Pride Parades passed without incident. LGBTI activist and academic Volkan Yilmaz says, “I wasn’t expecting any attacks on Sunday because even after Gezi protests we could make the march happen so after the attacks, actually, I was a bit surprised and I started to think about why it happened now and it turned out to be that it’s about Ramadan month”.

Last year’s Pride also coincided with the month of Ramadan when an estimated ninety thousand people marched without police interference. But this year, there was a significant rise in the visibility of the LGBTI rights movement and a corollary increase in hate speech from both public officials and conservative media.

Veteran activist Şevval Kılıç says, “this is a big step, that we are threatening the system, we are a movement, a big huge movement, and of course some people are afraid of this, some people are afraid of changing, going forward”.

Volkan thinks the attacks may have happened “because of media provocations and the new governor of Istanbul is a bit more conservative than the other guy and this happened this year”.

At least 78 people were wounded in the police intervention against Pride. One person is in risk of losing an eye. The Governor stated that proportionate force was used against the demonstrators after they refused to disperse.

Boysan Yakar, a prominent LGBTI activist and advisor to Sisli Municipality Mayor, was among the wounded and filed a criminal complaint for battery charges. He says, “I was beaten by the police while I was trying to stop the violence of power at the very first beginning of the pride parade and at that moment we had the support of the MPs from two different parties, HDP and CHP, and when we were trying to stop the violence, police attacked many activists”.

Şevval takes issue with the Governor’s statement of proportionality. She says, “they just directly attacked us with plastic bullets, you know, there are thousands of ways that you can dismiss the crowd but they choose to attack us with plastic bullets”.

So far, 4 LGBTI associations and 68 individuals filed criminal complaints. They are filing criminal charges (PDF-Turkish) against Interior Minister Sebahattin Öztürk, Istanbul Governor Vasıp Şahin, Istanbul Police Chief Selami Altınok, and police officers involved in the attacks for the following crimes:

  • Offenses of Bodily Harm (Turkish Penal Code (TCK) Articles 86-87)
  • Torture (TCK Articles 94-95)
  • Torment (TCK Article 96)
  • Ill-treatment
  • Violence (TCK Article 108)
  • Exceeding the Limits of Authorization for Use of Force (TCK Article 256)
  • Misconduct in Office (TCK Article 257)
  • Executing Illegal Mandatory Provision and Order of the Supervisor (TCK Article 24)
  • Restriction of freedom of belief, conception, conviction (TCK Article 115)
  • Restriction of Right to Meetings and Demonstration Marches (Law No: 2911)
  • Offenses against Freedom (TCK Article 109)

As one of the seven lawyers submitting the complaints, Yasemin Öz says, “I’m not hopeful about the Turkish state’s courts, especially when it comes to the ministers, police chiefs, and governors but we are hopeful about the constitutional court or otherwise the European Court of Human Rights”

But despite the lack of trust in the Turkish judicial system, Volkan Yılmaz says, “We have to do it to push the legal process a bit further”.

There was global outcry against the banning of Istanbul Pride and the violence that ensued. Boysan appreciates the global support and says, “It’s great to see that thousands of people are protesting right now throughout the country, from Korea, from Japan till the United Kingdom and United States as well and this is not only happening in the level of citizens. This is happening in the very high levels as well. Government to government it’s happening right now. It’s so important. And it’s great to see such solidarity throughout the universe”.

Yasemin calls for continued support for LGBTI in Turkey and the world. “We want the world to know that our basic right to free assembly has been violated by our own state so as the LGBT people and their friends, we have to unite where there is a violence against LGBT people because no state volunteers to protect LGBT rights. Many states in the world criminalize homosexuality and transsexuality”.

Tired but determined, Boysan says, “We are here, we exist, and they have to get over it”. This is how everyone, gathered in front of the Caglayan Justice Palace to seek justice, feels. They chant, “Gays will not be silent, they will not be silent, will not be silent”.

Zeynep Bilginsoy/ LGBTI News Turkey

Elif İnce: A History of Turkey’s LGBTI Movement in the 1990s

Despite the raids and evacuations of trans homes in Cihangir and torture in police custody, the LGBTI in Turkey became organized during the 1990s. Lambdaistanbul and Kaos GL associations were founded after the police dispersed the 1993 Pride Parade and the first LGBTI publications appeared.

Source: Elif İnce, “LGBTİ: Kaldırımın Altından Gökkuşağı Çıkıyor”, (“LGBTI: The Rainbow is Peaking Out from the Pavement”), bianet, 8 December 2014, http://bianet.org/bianet/lgbti/160544-lgbti-kaldirimin-altindan-gokkusagi-cikiyor

The 1990s were the years when the LGBTI movement started to organize as a social movement against police violence. Despite the raids on homes and nightclubs and the days-long torture in police custody, these years witnessed the foundation of the Lambdaistanbul and Kaos GL associations, the LGBTI organizations in universities, and the first LGBTI publications.

The first Pride Parade named “Sexual Freedom Events” in 1993 in Beyoğlu was blocked by the police based on the governor’s ban. Activists’ houses were raided and they were taken into custody. Participants from abroad were deported. The first pride parade was held ten years later in 2003 and was attended by 40 people. In the last pride parade, 2014, tens of thousands marched.

Gays, Feminists, Greens

The oppressive environment of the 1980 military coup led to the weakening of mainstream leftist groups. Those who could not previously find a place for themselves in these movements began to have their voice heard. In 1997, the Kaos GL Association submitted a statement to be published in Radikal İki, a Sunday issue of a liberal daily Turkish newspaper (now only online). The statement read as follows:

“Transvestites, transsexuals, feminine gays also experienced the oppression of the 1980 coup. Things were ignored and it was a time of every man for himself. When we tried to make a little bit of noise, our voice was drowned among those endless hierarchies. They’d say “not now; there are bigger urgencies”… In the 1980s, there were similar reactions from many different groups to voices that people were not used to, voices they had not heard before. Gays, feminists, greens… Where the hell did they come from?”

In the mid-1980s, the Radical Democrat Green Party Initiative was founded under İbrahim Eren’s leadership. Greens, feminists, atheists, anti-militarists, as well as gay and trans individuals started to organize within this initiative. The party declared its support for gay rights. Eren observed that gays became the largest group within the party and the party was dubbed the “party of the gays”. In 1998, trans activist Demet Demir said, “the group was called the gay group but the majority were trans.”

Sevda Yılmaz, who wrote under the pen-name of Ali Kemal Yılmaz, tells the story of a hunger strike that began on 29 April 1987 to protest the systemic violence and oppression of gay and trans individuals at the hands of the Beyoğlu Police Department. The Radical Democrat Green Party Initiative supported the strike.

The strike which began in a house in Taksim moved to the stairs of Gezi Park on 30 April and was dispersed by the police. The strike continued in different houses for a couple of weeks. Yılmaz was the spokesperson for the strike, which found coverage in international press and drew the support of important artists such as Türkan Şoray, Rıfat Ilgaz and Barış Pirhasan.

This hunger strike is remembered as the first large-scale LGBTI protest before the 1990s.


Supreme Election Committee: LGBTI Activist Çakmak Not Elected to the Beşiktaş Municipality Council

Source: Yıldız Tar, “YSK: LGBTİ Aktivisti Çakmak Beşiktaş’ta Meclis’e Giremedi,” (“Supreme Election Committee: LGBTI Activist Çakmak Not Elected to the Beşiktaş Municipality Council,”) kaosGL.org, 03 April 2014,  http://www.kaosgl.com/sayfa.php?id=16232

According to the Supreme Election Committee’s official results, LGBTI activist Sedef Çakmak was not elected to the municipality council in Beşiktaş.

The Supreme Election Committee (YSK) started to release the official results of the local elections. According to the official results, none of the LGBTI activists who were candidates in the local elections won membership to the municipality council.

Though the unofficial results had revealed that Sedef Çakmak won membership to the Beşiktaş Municipality Council, she had been left outside of the council. She was in the 27th position and 26 candidates from the Republican People’s Party won seats in the Beşiktaş council.

The result that Çakmak had won a seat in the council was reported to be due to miscalculations. This means that none of the LGBTI candidates entered councils.

Who were the LGBTI candidates?

Can Çavuşoğlu had declared his mayoral candidacy for Giresun’s Bulancak municipality. He then withdrew his candidacy.

Mersin 7 Colors LGBT member Tuna Şahin was a candidate for the Yenişehir Municipality Council from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). BDP did not pass the election threshold in Yenişehir.

The Republican People’s Party (CHP) lists included SPoD LGBT’s Sedef Çakmak at the 27th position in Beşiktaş and Çelik Özdemir at the 12th position in Beyoğlu. CHP placed 26 members in Beşiktaş and 10 members in Beyoğlu Municipality Councils. Therefore, neither of the candidates were elected.

Boysan Yakar, candidate in Şişli, was not shown as a candidate by the CHP and was put on the substitute list. Öykü Evren Özen was shown as a candidate for the CHP in Bursa Osmangazi. She was not elected either. Mersin Newspaper editor and LGBTI activist Baki Uguz was in the 2nd position for the Democratic Left Party (DSP) in Mezitli Municipality Council. DSP did not pass the election threshold.

5 LGBTI activists were candidates for municipality councils from the People’s Democratic Party (HDP). Trans activist Şevval Kılıç was in the 2nd position for Istanbul’s Şişli council, Hevi LGBTI trans activist Asya Elmas was in the 2nd position for Istanbul’s Kadıköy council, Istanbul LGBTT Association member Ebru Kırancı was in the 4th position for Istanbul’s Beyoğlu council, and trans activist Niler Albayrak, previously subjected to attacks in the Avcılar-Meis Housing Complex was in the 2nd position for Istanbul’s Avcılar council.

Pink Life LGBTT Association’s Abdülhalim Karaosmanoğlu was a candidate for Ankara’s Çankaya municipality council for the HDP. HDP could not pass the election threshold in these five places and none of the activists won seats in the councils.

Scarlett Rainbow activist Tunca Özlen was a candidate for Ankara’s Çankaya municipality council from the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP). TKP did not pass the election threshold.


The Topic of Sex Work: Still a Breaking Point

Source: Umut Güner, “Seks İşçiliği Meselesi, Hala Bir Kırılma Noktası,” (“The Topic of Sex Work: Still a Breaking Point,”) kaosGL.org, 15 January 2014, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=15601 

The People’s Democracy Party, Şişli Municipal Council pre-candidate Şevval Kılıç evaluated the topic of sex workers’ demands in regards to their profession, health and security problems, and the importance of creating employment opportunities for the trans community.


What kind of problems are sex workers experiencing in Turkey? In other words, can you please describe the concept of “Sex workers’ civil rights issues”?

Even though sex work looks like it is regulated in our legal system, the majority of sex workers fall outside the registered sex work industry and this subgroup is left open to illicitness and exploitation. The law, instead of protecting sex workers from exploitation and mistreatment, criminalizes them. As a result, discrimination against sex workers is being fostered. I think the only way that sex workers can benefit from democratic rights is if sex work is considered as a legitimate form of employment. The increasing trend in religious conservatism is another threat, because sex outside of marriage is considered adultery according to [Islamic] religion, and this especially angers the conservatives. Although they cannot call this adultery as easily, they oppose sex work as it is against morals or they consider all sex workers as victims. This negative image that is formed around sex work blocks both the recognition of sex work as a form of employment and the process of seeking civil rights. Even amongst many leftist, feminist, rights and labor groups, the topic of sex work is still a breaking point.


Is society ready for homosexuals?

Source: Çiçek Tahaoğlu, “Toplum Eşcinsellere Hazır mı?” (“Is society ready for homosexuals?”) bianet.org, 16 January 2014, http://www.bianet.org/bianet/siyaset/152847-toplum-escinsellere-hazir-mi


“Sooner or later, a faggot will be president. Let’s give up resisting this progress.” “Society was ready for heterosexual politicians, look what happened!” “There is no division between society and homosexuals.”

LGBTI people have never been this visible in local elections before! Six LGBTI pre-candidates from Istanbul alone took action to be involved in the city councils of different political parties.

Okan Bayülgen once asked the mayor of Ankara, Melih Gökçek: “When will we have a homosexual mayor in Turkey?” He received the answer, “Never, I hope. There should not be one.”

LGBTI visibility in politics has always been discussed with arguments such as “Is society ready for homosexuals?”

bianet asked the pre-candidates: “Is society ready for homosexuals?”


LGBTI Pre-Candidates Run For Municipal Assemblies

Source: “LGBTI Pre-Candidates Run For Municipal Assemblies,” bianet, 15 January 2014, http://www.bianet.org/english/gender/152845-lgbti-pre-candidates-run-for-municipal-assemblies

bianet interviewed various pre-candidates of the upcoming municipal elections with LGBTI background who raised their voices to have their say on their surroundings.

As the municipal elections are approaching, discussion focus on various party municipal assembly pre-candidates, men and women, from various parts of the country. bianet interviewed various pre-candidates of the upcoming municipal elections with LGBTI background who raised their voices to have their say on their surroundings.
bianet asked the following question: “How will your pre-candidacy affect/ contribute the policies of municipal assemblies of your electoral districts?


LGBTI statement at 22 November 2013 City Demonstration: We want all of Istanbul!

Source: Istanbul City Demonstration, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0wQ5z_EAdY

Boysan Yakar and Şevval Kılıç speak on behalf of Istanbul-based LGBTI organizations on 22 November 2013 City Demonstration, where thousands representing groups standing up for Istanbul met. Boysan Yakar is a candidate nominee for the Republican People’s Party’s and Şevval Kılıç is a candidate nominee for the People’s Democratic Party’s for the Şişli, Istanbul municipality

Hello Istanbul! Hello comrades!

We salute all of you as lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans and intersex people; as your next door neighbors, your friends from your neighborhoods, as your comrades resisting, fighting alongside you and seeking our rights in Gezi Park! Today we are here to unveil injustices to you. Because we are the ones who have been pushed out of cities for years as the primary victims of governments and urban transformation projects, as the ones neglected by the heterosexist and capitalist system, living without legal guarantees or employment, as the ones facing insults and patriarchal violence.

What happened yesterday, on Ülker Street in 1996, where hundreds of trans women were displaced from their homes by police operations, is the same as what is happening today in the Avcılar-Meis Housing Complex where our windows are shot at and set on fire. What disrupted our living spaces in Tarlabaşı with bulldozers and deprived us of our bread and soup yesterday, is the same as what is pushing us out of Bayram Street today, which has been our home for 40 years. It is the state and the police forces.