Bianet: Lecturer exiled from Department of Architecture to Department of Physical Education after filing a criminal complaint against the Rectorate

Mardin Artuklu University Faculty of Architecture Research Assistant Emre Özyetiş says “I believe it is because of my gender identity that I went through all of this.”

Source: Beyza Kural, “Lecturer exiled from Department of Architecture to Department of Physical Education after filing a criminal complaint against the Rectorate” (“Rektör Hakkında Suç Duyurusu Yaptı, Mimarlıktan Beden Eğitimine Sürüldü”), bianet, December 29, 2017, http://bianet.org/bianet/insan-haklari/192877-rektor-hakkinda-suc-duyurusu-yapti-mimarliktan-beden-egitimine-suruldu

Emre Özyetiş, a research assistant at the Faculty of Architecture at Mardin Artuklu University filed a criminal complaint against the rector, claiming that the rector had insulted him based on his gender identity and had threatened him. His complaint was covered on the news, upon which Özyetiş was assigned to work at the Directorate of College of Physical Education and Sports.

Indicating that he believes he faced such treatment due to his gender identity, Özyetiş told bianet “What I went through is a textbook example of the legal definition of mobbing”.

Özyetiş graduated from the METU Architecture and Philosophy departments, completed his Master’s on architecture in Austria, and currently continues his Ph.D. in Architecture at METU. Özyetiş objected to the decision of the rectorate and demanded to be reinstated to his post at the Faculty of Architecture.

We called the rectorate regarding the matter; however our phone calls were not answered.

“If this gets on the news, I will sue you”

Özyetiş has been working at the Faculty of Architecture as a research assistant since 2014. He says that on December 26, 2017, he was invited by the rector of the university, Ahmet Ağırakça, to his office for a meeting.

“Without any explanation, Ağırakça asked me ‘Do you want to be a girl?’ When he saw that I was baffled, he said, ‘Don’t you realize you are in Mardin?’ When I said that I was trying to understand what is going on, he raised his voice and said ‘Get out!’ Then I told him that he uses hate speech which is against the law, he put his hand on his waist as if he was reaching for his gun, and threatened me to get out of the room. Right after this confrontation, he called my colleagues and said things like, ‘How can you teach a course with someone like Emre?’ and continued to insult me over my sexual orientation.”

On December 27, Özyetiş filed a criminal complaint with the Mardin Office of the Chief Public Prosecutor, accusing the rector of threat, insult and harassment through hate speech.

Journalist Zeynep Yüncüler covered the incident in Journo on December 28. She contacted Rector Ağırakça, who according to the article is to have said, “I don’t want any male professors at my school acting like a girl. This is immoral and shameful. If this gets in the news, I’ll sue you as well”.

“Assignment” to physical education from architecture

Today the secretariat of the Faculty of Architecture sent Özyetiş a notification signed by the rectorate, stating that “it is seen fit that [Özyetiş] is assigned to the Directorate of the College of Physical Education and Sports for a year”.

The premises for the decision was indicated as Article 13-b of the Law on Higher Education no. 2547, which regulates the duties of the rector and states the duty as: “When the rector sees it necessary, s/he can change the posts of the teaching staff and other personnel working at the institutions and units which constitute the university or reassign said personnel”.

Özveriş, who did his undergraduate, graduate and doctorate studies in the field of architecture, objected to the rectorate’s decision.

“I requested an explanation about why I was assigned to the College of Physical Education and Sports, and demanded to be reinstated to my post at the Department of Architecture. I will apply to the Administrative court, whether I receive a reply or a rejection of my demand or not.”

The times for the finals and make-up exams for which Özyetiş is responsible for at the Department of Architecture are about to come.

The Union of Education and Science Labourers’ (Eğitim ve Bilim Emekçileri Sendikası) statement titled, “Scenes of State of Emergency at Mardin Artuklu University”, indicates that there have been exiles disguised as reassignment.

“I was subjected to this treatment due to my gender identity”

Regarding the reassignment which followed his complaint and the news published on Journo, Özyetiş has said, “I see it as an effort to disrupt my working environment and to make my life harder”.

“What I’m currently going through is a textbook example of the legal definition of mobbing. A reassignment at a department where I’m not qualified for is seen as fit for me. There are no students enrolled here, therefore I don’t know what I’m assigned for, either.

“Exiles in universities have happened countless times before this happened to me. I’m subjected to this [treatment] because of my gender identity–because of the way I exist and because of my ideas on gender that I expressed in lectures. Other colleagues have been subjected to similar rights violations due to other reasons.”

“We were discussing whether architecture has gender or not”

“I’m asked why this has happened to me; I believe it’s entirely because of my gender identity.

“I guess the rectorate implies that this process started after we had the screenings of two films, Innocence and Cosmos, in class. I’m a research assistant; these are not classes I opened. I have colleagues with whom I share the instruction of these classes. Furthermore, these films can not be interpreted in the manner he does, nor are they incompatible with the criteria for class content.”

“We talk about gender in lectures. We talk about the fact that gender is not the assigned sex, but a matter of self-expression or self-assignment, which is much more significant.”

“The rector probably says, ‘Emre says he wants to be a girl in his class’, as I have stated that the assigned sex at birth is not the only determinant of gender and that any person has the right to express themselves as men or women. Or maybe that’s what he assumes. Not only I, but also those in class say that there is no such thing.

“Besides, I can be a trans individual; I can state that I am a woman. There is no legal measure against this; there is nothing to justify the accusation and the treatment I was exposed to.”

Turkish Airlines Describes Homosexuals as ‘Perverse’ and ‘Weird’ in Turkish Subtitles

It has been claimed that Turkish Airlines translated the word homosexual as ‘perverse’ and ‘weird’ in its subtitles for in-flight foreign TV series and movies.

Source: Gonca Tokyol, “Türk Hava Yolları, Türkçe altyazıda eşcinselleri ‘sapkın’ ve ‘tuhaf’ yaptı” T24, 3 January 2018, http://t24.com.tr/haber/turk-hava-yollari-turkce-altyazida-escinselleri-sapkin-ve-tuhaf-yapti,526894

This claim first surfaced when a passenger shared a picture of a scene in which the word ‘perverse’ was used in reference to homosexuals on social media outlet Twitter. This mistranslation was spotted on one of the in-flight interactive screens on a flight by Turkish Airlines, one of the largest commercial airlines in the world in terms of passengers carried.

The passenger, who was travelling on flight TK824 to Beirut on Dec. 29, shared the tweet with the caption: “You [Turkish Airlines] translated the word ‘gay’ as ‘perverted’ in the TV series Modern Family. I hope you fix this rudeness as soon as possible.”

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Another Twitter user named Çağla Bakaç responded by highlighting that a similar situation had occurred to her in the past. Bakaç shared a picture from another movie and said “There was a similar situation in the subtitles for the movie ‘Demolition’. They translated the word ‘gay’ as ‘weird’.”

Turkish Airlines: The Relevant Department Has Been Notified

The Turkish Airlines press secretary reached by T24 said that the company was aware of reports made on social media and that the relevant department had been notified in accordance.

 

Arat: Two trans women or “sinners” in a Turkish prison

Diren is a trans woman who just entered her thirties. She will be subject to systematic torture inside an F-type prison cell coffin* for three more years. Buse, a trans woman in her forties, discovered her gender identity during her incarceration. She has been sentenced to life.

Source: Kıvılcım Arat, “Two sinners (!) at Tekirdağ No 2 [Prison] : Diren and Buse” (“Tekirdağ 2 Nolu’da İki Günahkar(!); Diren ve Buse”), Kıvılcım Arat, bianet, January 2, 2018, http://bianet.org/bianet/lgbti/192911-tekirdag-2-nolu-da-iki-gunahkar-diren-ve-buse

On the road to Istanbul from Tekirdağ, I kept thinking about the value and meaning of our lives. I reflected on the struggle against the multiple discriminations we face, as well as how  limited and narrow the spaces of solidarity meant for empowering ourselves are.

The system and social life is designed through a binary gender regime. The problems generated by and the lives sacrificed in the name of this regime entangle not only trans women but also those who do not define themselves with binaries  in an inescapable spiral of violence.

Even though the imposed stereotypes of ideal men and women are not the same across communities, binary gender models are cultivated, spread, and institutionalized through a disparate array of social groups ranging from Islamists to Liberals, from Social Democrats to Socialists.

While cursing this system and its founders, I think about the resistance of the two sinners staying in the coffins of Tekirdağ No 2. I think about their unheard, unknown, unwritten resistance… and how forlorn this resistance is…

As the wheel of history keeps turning, someone writes that history. This is the reason I’m writing this story to you. To document the resistance of these two sinner women and to render it known to the world, in spite of the power of those who miswrite the present and obfuscate history.

Diren is a trans woman who just entered her thirties and is child of a family from Dersim [Tunceli]. Until last August, she was trying to hold onto  life in Amed [Diyarbakir] with a public trans identity. She has such a kind heart that every cat, whether tortured, disabled or infirm has certainly stayed in her home. And hers is not just an ordinary love of animals… It’s a feeling molded with consciousness. She is a vegan who feels the cruelty of the human species as a personal conviction. Diren is an amazing human who has understood the connection between a slice of cheese she eats and slavery. She is also a brave woman who has declared her conscientious objection.

As Diren was trying to hold onto this life with all the sensitivity she carries inside her, she faced the accusation of spreading [terror] propaganda and, without any tangible evidence, was unfortunately convicted of this crime. As a result of this conviction, she will be subject to systematic torture and isolation in F-type coffins for three more years.

Buse is a trans woman in her forties who came to define her gender identity during her incarceration and is the child of a family from Ağrı. Convicted for life, Erzurum State Security Court** indicted Buse where she stood trial without a defense attorney present. She has been in prison for twenty years and has another seventeen more years to spend in that dark cell.

What brings Diren and Buse together in the same cell is that they were both sentenced based on charges related to the same crime. As one’s existence empowers the other’s, their unknown state casts them both into an endless abyss.

As a 30-year-old who has visited three different prisons forthree incarcerated women, I was aware of the violence I would be subjected to at the entrance to Tekirdağ No. 2. And, on my way, I decided not to complain. Thinking about what Diren went through at the hands of the soldiers and wardens, I tried to get used to the fact that I would be experiencing this violence for three more years. At the end of the day, I was a visitor and I was bound to go through the indignity they imposed on me once a month. My body was relatively freer than Diren’s.

Just like any other prison I saw, Tekirdağ No. 2 is also a structure built to break the human spirit. As I entered through its gate, I reminded myself not to let anything overshadow the joy of seeing Diren and I walked in. Those who have been there would know how it is–open visits are crowded, packed with many relatives, young or old, and children. I gave my passport to the officer, hoping that a passport not color-coded and gender neutral would allow for an insult-free, harassment-free passage.

After registration, I was able to pass through the first checkpoint with other women. Towards the second one, Diren’s brother warned me “Be careful, you won’t be seeing smiling faces after this point”. Not long after, the female warden asked loudly “Did you go through surgery?” in the middle of the crowd. And then she called the first checkpoint where I left my ID and asked what was written on my ID under the gender slot. After she hung up, pulling a wry face she ordered the male wardens: “I won’t search this. Take him to the other side”. Under the silence of tens of gazes the wardens touched every bit of my body from my breast to my hips, continuing their work with the joy of carrying out a patriotic duty.

As these events were happening at the gate, what were Buse and Diren going through?

Diren’s open visit takes place in a separate room. A policy of isolation within isolation. Two wardens hovering above us, listening to every word we utter. We can neither hug nor talk in peace.

As there are no vegan meals, Diren has been feeding on boiled potatoes and tomatoes for months. It is another trouble to get female clothes in. Her requests for bras and similar things have been denied. She talked about the indifference of the doctors at the infirmary. She said that the officers frequently refer to her with the name written on her ID and address her as “Sir”. This “Sir” title has become such a grave violence that she swallowed an entire box of hormone pills at once during past weeks. On the farewell note she wrote, she exposed the systematic violence she has experienced. After her stomach was pumped, she was handcuffed to the radiator at the public hospital in the state she was in. Fortunately, when her objections turned into a scream they brought her back to her cell. Even in this state, she thinks more about Buse than herself. What Buse has been going through for the last twenty years and what she will go through the next seventeen. Her operation has been denied in spite of permission for the surgery and this has made her psychological state deteriorate even more. Buse is planning to use the last weapon she has left, to starve her new body and to lay down to die.

We trans women, who are the decided sinners of society, try to exist through resistance. Our resistance is born out of an affront to humanity. This sin is deemed so great that even the mothers who carried the sinners for nine months stay away from their children.

Towards the end of my visit, Diren said that Buse got ready in the morning and put on makeup. When she asked her what she was getting ready for, Buse answered “You never know, maybe my brother will come”. A brother who was expected and who never arrived for years! Buse’s answer became a thorn in my flesh and invigorated my struggle. This sin which bars relatives from coming to open visit should be society’s cross to bear.

Buse has been trying to exist in incarceration without anyone by her side for twenty years. She thinks she has been forgotten. Fortunately, at the end of 20 years, IHD (Human Rights Association) Co-Chair and attorney Eren Keskin took charge of the entire judicial process and will follow up on the unlawful practices Buse has endured, including the right to operation she was denied. This Thursday, Keskin will go to Tekirdağ No.2 as Buse’s legal representative to clarify her demands for justice. The commission set up for Buse and Diren at İHD will share the rights violations with the public in a press statement released next week.*** The past twenty years of isolation will at least be subdued. Historians writing from their dignified perspectives may perhaps take little note of what’s happening, but this will be a thousand hopes for trans people to come.

As two sinners of Tekirdağ write their histories through resistance, the solitude we left them in will one day find us too. The only way out of the hell of a binary regime is not to participate in its norms but to dismantle the norm. What is imposed with the norm leads to darkness and the resistance of the trans women lead to light.

*Translator’s note: “Coffin” is an unofficial term which denotes isolation cells where many political prisoners stay in F-type prisons. 

**State Security Courts (Devlet Güvenlik Mahkemeleri): Designed after the State Security Courts of De Gaulle era in France, DGMs first originated after the military coup of 1971, equipped with extraordinary authority regarding the cases that “endangered the existence of the state”. Its judges and prosecutors were assigned by military authorities, which is why it was seen as a “martial law without the declaration of martial law”. DGMs were shut down in the mid 1970s, only to be resurrected after the military coup of 1980. They remained active until 2004.

***  İHD held a press conference on January 10, see bianet article for more info.

Kaos GL: “Good behavior” reduction to threat against LGBTI+ individuals

Far-right ultranationalist Alperen Hearths’ Istanbul Chair Kürşat Mican receives a judicial fine of 4,000 Turkish Liras (about 1,050 USD) due to his “good behavior” on trial where he was charged with “inciting the public to hatred and enmity” after he threatened Pride March. The Alperen Hearths are a far-right ultranationalist and Islamist youth group linked to the nationalist Great Union Party (BBP).

Source: “ ‘Good behavior’ reduction to the threat against LGBTI+ individuals” (“LGBTİ+’ları tehdide ‘iyi hal’ indirimi”), kaosgl.org, December 14, 2017, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=25086

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The third hearing of the trial of Alperen Hearths’ Istanbul Chair Kürşat Mican took place on Dec. 14 in Kartal Courthouse, 44. Court of First Instance. Mican was charged with “inciting the public to hatred and enmity, deliberately insulting a section of the public based on differences in social class, religion, sect, gender and region” after his threat against the 2016 LGBTI+ and Trans Pride March.

Mican, on trial with a demand for up to 6 years in prison, was sentenced to 4,000 Turkish Liras (about 1,050 USD) judicial fine due to his “good behavior” on the charge of insulting a section of the public based on differences of gender. Dogan news agency reported that the court decided that the fine be paid in 10 installments.

Ankara ban becomes premise for Mican

Mican defended himself at the last hearing, saying “The state should not allow these to do such things. Our state has protected every sect’s belief but the liberty demanded here is not a normal liberty.” At today’s hearing Mican pointed out the ban issued by the Ankara Governor’s Office against LGBTI+ activities as a premise.

What had happened?

Muslim Anatolia Youth, a group organizing over social media issued a call for an event called ‘ We won’t let undignified perverts walk’ against the 2016 LGBTI Pride March planned for June 26 and June 16 Trans Pride Marches.

Alperen Hearths Foundation Istanbul Chair Kürşat Mican threatened the June 26 LGBTI Pride March, using homophobic and transphobic hate speech. Alperen Hearths had gathered on Istiklal Avenue during Pride Walks as a small group and tried to provoke the crowd yet failed to block the walk. Their chair Mican stated:

“We will never allow this type of immoralities which touch upon the nerve ends of the society disguised as Pride Walks, to be normalized or encouraged. Our reaction will be clear and severe. They always do the same things on a holy month. They mock us, ignoring our values and making fun of us. Esteemed state authorities, do not let us be occupied with these. Either do what’s necessary or we will take care of it. We will take every risk, we will directly block the walk. Our state should stop this, considering our national values. Because this is not a normal liberty. This is our warning now. We let you know about what is to come beforehand, we will not be held accountable after this point.”

Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association and Human Rights Association had filed a common criminal complaint regarding the threats and demanded that Mican and other stand trial. Halkevleri had also filed a criminal complaint.

Following the reactions Mican suggested that he did not threaten the walk, saying “I’m not suggesting that we chase people around with bats in Taksim.”

Sputnik: Turkish Constitutional Court rules sex workers cannot be fined on the Law of Misdemeanors

Upon the application of a transsexual sex worker, the Turkish Constitutional Court decided that police officers cannot issue fines against sex workers based on the Law of Misdemeanors. The high court approved the verdict with majority of votes and the decision would establish a precedent.

Source: “Constitutional Court: Sex workers can not be fined on Law of Misdemeanors” (“AYM: Seks işçilerine Kabahatlar Kanunu’ndan para cezası kesilemez”), Sputnik, 21.12.2017, https://tr.sputniknews.com/turkiye/201712211031491432-aym-seks-iscisi-para-cezasi/

According to a report by Deniz Ayas of Sözcü daily newspaper, a police squad issued a fine against a sex worker based on Law of Misdemeanors No. 5326 as she was waiting for clients in a 2014 incident. The sex worker protested the fine of 91 Turkish Liras and took it to the court. Yet the local court ruled for the law enforcers.

After the appeals procedures, the sex worker took the case to the Constitutional Court where her objection was evaluated. The detailed ruling was issued in the Official Gazette Thursday and included striking evaluations.

The verdict, which is to become a legal precedent was reached with a majority of votes and found the sex worker to be right, emphasizes that the procedure carried out based on the Law of Misdemeanors No.5326 dated March 30, 2005 cannot be valid.

The Law of Misdemeanors does not include prostitution bargaining

The reason for the ruling was stated as the noncompliance between the act of “disturbing others with the aim of prostitution” as reported on the administrative fine of the police officer and the article defined on Art. 37 of Law No. 5326; suggesting that in this incident the act “does not correspond to prostitution”.

“It cannot be fined”

 

It was stressed that the verdict was made based on the principle “No one can be fined due to an act which is not considered criminal based on the law in force at the time. No one can be sentenced to a heavier sentence than the one defined for that crime at the time the crime was committed”. As a result, it was decided that the right of the transvestite* was violated and that the 2 thousand lira cost of “judicial procedures” be paid to her. One member of Constitutional Court objected to the verdict.

Verdict sets legal precedent

The verdict sets a legal precedent for the practices that will follow. This means that the police will not be able to fine sex workers waiting for clients on the streets and avenues ‘just because they are waiting for clients’.

Translator’s Note: The original article uses the words “transsexual” and “transvestite” interchangeably. The article was translated verbatim so as to demonstrate the original wording of the reporting.

For more on the use of the Law of Misdemeanors, please see these translations.

Bianet: We asked SPoD about the bans against the LGBTIs: The bans restrict the growth of the LGBTI+ movement

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Source: “We asked SPoD about the bans against the LGBTIs: The bans are against the growth of LGBTI+ movement” (“LGBTİ Yasaklarını SPoD’a Sorduk: Yasaklar, LGBTİ+ Hareketinin Büyümesine Karşı”), Çiçek Tahaoğlu, bianet.org, December 5, 2017, http://bianet.org/bianet/lgbti/192163-lgbti-yasaklarini-spod-a-sorduk-yasaklar-lgbti-hareketinin-buyumesine-karsi

Serdar Ocaksönmez, Communications Coordinator for Social Policies, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Studies Association (SPoD), has evaluated the new restrictions imposed on LGBTI activities following the ban in Ankara for bianet.

Ocaksönmez suggests that these bans are not just against film screenings but aim to criminalize LGBTI individuals and the LGBTI+ movement. SPoD are concerned by the increasing constraints.

Ocaksönmez invites all civil rights defenders to show up in solidarity, saying “we feel frightened these groups are targeting us and spreading hate speech”.

“The ban criminalizes our existence”

What is your opinion on the indefinite ban in Ankara?

The ban in Ankara is not only against a film screening. Due to its scope, the ban restricts all means of public engagement and mobility. The notions of “social sensitivity” and “morality” defined in the decision are highly concerning; we cannot allow the existence of LGBTI+ individuals and their identities to be criminalized under the pretenses of “social sensitivity” and “morality”. If we think about the consequences of these actions long term, the existence of LGBTI+ associations presently active in Ankara may be directly affected and harmed by this decision. Considering that Ankara is the capital, I see this as a strategic decision.

 

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“Censorship in other cities is no coincidence”

Can you observe the influence of this ban in other cities?

The ban affects different populations in different cities. An event in Mardin, planned before the ban in Ankara was declared, was cancelled after it was targeted by the hate speech. In Bursa, another event was forcibly cancelled by the police. Lastly, LGBTI+ film screening in İstanbul was banned by the District Governorship of Istanbul. We cannot assume that these are separate or purely coincidental cases.

“We feel threatened”

Did the bans have an affect on SPoD’s work?

Even though they haven’t affected us directly, there is the definite possibility [bans] will spread all around the country–especially in Istanbul. Bans have had a psychological impact on all of us in the LGBTI+ movement. We are concerned there will be further bans on the activities we are organizing or the ones we will organize. Aside from this, we feel threatened by the existence of those groups targeting us with hate speech.

“We will keep following the trial”

Did you receive any applications, questions etc. from the local organizations and activists regarding this ban or other bans in different cities?

We are in close contact with the organizations in Ankara. We are following the lawsuit filed by Kaos GL and Pink Life after the ban, demanding the halt of execution. We are trying to gather as much information as we can regarding other bans and interventions.

“The bans are a reaction against the growth of LGBTI+ movement”

Do you think the ban in Ankara can spread to the other cities?

Frankly, we weren’t expecting such a ban. There have been individual bans which cited  “security” concerns over the last three years such as the ban against LGBTI+ and Trans Pride Walks in İstanbul and the May 17 events in Ankara. But this last ban is indefinite and we therefore feel it  targets us personally. We are facing a very different kind of violence when the existence of groups of people, our ways of life, and the right to peaceful assembly are targeted here. When we look at the last three years in their entirety, this looks like a reaction against the growth of the LGBTI+ movement.

“We invite all rights defenders to show solidarity”

Do you have any plans, strategies or calls regarding the ban attempts?

Right now, we as SPoD are acting in coordination with other LGBTI+ associations and platforms. We are following the lawsuits filed by Kaos GL and Pink Life Associations in Ankra and we are hope to see the ban lifted as soon as possible so that we can continue with our activities.

We request the authorities adhere to Article 10 of the Turkish Constitution as well as with international conventions, including the Istanbul Convention, to which Turkey is a party. We want the authorities to correct this mistake immediately. We believe that we will overcome these bans through advocating solidarity, like we did when Lambdaistanbul was sought to be closed. We invite not only LGBTI+ organizations but all civil rights defenders to be present in a show of solidarity.

 

Kaos GL: LGBTI+ rights in days of ban

We compiled what has happened before and after the Governorship of Ankara’s “indefinite” LGBTI+ ban, the rights violations and reactions against the ban.

Source: “Yasaklı günlerde LGBTİ+ hakları,” Kaos GL, Dec. 4, 2017, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=25036

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Over the past fifteen days,  the Governorship of Ankara banned LGBTI+ activities in the city on the premises of “social sensitivities and sensibilities”, “public security”, “protection of public health and morality” and “protection of others’ rights and liberties”.

During this period, the District Governorship of Beyoğlu has banned another scheduled event. We have reports of censorship of LGBTI+ activities coming in from many other cities.

We compiled the details of events that have transpired before and after the ban decision regarding the violation of our rights alongside reactions against the ban for readers of KaosGL.org:

“Gender Based Journalism Workshop” was Disrupted in Mardin

The “Gender Based Journalism Workshop”,  undertaken by IPS Communication Foundation and supported by Kaos GL, was planned for November 18, but could not take place in Mardin as it was targeted in the media.

On November 9, an event in Mardin was postponed after it was announced to the media in a piece titled “Mardinites: We don’t want these immoral people!”  Later editorials targeted the workshop and were published on Sabah’s website as well as on Güneş, HaberVaktim, Yeni Akit daily, and in other local media.

Hate speech was propagated on social media. Posts were made stating that there will be “gays marching in Mardin” on November 18 and that “we will stand against this situation and kill [them] if necessary”.

Governorship of Ankara and the German LGBTI Film Days Festival

In collaboration with the German Embassy, QueerFest and Büyülü Fener Cinemas, The German LGBTI Film Days festival was scheduled to take place in Ankara between November 16-17. These events were unfortunately canceled as they were banned by an official notice sent to Büyülü Fener Cinema by the Governorship of Ankara on Wednesday, November 15.

The day before the decision to ban was issued by  the governorship, Yeni Akit daily published an editorial defaming the event. In a news article titled “Support for the Perverts by the German Embassy”, Yeni Akit stated that the event was “supported by Germany which has participated in every activity meant to disrupt the country’s peace and will feature perverted films within the scope of the events [which are] to take place for two days”. The same newspaper announced the ban decision of the Governorship with the title “Governorship Slams the Brakes on Perverts”.

Prior to the governorship’s decision, hate speech was disseminated on social media with hashtags #LGBTfilmgünleriiptaledilsin (#LGBTfilmdaysshouldbecancelled) and #İstiklalimizeKaraLeke (#BlackStainOnOurIndependence)

Following the decision, the Pink Life QueerFest organizing committee issued a statement  indicating that, just like the arbitrary and unlawful ban against Pride Walk which took place over the past several years, the film screenings were banned using the same public security rhetoric and was only used to raise alarm over provocation and terror.  The Pink Life committee warned that this decision legitimized hate speech against LGBTI individuals and cast them as a threat to society.  Producers of QueerFest also stated that the decision deprives us of our constitutional rights under the disguise of “protecting” LGBTI individuals and continued: “The duty of the governorship is not to ban the marches or activities but to make sure that they take place in safety.”

Following the ban against the German LGBTI Film Days, the German Minister of State Michael Roth announced via his Twitter account that a rainbow flag was hung at the German Embassy. Roth wrote “The Governorship of Ankara banned the #LGTBI Film festival of our Embassy. The freedom of arts and minority rights are untouchable. This must be valid for Turkey too. Our colleagues in Ankara manifest their attitude clearly by unfurling the flag”.

After the governorship ban against the German LGBT Film Days festival, Hacettepe University subsequently banned a discussion titled “Gender and Discrimination” which had previously been approved.

The discussion planned for November 22, which was to be attended by Kaos GL as well, was banned with a verbal notice, even though there was official university approval 15 days prior.

The indefinite “public morality” ban from Governorship of Ankara

After the ban against the German LGBTI Film Days, which was scheduled to take place on November 16-17 in Ankara Büyülü Fener Cinema, the Governorship of Ankara announced on its website  the event has indefinitely banned “the activities undertaken by LGBTI civil society organizations” in Ankara. The statement lists banned activities as:  “film screenings, cinevision, theatre, panels, discussions, exhibitions etc. [and] activities”.

The governorship listed “social sensitivities and sensibilities”, “public securities, “protection of public health and morality” and “protection of others’ rights and liberties” as the reason for the ban.

Kaos GL and Pink Life : “The Ban is Arbitrary and Discriminatory”

In response to the Governorship of Ankara’s decision to ban,  Kaos GL and Pink Life have released a collective statement which announced that the governorship’s ban is unlawful, discriminatory and arbitrary and that a legal follow-up is in place.

Pink Life and Kaos GL indicated that the scope of the decision was vast and that it led to an ambiguous situation which ostensibly criminalizes LGBTI existence, opening  the door for further rights violations. They announced that the LGBTI civil society organizations have been fighting against discrimination and hatred as well as for equal citizenship for years and that this decision has rendered these associations inoperative.

In their statement, Pink Life and Kaos GL emphasized to the public these discriminatory policies are unacceptable as they are against Article 10 of the Constitution on equality in addition to Article 26 on freedom of expression and publication. Pink Life and Kaos GL also note these bans are in conflict with international conventions to which Turkey is a signatory.

LGBTI Associations of Ankara Take the Decision to Court

Kaos GL and Pink Life, LGBTI associations from Ankara have filed a lawsuit against the ban, demanding the ban be cancelled and its execution halted.  

The organizations call for the ban ordered by the Governorship on the premises of “social sensitivities and sensibilities”, “public security”, “protection of public health and morality” and “protection of others” rights and liberties to be cancelled and its enforcement be halted immediately as the ban can result in irremediable consequences.

Media Targeting LGBTI People and Hate Speech

LGBTI individuals and organizations were targeted in print press and digital media before and after the ban decision. Many media outlets, especially Yeni Akit daily, labelled the LGBTI individuals as “perverts”, “degenerates”, “against the public morality”. The hate speech was spread through libellous claims that LGBTI people are “diseases” or “criminal”.

Among these articles is a piece on Takvim daily’s website, titled “LGBTI Provocation Supported by CHP and HDP under the Control of Global Powers”, published November 14 . The article is an example of the press constructing a narrative of hate speech which is used to incite public discrimination of LGBTI persons as well as unlawful infringement on our rights.

Kaos GL is soon to publish its annual report which has tracked the use of discriminatory language and hate speech against LGBTI people in media on a daily basis coupled with reflections on the ban and the legal way forward.

Arbitrary Ban in Bursa

As part of the programing for events surrounding November 20 Transgender Day of Remembrance, Bursa Özgür Renkler of LGBTI Association (Free Colors LGBTI Association) was pressured to cancel the screening of the film “Gacı Gibi” via  notification by police to event organizers that “the event will be shut down if it is not cancelled”.

Özgür Renkler LGBTI shared the cancellation on its social media accounts and wrote: “Our attorney got in touch with the Directorate of Security and was redirected to the security branch but received no answer at that office. We are yet to receive a written notification regarding the issue. We announce that we have cancelled the event and that we will be following [the process] as the association.”

District Governorship of Beyoğlu’s Ban Decision

“Queer Shorts” — a film screening and discussion panel planned to take place in Istanbul on November 25 in collaboration with Pink Life QueerFest, British Council and Pera Museum was banned by the District Governorship of Beyoğlu.

In a similar manner to the Governorship of Ankara, the district governorship in Beyoğlu indicated “[the event] might cause open and immediate danger against the public order and safety and might be against the constitutional order and public morality”.

Reactions against the Ban: #LGBTİYasaklanamaz (#LGBTICantBeBanned)

Keyfî yasaklara karşı kurulan LGBTİ+ Yasaklarını Geri Çekin Platformu, 29 Kasım’da #LGBTİYasaklanamaz ve 3 Aralık’ta #LGBTİFilmleriYasaklanamaz hashtagleri ile yasaklara karşı ses çıkardı. Her iki hastag kampanyası da Twitter’ın Türkiye gündeminde yer aldı. Çok sayıda sosyal medya kullanıcısı yasaklara karşı dayanışma mesajları paylaştı.

LGBTİ+ Yasaklarını Geri Çekin Platformu  (Withdraw the LGBTI+ Bans Platform) was created as a reaction to these unjust bans and  online advocates have protested the ban through the hashtag #LGBTIYasaklanamaz (#LGBTICantBeBanned) on November 29 and the hashtag #LGBTİFilmleriYasaklanamaz  (#LGBTIFilmsCantBeBanned) on December 3. Both hashtag campaigns were trending topics in Turkey on Twitter. Many social media users across the world shared solidarity messages with us against the bans.

A part of the statement of the platform is as the following: “We invite the national and international public to make some noise to end this nonsense. We demand decisions that restrict our liberties and take away our life spaces to be overturned immediately! We invite the authorities to bring life back to its normal flow.”

Film Screenings at METU

Aside from the lawsuits filed by Kaos GL and Pink Life associations, many LGBTI and human rights activists have reacted against the ban.

After the ban took effect, METU LGBTI+ Solidarity organized two film screenings for November 22 and November 24, to  the films “Pride” and “Romeos”. University administrators sought to prevent the LGBTI themed films by being screened by shutting down the power.

METU LGBTI+ Solidarity discussed the tensions which surrounded the screenings on both November 22 and November 24 through statements published on social media.

“The film screening planned for November 22 by Nar Women’s Solidarity was interfered with by the METU administration, by shutting down the power. The administration then retreated upon the reactions of the students and the film was screened.”

“On November 24, METI LGBTI+ Solidarity entered one of the physics classrooms in order to show the film “Romeos” which was on the schedule of the banned film screenings, after which METU administration shut down the power of the physics department. This caused GÜNAM (Solar Energy Research Center) to halt its studies, students were stuck in elevators and other students had to study for their midterms elsewhere.  In spite of all pressures and preventions, METU LGBTI+ Solidarity showed the film using a power source and a projector. This was followed by the METU administration sending a private security force of forty to the building, who did not refrain from threatening us with a ‘physical intervention’ “.

Altıok: The Decision is Discriminatory

In her press statement regarding Governorship of Ankara’s ban decision, CHP Vice Chair and İzmir MP Zeynep Altıok  stated that the decision is unlawful, misogynistic, and othering: “What discriminates and others the people is the decision of Governorship of Ankara which is polarizing the society, using diversity as an excuse.”

Ban Decision was Taken to Parliament

CHP Istanbul MP Sezgin Tanrıkulu has taken the governor’s ban decision to the parliament. Tanrıkulu presented a parliamentary question with the demand for a reply from PM Binali Yıldırım. The question asks whether the ban is discriminatory, whether the Governorship has a concrete document that can justify the ban, and whether the Governorship has taken necessary measures against discrimination.

Muiznieks:  Ban Clearly Disregards Turkey’s International Human Rights Obligations

Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muiznieks issued a statement regarding the ban, indicating that it blatantly disregards the international human rights obligations of Turkey, especially the European Human Rights Convention. Muizneieks wrote:  “I call on the Turkish central authorities to ensure that decentralised administrations uphold human rights standards and that this regrettable decision of the Ankara Governor’s Office is reversed immediately”.

Meanwhile, representatives of United Nations, Council of Europe and European Union have contacted the LGBTI associations and received information regarding the incident.

Call for Solidarity from Balkans

ERA LGBTI Equal Rights, founded by the LGBTI organizations of Western Balkans and Turkey, published a statement regarding the LGBTI+ bans in Turkey stating:  “[…] local authorities, have taken yet another concerning step, by banning events like film screenings, exhibitions, forums, panels and meetings by LGBTI+ groups on what could be considered illegal grounds, infringing on fundamental human rights such as freedom of assembly, expression and association. Authorities have also given reasons for banning these events such as “social sensitivities and sensibilities,” “protecting public health and morality” and “protecting other people’s rights and freedoms.”

“We Defend the Cancellation of the Decision”

Council of Europe Conference of INGOs published a statement regarding the indefinite ban against the LGBTI activities declared by Governorship of Ankara: “We call upon all authorities to rescind the ban on events by LGBTI organisations in Ankara and not to slide back into another dark age where people have to hide who they really are. We plead that they annul these decisions which might incite and legitimise aggression against LGBTI persons, who once felt free and proud in Turkey”.

Antep Laughs against the Ban

Antep ZeugMadi LGBTI organized a press conference on December 3 against the Governorship of Ankara’s indefinite ban against LGBTI activities. ZeugMadi condemned the unlawful and discriminatory ban and stated “We were banned in Ankara and we were reborn in Antep”.

Çanakkale LGBTI+: We are on the Streets Despite the Bans, we are cleaning the beaches!

The volunteers of Çanakkale LGBTİ+ Initiative came together at Barış Kordonu on December 2 and cleaned the trash on the beaches. The initiative made an open call saying: “We are on streets despite the ban, we’re cleaning the beaches”. The group did not leave the beach for four hours in spite of the weather.