How does the state of emergency affect Turkey’s LGBTIs?

Kaos GL’s Seçin Tuncel speaks with activists involved in LGBTI policy-making to ask how Turkey’s state of emergency, declared after the July 15 failed coup attempt, affects the lives of LGBTI individuals.

Source: Seçin Tuncel, “LGBTİ’ler OHAL sürecinden nasıl etkileniyor?” KaosGL.org, 22 March 2017, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=23366

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Ayşe Panuş- Eğitim-Sen (Education and Science Workers’ Union) Istanbul No: 3 Branch LGBTI Commission: Rainbow against the One!

“The rainbow is liberation. With the rainbow against the [rule of] One”

The coup attempt of July 15, 2016 resurrected existing homophobia and transphobia against LGBTI public servants. Just as it was before the coup attempt, unionized LGBTI workers found themselves in an environment of nationalist, religious, conservative and militarist violence.

Even though the LGBTI movement continues its organized resistance through this period, the present climate resulted in the closure of the cracks that were opened in the workplaces and unions. The threats against and the targeting of LGBTI public servants via the press, were ignored by the unions and the answer of the union administrators to questions asked was “We have no LGBTI.” The union, heavily influenced by the conservative aspect of nationalist, conservative and militarist violence has abandoned LGBTI public servants both politically and with regards to social rights. Such institutional abandonment led the LGBTI public workers to a greater anxiety, as they were already forced to work hiding their identity.

After the declaration of the state of emergency, nationalist, conservative, militarist and male violence has escalated. Since government practices were eager for this drift, the expulsions and suspensions through government decrees resulted in the silencing of LGBTI public workers who have already been ignored politically within the union.

Yet, despite all attempts of homophobia and transphobia to close the cracks, LGBTI public workers do not refrain from making their voices heard. The unions should come together against nationalist, conservative, militarist, male and heterosexist impositions and build an LGBTI policy on this basis: rainbow is liberation, with the rainbow against the [rule of] One.

Yalçın Koçak- Lawyer for Pink Life Association: “We are under state of emergency, it shall be as we want”

Without a doubt, the “state of emergency” practice which has been going on since July 20, 2016 has had a negative impact on LGBTIs, as it did on many other sectors of the society. It should be stated that in such periods when security-based “unlawfulness” substitutes “the law,” the victimization of the disadvantaged, socially marginalized and othered groups increases.

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They tried to put the LGBTI activist Kıvılcım Arat in a men’s detention cell!

Arat is in custody in Atatürk airport.

Source: T24, “Gözaltına alınan LGBTİ aktivisti Kıvılcım Arat’ı nezarethanede erkek bölümüne koymaya çalıştılar!” (They tried to hold the LGBTI activist Kıvılcım Arat in men’s detainment room!), 17 March 2017, http://t24.com.tr/haber/gozaltina-alinan-lgbti-aktivisti-kivilcim-arati-nezarethanede-erkek-bolumune-koymaya-calistilar,394365

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Trans activist
Kıvılcım Arat’s lawyer met her after she was taken into custody in Istanbul Atatürk International Airport and said they tried to put her in a men’s detention cell, but following an argument she was put in a single cell. Arat is detained for “not testifying in an investigation.”

According to a news report by KaosGL’s Yıldız Tar, following Istanbul LGBTİ Board Member trans activist Kıvılcım Arat’s detention in Atatürk Airport’s International Terminal today (March 17), her lawyer Aylin Kırıkçı met with Arat.

In an interview with KaosGL.org, lawyer Kırıkçı mentioned that they have not been informed on the content of the case file leading to the detention and made the following statement:

“Currently, we do not know the content of the case file, however, when we look into her GBT [General Information Gathering System — Trans.] record, we see that she was supposed to testify in a court case which led to an arrest warrant. It is unclear what she was going to testify about and in which court case. As her lawyers, we tried to contact the district attorney to start the process for her testimony but we could not reach them. Due to our client’s health problems the testimony was supposed to be taken today, but was not, because we could not reach the district attorney.”

They tried to put her in a men’s detention cell

Kırıkçı mentioned that Arat is held at the Atatürk Airport Police Station, and is expected to give her testimony to the district attorney tomorrow morning (March 18). Kırıkçı added that, even though Arat is a trans woman, they tried to hold her in a men’s detention cell:

“Even though my client is a trans women, they tried to put her in a men’s detention cell where 20 men are kept. Following Kıvılcım’s objection and an argument she was not put in the men’s area. Currently, she is kept in a single cell.”

She sent a message from detention

Arat sent a message with her lawyer. Her message emphasized solidarity.

“Just to spite those who try to call whistleblowing into in our spaces of solidarity, we will continue to fight, stick together, stand shoulder to shoulder.”

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Editor’s note: Kıvılcım Arat was released from detention on March 18.

Istanbul LGBTI’s Kıvılcım Arat is taken into custody

Istanbul LGBTI’s trans activist Kıvılcım Arat was taken into custody at Istanbul Atatürk Airport International Terminal. Arat, whose detainment reason is unknown, was on her way to a women’s rights conference.

Source: Yıldız Tar, “İstanbul LGBTİ’den Kıvılcım Arat gözaltına alındı” (“Istanbul LGBTI’s Kıvılcım Arat is taken into custody”), 17 March 2017, Kaos GL, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=23328

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Istanbul LGBTI Association Board Member and trans activist Kıvılcım Arat was taken into custody at Istanbul Atatürk Airport International Terminal.

While Arat’s detainment reason is unknown, Zelal Demir of Istanbul LGBTI told KaosGL.org that the lawyers are on their way to meet Arat. Demir added that they are neither informed on the reason for detainment nor the location of the station in which Arat is held, and continued with the following statement:

“Fight for rights cannot be restrained by detentions!”

“We are not informed on the detainment reason of our friend, our comrade, our board member Kıvılcım Arat, although, we are going through times that a large number of human rights defenders are facing detainment. We demand Kıvılcım to be released. Fight for rights cannot be restrained by detentions. We stand by our friend.”

Today, Arat was on her way to a women’s rights conference in Germany. It is believed that she is taken into custody whilst she was in line for passport control.

We will continue to report on the details…

Editor’s note: Kıvılcım Arat was released from detention on March 18.

HDP’s Sancar submits parliamentary question on hate speech and hate crimes committed against LGBTIs

Source: Mithat Sancar, Soru Önergesi, 7 March 2017.

TO THE OFFICE OF GRAND NATIONAL ASSEMBLY of TURKEY

I present below questions to be answered in writing by The Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu in accordance with Article 98 of the Constitution and Articles 96 and 99 of the standing orders.

Mithat Sancar

Mardin MP

It was noted by the press that you have said “Who are you speaking for Ertuğrul Özkök? Do not interfere with things you don’t know, go be with whoever you want to be with, whether it’s the fruity types in America or Europe“ regarding Ertuğrul Özkök, during the “Referendum Consultation Meeting” that took place on March 7, 2017 in Trabzon’s Akçaabat district. On an advisory jurisdiction by Council of Europe Ministers Committee on 1997, hate speech is defined as “all forms of expressions that spread, incite, promote or justify racial hatred, xenophobia, anti-Semitism or other forms of hatred based on intolerance. Even if it does not always constitute a crime on its own, it is an act of strong aggression and silencing by the powerful against the certain populations that are socially disempowered, and it gives way to the hate crimes. The stereotypes created with these words can result in the othering of certain groups, to the incitement of the violence against them or to these groups becoming invisible.

It is clear that the use of the word “nonoş”, which is defined as “homosexual man” in the Turkish dictionary of Turkish Language Institution, with the intention of insult is a sexist and discriminatory discourse. The violence against those “nonoş” as you called them, is ever more intense due to the rampant nationalism. According to Kaos GL’s report, one in every four hate speech is articulated by politicians, no precautions were taken against the posters or news that target LGBTIs.

In March 2016, a trans woman called Buse was found dead in her house, lost her life as a result of assault and hacking inflicted injuries. On March 21 in Çorlu, a trans woman sex worker Aleda was stabbed to death. Hander Kader’s photos resisting police during the banned Pride Walk in June 2015 were published by the press, her body was found completely burnt in Zekeriyaköy on Aug. 8, 2016. Around the same time, Muhammed Wisam Sankari, a gay Syrian refugee who has been living in Istanbul for around a year, was threatened, abducted, raped, decapitated and killed brutally.

It is clear that the violence against the LGBTIs is not always visible, but according to the data published in press, it is certainly established that at least 41 trans individuals were victims of hate murders between the years 2008-2015. Since 2009, over 100 “nonoş”s are estimated to have lost their lives due to hate murders. Harassment, rape and other cases of violence are not even reported. The police force either remains completely insensitive towards these cases or is the very perpetrator of this violence.

Within this scope:

  1. Who did you precisely indicate when you said “nonoş”?
  2. While the LGBTIs are exposed to daily violence in the country you are a minister for, how do you think your use of the word “nonoş” as an insult will effect this violence?
  3. How many LGBTI murders were committed since the day you have become a minister?
  4. How many cases of violence against the LGBTIs have been reported since the day you have become a minister?
  5. Of the cases mentioned in questions 3 and 4, how many perpetrators have been found?
  6. What initiatives did your ministry took in order to solve the unresolved hate murders?

Defendants at Kemal Ördek’s case to be jailed during trial

The court ruled to imprison the defendants who appealed the verdict of jail time and monetary punishment in Kemal Ördek’s case.

Source: Kaos GL, “Kemal Ördek davası sanıkları tutuklu yargılanacak”, 2 March 2017, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=23206

The assailants who attacked sex worker and Red Umbrella Association rights advocate Kemal Ördek in July 2015 appealed the verdict of jail time and judicial monetary punishment. On their objection, the file was moved to the Ankara District Court.

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The hearing took place on March 2, 2017 at 11:45 at the Ankara District Court’s 17th Penal Office.

The court ruled to continue the prison sentence of suspect due to evidence of possible theft.

The court also ruled to arrest the two other suspects due to flight risk. One suspect appeared in court while the other did not.

What happened?

The fifth hearing of Kemal Ördek’s sexual assault case took place on Nov. 17, 2016 at Ankara’s First High Penal Court. Kemal Ördek had filed suit for death threats they received after the sexual assault and the case was finalized in October. Following that, the case of sexual assault and extortion concluded at the fifth hearing.

Ankara’s First High Penal Court ruled to punish the assailants who raped and extorted Ördek in their Ankara home with the crimes of qualified sexual assault, theft, threat, insult and depriving a person of their freedom. The suspects were sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison.  

 

Intersex Anatolia meets families in Istanbul

Intersex Anatolia met with families in Boysan’s house to share the problems intersex children face.

Source: Kaos GL, “İnterseks Anatolya, İstanbul’da ailelerle buluştu,” kaosGL.org, 24 February 2017, http://www.kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=23145

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The newly founded LADEG+ (LGBTI+ Families and Relatives Support Group) hosted its first event with intersex activities. Intersex Anatolia met witt LADEG+ at Boysan’s House on Feb. 18 to share the problems intersex children face.

Intersex Anatolia activists Şerife, Belgin, Zeynep, Caner ve Evrim joined the event, which was streamed live on Intersex Turkey’s Facebook page.

Activists first shared general information about intersex and continued by explaining paths families can follow for their intersex children with their needs in mind.

The discussion pointed to surgeries on intersex children without consent or without medical necessity. The activists explained that parents should not follow antiquated medical practices and incorrect guidances. They emphasized the psychological and physical trauma intersex individuals face after being exposed to surgical procedures without their consent at an early age.

Şerife also explained the problems intersex children face in rural areas.

Hosts Sema Yakar and Pınar Özer, the founders of LADEG+, said they will continue their work with intersex activists and give priority to the correct guidance for parents of intersex children.

Following the discussion and Q & A session, participants watched videos of Boysan Yakar in the struggle for urban renewal and LGBTI+ rights. LGBTI+ activist Boysan passed away more than a year ago in a traffic accident.

 

“Families in Turkey see their kids as their possession”

We talked with the parents whose kids are homosexual, about the concept of family, alternative family experiences in Turkey and their adventures that started with their kids coming out to them.

Source: Yıldız Tar, “Türkiye’de aileler çocuklarını malları gibi görüyor” (“Families in Turkey see their kids as their possession”), 19 February, 2015 KaosGL,  http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=18792

omersule2Ömer and Şule

On one hand it is a warm nest, on the other it’s everyone’s trouble without exception: Family. We talked about family, a world of secrets nested in secrets, with two mothers and two fathers who have torn these secrets apart.

On the one hand Şule and Ömer who embarked upon the adventure of their life years ago, after finding out that their son is gay; on the other hand is Buzul and Kaya who has only recently faced this fact.

The transformation of the family known as a safe haven, friendships that go beyond kinship, a mother who drew the curtains when she first found out her son was gay, a father who says “I don’t know who I thought about the most”, new kinships and friendships built through LGBT Friends and Families of LGBTIs in Turkey (LISTAG)

The stories of those who say “A different family is possible”, stories of  taking a step towards emancipation, of reconstructing the family, of questioning themselves…

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What does family mean? What comes to your mind when we say family?

Buzul: My nuclear family comes to my mind. It’s made up of the people I can’t live without; with whom I  would like to realize my wishes. A more autonomous, freer environment comes to mind. I’m talking about creating a more cheerful and enjoyable space.

Kaya:  I can define the family as before and after my son told us he is gay. Before, it was a safe haven, a castle for me. I saw family as something solely made up of blood ties. Afterwards I realized that it wasn’t only blood ties. The definition in my head keeps changing. I realize that it doesn’t necessarily have to be about blood ties.

What did you feel when your son first came out? What happened to the family you call a safe haven and a castle?

Kaya:  Frankly, I don’t know what I felt the first time I heard it. It was as if there was a great explosion and I was in shock, didn’t know what to do. I don’t know whether I thought about him or my wife more. Our son is abroad and wrote about his sexual orientation in a letter. When I first read the letter, I told my wife Buzul “Nothing is going to be the same. Our life passed onto a new phase.” After that we talked about what we should do. Our son gave us some information about LİSTAG and Lambdaistanbul in his letter. My wife called immediately. My first feeling was despair.

“My first reflex was to draw the curtains”

Buzul, you were to first call LISTAG. You called and someone answered the phone. What did you feel during that first conversation?

Buzul: I’m lucky that a calm person answered the phone. I had someone who was similar to me emotionally.They were talking with a calm voice, explaining the situation to me in a casual manner. It gave me confidence. I wanted to talk face to face immediately that day. I had to see, we had to be face to face. When my son first told me, I thought that he assumed being that way. I interpreted it as a confusion.

It was a hard day for me that day. I opened the letter first. I talked on the phone first. We actually talked about a detail about that day recently. The letter came in a decorated blue envelope. I thought it was a card from my son for my birthday. He had been holding off on our relationship for a while so I thought he sent it for my birthday. I was all alone when I first read it. My first reaction was to draw the curtains. I got into a terrible crying fit. Then I couldn’t really predict how my husband would react. I started thinking about that.

I called my husband. When he insisted to know what’s going on, I was forced to tell him. Later when he came home crying I was more composed. When I saw his reaction, I pulled myself together. I was scared for my husband. He has high blood pressure and heart problems. It was a weird state of mind. I first thought about the boy. Then myself. And when I saw my husband, I came to my senses thinking, “Pull yourself together, the boy and the man need you.”

“I found out how we have been fooled until today”

Ömer and Şule, you told about your experiences on different occasions. Therefore I’d like to ask what changed in your life. Şule, what changed in your life after your son told you he is homosexual? Has Şule remained the same?

Şule: I’m in a very different place right now. Most importantly, my relationship with my son is in another dimension. We’ve always been very good but there were secrets between us. He couldn’t open up to me. I knew things about him but I acted like I didn’t know. I couldn’t face myself. Afterwards I was liberated. After LISTAG, in each talk I had with a new person I noticed that burdens were lifted off my shoulders.

Aside from me and my son’s process, my life has changed a lot too. I started looking around more carefully. I have realized how many people were pushed away, othered, discriminated against. There hadn’t been any place for them in my protected life up to that point. I even doubted their existence. Some people lived some place but I didn’t know how they lived. I learned about different opinions of different people. I saw how we have been fooled until today. Especially with Gezi resistance, I saw how much of a liar the media was. I witnessed how my experience at the part was twisted on the media. After that day I decided not to watch TV anymore. I was naive before, I believed. I thought the great media would not lie.

What do you think about this Ömer?

Ömer:  After coming out Öner wanted to talk to me but I always ran away. So he started to leave Kaos GL magazine and some articles around. After reading those, I started talking with my son. When we first went to CETAD, I was saying “I’ve accepted this” but we were giving interviews with nicknames, avoiding to have our photos taken. When I gave an interview with my photo on November 2010 I realized that I hadn’t accepted but only learnt. After that day, my process of acceptance started.

An individual’s life is only his/her business. Ever since I was a kid, I have always stood against my father, the school, my bosses. I was a rebel. This is how I evaluated my son’s coming out and his sexual orientation. As I learned, I started touching people, relating to them. Touching gave me great joy. Helping even one person is an immense pleasure.

Throughout your experiences at LİSTAG and your years long activism, did the concept of “family” change in your mind? What comes to Ömer and Şule’s minds when they hear the word “family”? Who do you visualize?

Ömer: Not much has changed for me but my ideas. As I look at other families, as I question the concept of family, I came to think that the institution of family in Turkey is a great problem.  My perspective was enhanced. Families in Turkey see their kids as their possession. It’s not something I experienced personally but families intervene, saying “It’s for their good, otherwise they would make mistakes.” And who is to know that you won’t make mistakes? Everyone needs to be free individuals and give their own decisions.  If my child ask my opinion, I would tell them but s/he doesn’t have to do what I say. A different family is possible, but today’s family structure is not healthy. It’s detrimental to both the children and the parents. Families should not be built on relations of interest. Parents should do nothing more that building an environment where children can create their personalities freely. I don’t think family has anything to do with blood ties. I for once, see LİSTAG more than I see Öner.

I used to think only children should be free but I add women to this list as I see the violence and oppression against women. Men should be reliberated. Men are burdened in the institution of family too. They say “men don’t cry” for instance…Men are supposed to be strong. What’s that got to do with anything? Men are emotional too, they cry. All individuals must be liberated, collectively.

Şule: I’d like to emphasize the importance of the family as we know it, as formed of mother,father and child. We spoke to many kids and I saw that coming out to family is very important. Many LGBTI children seek acceptance from their parents and family. On the one hand they say “a different family is possible” but on the other they want to come out to their families and be respected by them.

“I’d like to come out to my family just like my child did”

Buzul, what do you think? Is a different family possible? What is this different family like?

Buzul: These ideas are flying around in my head. I can’t say anything clearly yet. But basically a happy and a peaceful life. I envied the LGBTI parents who came to the family meetings with their siblings or their mothers. A part of me expects acceptance like the children who come out and are not accepted. I’m wondering how my own parents will react to my child’s sexual orientation.

Your child came out to you and now you want to come out to your own family as the mother of a homosexual child…

Buzul: I ask myself why I want such a thing. If being homosexual is something sexual; and people don’t talk about their sexuality why should you be forced to explain it when you are homosexual? In the same manner, why must I explain my child’s sexuality? But if anything happens to me, I want to teach my relatives a thing or two, so that they won’t harass my child. I became a liar in this process. I’m an educator and I tell my ideas about the film “My child” coming to our school. It’s like slowly we are coming out. On the other hand, why am I doing this like I’m giving an account for it? I guess my experience is very similar to what homosexual children go through.

As I got in touch with youth thanks to LİSTAG, I met various types of families. Through the young people coming to the association I notice different types of families. You can become a family with your dog. My parents disappeared in my head. My mother and father are still precious to me but I called all LISTAG mothers last Mother’s Day. I look at my son and his friends, their worldview carried me forward.

Let’s ask the father as well, if people heard your son is gay what would they say?

Kaya: I’m a person of rationality, emotions come much later for me. Lately,  I’m thinking of settling accounts with family in my mind. I’m wondering what kind of reflex my own mother, father and relatives will develop. I want this encounter for myself. This way I can clean my environment. I will be free of people who don’t accept my child. One day I want to talk to my son and “get things off my chest”. I find many people to be hypocritical.

*This interview was first published on Kaos GL’s issue no. 139 on “Family”.