Discriminations against LGBT+ Students in Universities: METU, A Case Study

Middle East Technical University (METU) Gender and Women’s Studies graduate student and independent trans activist Murat Korkmaz’s study called “Discriminations against LGBT+ Students in Universities of Turkey on the basis of the sample case of METU” has been published.

Source: Discriminations against LGBT+ Students in Universities: METU, A Case Study (Üniversitelerde LGBT+ Öğrencilere Yönelik Gerçekleştirilen Ayrımcılıklar, Vaka Araştırması: ODTÜ) Eda Yılmaz, Pembe Hayat, March 7, 2019

http://www.pembehayat.org/haberler/detay/2078/universitelerde-lgbt-ogrencilere-yonelik-gerceklestirilen-ayrimciliklar-vaka-arastirmasi-odtu

The study “Discrimination against LGBT Students in Universities of Turkey” by independent LGBTI activist Murat Korkmaz was published in February. Korkmaz, who received an undergraduate degree from METU’s Department of Psychology, is currently continuing their graduate education in METU’s Gender and Women’s Studies Program.  The study, which has been published in cooperation with the European Union Sivil Düşün (Think Civil) Program and with the support of the European Union, aims to determine the discrimination experienced by LGBTI students in the sample case of METU in the academic year of 2016 – 2017.

The biggest problem: University management

The experience of several tense situations around the LGBTI community gaining official status on campus and their push for gender-neutral bathrooms in 2016-2017 motivated the study. According to Korkmaz: “Especially at these two topics, there was a distinct attitude of the university management towards us. We were not paid attention to, we had to work really hard and to protest in order to be paid attention to. And eventually, we were faced with voting and broken promises. Despite the fact that these demands were supported by hundreds of students (through a petition). In general, I think these processes seriously consumed the time of LGBTI students studying at METU and wore us out. During the second half of the year, we struggled for nearly four months for gender-neutral bathrooms. In addition to the problems we had with the university management, we suffered from several serious attacks on social media during that time. There were some students at METU among the perpetrators of these attacks. In other words, the steps that we tried to take in order to implement structural changes on campus faced a great number of policies of intimidation.”

Korkmaz, who tells us that they has suffered from a lot of discrimination since they started to live openly as trans / nonbinary on campus, says that this is another reason leading to the study:

“2015 and 2016 were the years when I became clear about my sexual identity and made ‘radical’ decisions about what I am not, at least. I started to exist with my Trans/Nonbinary identity openly in a performative sense on the campus. These struggles for existence brought along the most intense discriminations that I suffered during my education at METU. There was not a single day that I spent without being harassed or defined as male by the university personnel and the lecturers during my academic studies, or while in the library or on the quad, despite the fact that I explicitly expressed my trans identity, although it should not be a necessity for me to declare my identity.

To what extent are LGBTI+ people free at the [more] liberal METU?

Korkmaz, who started to report their experiences in addition to those of the people who took part in their research, also has a journal called Akışkan Sayfalar (Fluid Pages) with which they aims for LGBTI+ people to be able to develop and improve themselves.

“Was it true that  LGBTI+ individuals didn’t have to hide themselves in METU where they are told to be free? I wanted to see this and to explain this. I tried to show that what we go through are not just personal experiences but are parts of a systematic and structural problem.

I wanted the study so we could demand changes regarding these problems from the university management and all the students of the university, by contacting the lecturers and the administrative staff with whom we can communicate about this topic; because we would have a study in hand, showing and proving the problems LGBTI individuals are struggling with.”

138 Recognized Discrimination Cases

The 25% of the participants in the study stated that they were LGBTI+ individuals, 43% said they were not LGBTI+ individuals, 7% did not want to state their orientation, and the remaining 3% marked the other. 12 of the total 78 participants were interviewed in person and the other 66 filled out an online questionnaire. According to the findings received from the participants, there was a total of 138 recognizable cases of discriminations on the basis of sexual identity and sexual orientation at METU in the 2016-2017 school year. The classification of the cases are as follows: Hate speech, structural LGBTI-phobia, negative perceptions, cynical attitude & laughing, showing by pointing, taking pictures & shooting video, verbal harassment & insults, threats, and physical assault.

 

Cases

graph

“I don’t want my trans identity to be jammed into one of the female or male identities.”

Korkmaz does not forget to thank Sivil Düşün (Think Civil) that supported the publication of the study. Korkmaz highlights that this support is really meaningful taking into consideration that trans people are neglected in every field and Sivil Düşün’s support is really valuable in terms of regaining their motivation as a person struggling for their rights and studying these rights. Korkmaz adds:

“Firstly, as a citizen of this country, as a graduate of METU, and as a graduate student of METU, I don’t want my trans identity to be jammed and ground into one of the cisgender female and male identities. In addition to ending discrimination, I want real recognition. I need to state that I will continue to issue my demands and follow up on my current demands.

Lastly and most importantly, I hope we as LGBTI people can overcome this and other similar discrimination-based obstacles, which prevent us from receiving education and improving our condition, and that we can create safe environments to ourselves.“

“No one believes that there could be a Muslim, socialist, and homosexual woman.”

From bianet’s article series THE CHANGING JOURNEY OF THE STRUGGLES OF HIJAB​

“I attended the Pride marches or the marches on May 1st and the people who see me say ‘Look, she has come to support.’ They look at me not as an individual who takes part in this struggle but as a person who was recruited from among the conservatives and converted.”

Source: “No one believes that there could be a Muslim, socialist, and homosexual woman.” (“Müslüman, Sosyalist ve Eşcinsel Bir Kadının Varlığına Kimse İnanmıyor”) Büşra Cebeci, Bianet, February 10, 2018 http://bianet.org/bianet/toplumsal-cinsiyet/194033-musluman-sosyalist-ve-escinsel-bir-kadinin-varligina-kimse-inanmiyor

“When they realize that I can be a homosexual, they get puzzled. They look at me like saying ‘What do you mean?’ and get baffled. Then, they laugh after saying ‘You gotta be kidding me’. They don’t believe it; the fact that I am a ‘dyke’ or that I am a Muslim.”

We have witnessed throughout this Bianet interview series that there are difficulties for women to wear a hijab or take off the hijab. In this interview, we witness the things that a woman wearing hijab will suffer when she outgrows the norms of a “woman who wears hijab”.

A socialist and homosexual woman with hijab shares her story with us; telling us about the rage conservative society feels towards her because they see her as a deviant coming from within their society and about the fact that the dissident society see her as someone converted from the other side, not as truly one of them, she narrates her struggle to be a free individual despite all this.

When and how did you decide to wear hijab?

I can say that my wish to wear hijab consciously came when I was at around my 20s. In the past, I did not go outside the house without covering my head, because of the society and family that I live in and the habits that I’d had since childhood. I covered my head outside of the school hours. At that time, wearing hijab at school was not allowed and this was a good thing for me because I didn’t want to wear it as a matter of fact. I was wearing it due to the fear of hearing “the daughter of what’s-his-name wanders around without covering her head.”

I grew up in a society that thinks “girls don’t go to school;” so, I was already alienated because I was constantly reading and studying. To be honest, I did not even dare to take off the hijab. Wearing it for a while becomes like a habit, I think. Unless you choose to wear it consciously, wearing hijab is nothing more than a habit. Otherwise, despite the fact that you disobey all the other rules of the religion: tell lies, slander someone, gossip, break hearts, and fail to share your meal with hungry people, you think you will go to heaven because you are a true Muslim for wearing the hijab. Is that possible?

You don’t hide you are an LGBTI activist wearing hijab on social media. What are the reactions that you receive from that?

Actually, not only on social media, but I don’t like hiding it in real life as well. Even at my place of work, some of the people know my sexual orientation. The majority of them show “toleration” or think they are showing “toleration.” The thing we call “toleration” is in fact just an attitude of people thinking to himself or herself that they are superior. I don’t think I did something like committing a crime, which needs to be tolerated. There are so many people who claim they are LGBTI supporters but they are actually homophobic.

“Toleration” means tolerating something and I don’t do anything that wanders at the borders of a person’s toleration. Needless to say, I don’t need to be tolerated, I need to be equal with other people. On the other hand, there are some people who straightforwardly spill out hatred against me. There are some saying “even the breath you take is a sin.” Some even threaten me by saying “this slut is just confused, come and let me help you.”  Some try to lynch me. Basically, every LGBTI individual faces these kinds of sentiments. However, the situation gets carried into another dimension because I wear hijab. They see me as a deviant who was once a part of them and this is the point that they get angry about. They already attack LGBTI individuals. The fact that there is a religious person with hijab, someone who looks like them, among the LGBTI people whom they call “deviant” makes them much angrier. But there is not just one colour in this life. Unfortunately, those who don’t have rainbows inside of them don’t realize this.

What kinds of answers do you get from the people to whom you come out to about your sexual orientation?

They laugh at first. Then, when they realize this is real and they get puzzled. They look at me saying “What do you mean?” and get baffled.  Then they laugh, saying “You gotta be kidding me.” They don’t believe it; the fact that I am a “dyke” or that I am a “Muslim.” People look at me like I am telling them a joke. So, I let things slide. Instead of coming out to them, I wait for them to realize by themselves. When they do, they become distant anyway and almost all of them leave me. Except for a few, even my closest friends stay away from me and think they are protecting themselves from me.

A female friend of mine, whom I had hugged and kissed and who had never hesitated to have a close touch with me in the previous years, pushed my arms away when I was about to hug her a day after I came out to her; she has never come close to me since then. I was friends with this person for years, we were so close, and I always considered her like a sister to me.

Another characteristic of yours that many see as contrarian is your political orientation. How do people react when you define yourself as a socialist?

I don’t worry about the reactions now, but no one accepts me. In the past, I was a member of a revolutionary — left wing organization. I used to go to the establishments of this organization and they used to see me as a person who is interested in the subject a little, but confused and in a paradoxical situation. When I went to LGBTI establishments, they shut the door in my face after saying “it seems like you came to the wrong address”. They have started to get used to it recently, or at least I think they have. For example, I go to the Pride marches and the people who see me say “look, she has come to support us,” they don’t accept that I am one of them or they don’t even regard it as possible. I go to the marches on May 1st and I hear them saying “Look, sisters with hijab are with us, they seem like they don’t believe in the government in power.” They look at me not as an individual who takes part in the struggle but as a person who was recruited from among the conservatives and converted.

At the exits of subways or at the stations of ferries where socialist leaflets are distributed, when I reach to take one, they draw back. This is completely because of their prejudices. I am perceived as if I am supporting or as if I have to support the conservative government. No, the religion that is exploited for political gain is my religion and I don’t have to defend this exploitation. In short, no one believes or can believe that there could be a woman who is an LGBTI individual, a socialist, and a Muslim.

Why? Seeing all this in one person is considered a paradox. They say that I understand nothing, that I lie in order to get attention, or that I suffer from contradictions in terms. No, the first one is my sexual orientation, the other one is my political opinion, and the last one is my religion.

To me, the Quran is a book that each person interprets individually and they shape themselves according to that interpretation after reading it. In real life, everybody practices what s/he understands from the Quran. I think it is wrong to use it as a vehicle to impose something religious after interpreting it with personal opinions and I cannot accept this attitude. Believe me, I have heard so many things about myself. So, I just gave up listening to them and expressing myself to them. After all, everyone believes in the things that they have in their minds. My family ignores my political standing. Yes, they just ignore it, as if it doesn’t exist or as if I am a joke. All my family and relatives are extremely conservative and they often tell me “you have been brainwashed.”

Is there any women who suffer from the same problems and contact you? What would you like to tell them?

There are few, not many. Most of us are afraid and hide ourselves. We can even face death after all. A person whom you have never meet can stab you as you walk around the corner, kidnap you, rape you so that “you can come to your senses,” kill you or beat you. They do all these things just because you are different from them and prefer walking a different path.

No one steps up and do something about it, because this is Turkey and we, women, are creatures who are seen as a second- or third-class citizen or we don’t even belong to a class.

We are raised and governed by people who do not accept our existence. So, we need to never give up on ourselves and who we are. It is not just about resisting against them. It is also about resisting against ourselves.

We need to resist even against ourselves in order to never give up despite all of our fears, sufferings, scars, and alienation.

“We prioritise the topics society is sensitive about; therefore, we have cancelled the program”

After the Republican People’s Party (CHP) Beyoğlu Municipality Mayor Candidate Alper Taş mentioned “LGBTİ” during TV5’s program “the Matters in Question with Çağla Cilara”, the channel’s presenter was fired and the program was cancelled.

Source: “We prioritise the topics the society is sensitive about; therefore, we have cancelled the program” (Toplumsal hassasiyetleri önceleyeceğiz, programı yayından kaldırdık) Gözde Demirbilek, KaosGL, March 5, 2019

https://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=27754&fbclid=IwAR310VJiERp3wzaEwtY0fSnnrPSKEpuVC7hTLmi78tsUdvjrHAbI1xyK180

Çağlar Cilara hosted the Republican People’s Party (CHP) Beyoğlu Municipality Mayor Candidate Alper Taş on the program “the Matters in Question” which he presented on TV channel 5, a channel founded by Necmettin Erbakan. During the program, he asked Taş the questions of the audience. In the previous days, Alper Taş had been a guest on the program “Human Rights Agenda” which lawyer Veysel Ok presents, and Taş had stated there “we will establish LGBTİ assemblies”. This statement of his was a topic of the program “the Matters in Question” as well. When Cilara asked questions about LGBTİ issues, Taş answered as follows:

“I stand by my words. Our LGBTİ citizens are our people. The majority of them live in Beyoğlu. They suffer from intense pressure and cruelty due to their sexual orientations, preferences. We will ensure them to live as a human because they are human. Their sexual orientation, identities are none of our business. We won’t look at their identities, we won’t look at their sexual orientation. We will look at whether or not there are citizens living in Beyoğlu, whether or not they are human. Starting from this, I as the municipality mayor candidate will follow their problems and solve the problems they revealed via their own assemblies, in order to help them to live in Beyoğlu without suffering from cruelty and pressure. The people do not become the way they are by specifically and consciously preferring it, it is something natural.”

The program’s presenter Çağlar Cilara replied him by saying “Yes, they were born this way”.

“There is a huge rage towards them as if they are not humans, not beings, not a part of the society. As a result, our thoughts are the same today as they were yesterday and there is no contradiction. We stand by the words we expressed for LGBTİ people. We will not take a single step back from it”, added Taş.

TV5 cancelled the program

After the questions about LGBTİ individuals had been asked, TV5 stated “We prioritise the topics society is sensitive about as well as those which are in line with our moral values, so we will continue broadcasting unwaveringly hereof.” declaring that they had separated ways with Çağlar Cilara and the program has been cancelled:

“The opinions and thoughts stated by Beyoğlu Municipality Mayor Candidate Alper Taş who was a guest on the program the Matters in Question with Çağlar Cilara represented his ideas. None of them are reflective of TV5.”

“One of the basic broadcasting principles of TV5 is to consider topics society is sensitive about as well as our moral values. Despite knowing our loyalty to this fact, trying to present these statements as if they reflect the general broadcasting policy of TV5 lacks fairness, morality, and understanding. As a channel that broadcasts many programs live on each day of the week with the slogan “everyone having a word to say” and hosts several guests of every opinion, not every agenda should be brought up as if it reflects TV5’s broadcasting policy. This attitude is clearly a operation to manipulate people’s perception.”

“However, TV5’s broadcasting board decided to cancel this program in order to prevent these perception operations, attempted before the elections. TV5 will continue broadcasting unwaveringly hereof. In future, just like in past TV5 will prioritise topics which society is sensitive about as well as those in line with our moral values. We kindly declare this to the public.

“I will keep asking, do not worry”

Cilara shared TV5’s statement while stating “My adventure at TV5 is over. The journalists in Turkey are torn between political polarisation, conflict, and noise. I asked my question, presented the news. I presented more than 3 thousand programs within 8 years. More than 10 thousand news articles were written from my programs.  Do not worry, I will keep asking questions.”

In memory of Hande Şeker: The gender of transgender killings

Hande Şeker was killed in her house on 9th of January, 2019 by a cop who was there as her client.* Her housemate who is a trans woman as well was wounded by the same person. Despite some improvements in the language of the media since the 90s thanks to the struggles of the LGBTI+ movement, this murder which is clearly a hate killing was presented in the news with transphobic and misogynistic language.

Source: In memory of Hande Şeker: The gender of transgender killings (Hande Şeker’in ardından: Trans cinayetlerinin cinsiyeti) February 5, 2019 http://www.5harfliler.com/hande-sekerin-ardindan/

After Hande Şeker was killed, many newspapers and news websites shared her name presented in her ID card. This was done even though there is no public benefit in sharing it and her approval cannot be given because she was murdered. In addition papers when mentioning Hande Şeker, referred to her as a “transvestite” and “trans person”. “Transvestite who uses the nickname Hande Şeker” (Milliyet), “Hande Şeker codenamed transvestite” (Habertürk), “Trans person who uses the nickname Hande Şeker” (Sabah). All these news articles show how trans women are considered in the newsrooms. The journalists’ refusal to recognize trans women as women leads them to use a misogynistic and violent language.

The first message which was delivered via these news articles is that Hande is not Hande, often using the phrase “in reality”.  In other words, Hande Şeker, a woman who was murdered by a security officer of the government, is actually “fooling” us. Despite the fact that a trans woman lives, socialises, and works with a name she picked herself; this identity is just a “code name” for the media. Because mentioning Hande Şeker as Hande Şeker means recognizing the murdered person as a woman, normalising this fact, and not making it the centre of the news. However, this doesn’t suit the mainstream media which has traditionally made use of victims “being trans” to cause a stir.

First, they get a photograph of the victim from her social media account, which shows her beautiful face, probably taken by herself, and in which she looks in the way she wanted to look; and they put this photograph into the news article. And they write her name as Hande Şeker at the headlines. But then, they attach her name at the Identity card to the spotlight or under the photograph; the name which is coded with “maleness” and clearly not used by her. In this way, the message of “don’t believe in Hande” is delivered to the reader who was reading an article about femicide. So, it causes the readers to feel sympathy towards the transphobic killings’ culprits who testify before the court and to empathise with murderers who say “I thought she was a woman, but she is a man”. If the victim is a trans woman, questioning her “femaleness” in the news article is an additional strategy of the presentation. So, the focus of the news article is taken from the killing and the victim and transferred into the femaleness of the murdered woman, her background, the names and genders which are assigned to her without her will. The purpose is to confuse the mind of the reader who didn’t question the femaleness of the victim, to make them say “So, A is actually Y”, and to present “being a trans woman” as something horrible. Making them question the femaleness of Hande; ensuring the readers to watch their step by unearthing “this secret fact”. Otherwise, the readers may see the case in the shoes of the murdered woman instead of the man who entered her house and killed her; God forbid! They may see Hande as a woman, as she is; God forbid! They may forget questioning the femaleness of trans women for a moment; God forbid!

Cumhuriyet

Horror in İzmir… Cop shot trans people: 1 was killed

9th of January, 2019 Turkey

At the quarrel at an apartment in Konak District of İzmir, trans person Hande Şeker died and 2 people were wounded by the bullets of the gun of police officer A.D.

The incident occurred on the second floor of a 4 floored apartment in the Alsancak Neighbourhood today around at 06:30. Hande Şeker and second-hand phone seller A.T.K. who is reported to have gone to her house in order to have sex with her for money had a quarrel. According to the claims, police officer A.D. (23), who was allegedly outside of the building and on his off day, entered into the house as thinking that the trans people were attacking to his friend A.T.K., then he pulled out his gun and shot up one after another. 2 bullets hit Hande Şeker; her friend Y.A. who is a trans woman too and A.T.K. were wounded.

Taking this news article into consideration, the press working outside of the mainstream media still haven’t internalised the practice of writing trans-friendly news and haven’t thought about it enough. Nil who was wounded in the same incident, was only presented as Nil in the news article of Kaos GL; however, at several different sources, her name in her Identity card was stated fully or partially; or initials were used by some other sources. The point which led us to think about the lack of the practice is that even a newspaper such as Evrensel which is usually attentive to this point and usually cites news from Kaos already used the initials of Nil’s name from the identity card after presenting her as Nil first. The reason for it is probably because some of the journalists are attentive about it while the others are extremely careless when benefiting from different sources. For instance, Gazete Duvar and Gazete Karınca mentioned Nil with the initials of her name from her identity card, while Birgün did a good job and chose to mention about her as N with the first letter of her name, not her name from the identity card.

Hürriyet

News from Konak: Police officer killed a trans person and wounded 2 people in İzmir

Police officer killed a trans person and wounded 2 people in İzmir

Halil İbrahim KARABIYIK-Davut CAN/İZMİR, (DHA)- The quarrel occurred at an apartment in Konak District of İZMİR, trans person died and 2 people were wounded by the bullets from the gun of police officer A.D.

The incident occurred on the second floor of a 4 floored apartment in Alsancak Neighbourhood, 1468 Street today around at 06:30. The trans person who uses the code name of “Hande Şeker” and second-hand phone seller A.T.K. who claimed to have gone to her house in order to have sex with her for money had a quarrel. Meanwhile, police officer A.D. (23) who is reported to have been outside of the building and on his off day.

Milliyet

09.01.2019

Horror in İzmir during the early hours of the day!

Shot by the gun, Hande is dead and 2 people are wounded

After the quarrel at an apartment in the Alsancak Neighbourhood of the Konak District in İzmir, Hande Şeker died and 2 people were wounded, after being shot with a gun by police officer A.D. who was not on duty, according to claims.

The incident occurred on the second floor of a 4 floored building in Alsancak today around 06.30. The transvestite who uses the code name of “Hande Şeker” had a quarrel with A.T.K. who allegedly went to her house in order to have sex with her.

Using the word transvestite, which was an indispensable part of presenting this news until quite recently and has only slightly diminished (I say “slightly” because it appears that news articles are often written as if we are still the 90s, depending on the channel and journalist), is heavily connected with the tradition of writing “transvestite terror” in the history of Turkish media. By typing “transvestite horror” in your search engine, you can view the language of the current news articles; the same language in these articles continues appearing with the word “horror” which is a replacement for the word “terror”. The media’s intention to omit the womanhood of the trans women from the news articles is highly rooted in this sense. On the other hand, using “trans person” as a tool to “sterilise” Hande Şeker and all trans women from their womanhood is the new method of the trans-misogynistic news language.

Since we are threatened with death and forced to accept having malaria, some people expect us to see that choosing the words “trans person” instead of “transvestite” is an improvement. However, these people are women. Moreover, they are women who are subjected to the violence of men and were murdered by men. These news articles are not about different identities which are outside of the binary gender system, nor about trans men. They are specifically about the trans women killings. But the journalists or editors are clearly not willing to write the word “woman” and they grab the word “person” which is apparently perceived as more hygienic and neutral by them. For those who are more or less aware of the wrong in the subtle meaning of the word “transvestite” but are not willing to present trans women as women, “trans person” is a new lifesaver. Have you ever read something like “cis person” in a news article? If you read this, is it possible to understand the gender of that person? However, just like all other femicides, Hande Şeker’s killing is connected with her gender which news articles deliberately tried to separated from the case.

Mitch Kellaway, a trans male editor researched the trans killings presented in the news mostly in USA and Brazil in 2015 and realized that the ratio of trans female victims to the number of trans male victims is approximately 200 to 1. Despite the fact that there isn’t any similar research for Turkey, it is possible to see from the news and in real life that trans women, especially those who work as a sex worker, are so vulnerable to violence.

Trans killings are a serious gender-based topic; moreover, eliminating their gender in the news articles about trans women killings is not only causing a will-breaking intervention to their existence but also objectifying them and pushing them to a distance where readers are unable to sympathise, by vanishing their identity. Additionally, eliminating femaleness from the readers’ eyes by using the name at the identity card many times is the news’ tactic to make the readers see the case in the shoes of the culprits of violence and therefore to cause an empathy towards these culprits. So, when writing these news articles, it is important to emphasise that victims and killings should not be eliminated from their gender, trans-misogynistic acts should not be separated from the picture, and many power dynamics among genders, which enable each of them to live, are important.

*Translator’s note: Hande Şeker was working as a sex worker. Read more about her in this Pembe Hayat article.

Illustration by Yayoi Kusama

Second expulsion for police officer Osman: It hurts…

Osman was fired from his job as a police officer, filed a claim against it, and won the case. However, the Council of State overturned this decision after he had worked as a police officer for 3 another years. “I took the exam with the people whom I had been drafted together at the same time; then I won the exam, met the requirements for the state of health, and became a police officer in this country. I don’t ask for a favour, I want my right.” said the police officer. Osman is bound and determined to fight in order to resume his job.

Source: Second expulsion for police officer Osman: It hurts… (Polis Osman’a ikinci ihraç: İnsanı yaralıyor…) Çiçek Tahaoğlu, Gazete Duvar, February 20, 2019, https://www.gazeteduvar.com.tr/turkiye/2019/02/20/polis-osmana-ikinci-ihrac-insani-yaraliyor/


DUVAR – Osman, whose real name is hidden by us upon his request, is one of the police officers who were expelled from their jobs due to homosexuality in Turkey. Years ago, his sexual orientation was found out as a result of unlawful wiretaps and he was referred to a disciplinary committee after being interrogated at midnight under insults and cuss words. Then, he was expelled from his job by the Ministry of Interior in 2013 due to his sexual orientation, after being told that “he had committed a disgraceful offence.”

Police officer Osman who did not accept the definition of this offence, filed a lawsuit at the Administrative Court in order to stop the execution of the decision regarding the expulsion and won the case. He was working as a police officer for the last 3 years; however, the Council of State reversed the district court’s decision by referring to the Article of the Law on Public Officers “doing something ungraceful and shameful at a degree which cannot be proper while holding a public officer title (Article 125/E-g of the Law no.657)”.  At the decision of the Council of State, it was also stated that the previous statement of police officer Osman “has the characteristics of a sincere confession” and his behavior is not proper for a public officer.

BY THE DECREE LAW NO.682, HOMOSEXUALITY IS BANNED FOR SECURITY, GENDARMERIE, AND COAST GUARD OFFICERS

Lawyer Fırat Söyle, who commented on the decision, highlighted that there is not a clear nor implicit statement referring to homosexuality in the Law on Public Officers and said that “despite the fact that offences as stealing, bribery etc are disgraceful offences, the administrators are trying to define homosexuality as a part of this category and work accordingly.”

Stating that police officer Osman had been expelled before the state of emergency after the July 15th coup attempt and the legal procedure had been conducted according to the Law on Police Officers. Osman’s lawyer, Söyle said that as a result of the Decree-Law no.682 which was published in January 2017, a “homosexuality ban” was put on all Security, Gendarmerie, and Coastguard Officers. As a consequence Söyle made a claim to cancel this ban: “Until now, only the Military Penal Code has had a  statement as ‘unnatural intercourse with a person’, but this statement has been expanded by including all the Security, Gendarmerie, and Coastguard personnel. After this Decree-Law became a Law, homosexuality was put into a definition as ‘unnatural situation’. Now, homosexual people are punished and dismissed from their jobs, and the personnel who are expelled from Security General Directorate, Gendarmerie General Command, or Coast Guard Command are not employed at other state institutions / establishments. We made a claim to the Constitutional Court on the grounds that this Article (8/6-cc of Law no.7068) is contrary to Articles 2, 10, 13, and 20 of the Constitution and Articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

Now, Osman started the legal struggle in order to resume his job for the second time. With his lawyers, he requested the revision of the decision from the Council of State. The decision will be made within the coming days.  When we met for this interview, Osman said that “I am announcing to the public the cruelty that I have faced, the rest depends on the opinion of the people.” After indicating that his performance grades are high, he has a report stating “there is no inconvenience for him to work as a police officer”, and those who started the disciplinary proceeding about him and decided his expulsion in 2013 are under arrest now due to accusations as being involved in FETÖ (Fetullahçı Terör Örgütü – Fetullahist Terrorist Organisation), he added “Why cannot the people who love their country and nation work at the public institutions just because of their sexual orientations? I hope they will correct their mistake soon and allow me to resume my job which I love a lot.”

Now, let’s hear Osman’s words.

When and how did you hear that you were expelled?

A couple of months ago, I went to my job. We have a system called the Personnel Information System. I entered into this system, saw that I was expelled from my job as a result of a court decision, and was devastated.

Can you tell us about the job you had after winning the first reemployment case?

I was working with a team in the field. You know, we get police announcements, go to the location, solve the problem of citizens, and continue our duty again. I was working in İstanbul. I had a really nice work environment. I was getting along with my co-workers. I was the team leader.

Did the other officers at the police station know that you were reemployed after being expelled?

They knew it, but they didn’t know the reason for the expulsion. They were saying with puzzled eyes that “how come this could happen to a person like you?” Then, I mean, a couple of months ago, my co-workers called me when I was expelled again and they told me that “We are always here for you. You are always our team leader. We live in the 2000s and it is so cruel that a person is expelled because of a reason like this.”

So, they heard about the reason for the expulsion this time, didn’t they?

Yes, they heard the reason, as well. Someone told them at the police station.

You hid your sexual orientation at the police station where you started working after being expelled the first time. When you were expelled for the second time, it led you to come out to your co-workers, didn’t it?

Yes. After hearing the decision, they called and told me that they wanted to gather some money from among themselves and send it to me, and they wanted to meet with me. They did their best for me, to make me feel that I am not alone. I still meet with them, all of them are waiting for a positive decision to be given and for me to continue working with them. Moreover, a friend of mine told me that “I just got married. If my child in the future is a homosexual and wants to be a soldier or police officer, they cannot work in these jobs, can they?”

It seems the things you have faced have changed the police officers at the police station you worked.

Yes. I mean, the world has changed now, so we need to keep up with the changes. They see us as immoral people. Whose morals are these, what are they?

How does sexual orientation affect the job as a police officer?

It doesn’t affect it. Let me explain it like this: We are given performance grades annually at the end of each year. During the three years that I worked after gaining my right to be re-employed, the grades that I received was “excellent” which is the highest. You can see from this whether or not I let my sexual orientation be involved in my job. Actually, there is nothing to be involved, we are not from the outer space. We are the people of this country, too; we love our homeland and the people of our country. I wore that uniform with pride and I will again. I will win this case, too.

When we met 5 years and a half ago, when you were expelled the first time, you were so determined and won the case. What did you do till the time the re-employment decision was made? How did you pay your living expenses?

I worked. I found some jobs in the private sector. I stood on my own feet. There is always bread for a person who works. Each of us has just one stomach to fill.

You seem to love your job a lot. Have you always wanted to be a police officer?

I like helping people. I have always been a solution-oriented person. Who asks for help from a police officer? People who have trouble. I have been working as a police officer since I was 20. To me, the importance of solving a person’s problem and seeing the happiness on their face cannot be compared with anything.

How does being expelled from a job you work with passion feel like?

I can’t accept it, sometimes I can’t sleep because I am thinking about it. Because I’m in a situation that cannot really be accepted. The state makes me othered. I wish there was a machine which could compare my devotion to our country and my work ethic with those of the people who made this decision about me. Am I clear?

But you cannot work at the job you love because of a discriminatory law which bans homosexual people.

Yes, I have been exposed to discrimination, I have been unjustly treated, but I was on the streets during the night of the 15th of July for my country. If it were today, I would do the same. There was a coup attempt. I went out to protect our country and republic on that night, as every citizen should do.

Were you working as a police officer during it?

Yes. We received a message from the communication office, saying “go to the units you are located”. And I went to the closest police station, then I came to Vatan. We had a one-on-one fight that night. Why can’t people who love their homeland and nation in this country work in public institutions just because of their sexual orientation? Recently we see in the news cases of bribery, rape in a police car, police officers who cooperate with drug dealers. I didn’t do any of this. I just acted with my human feelings, I liked a person and I was judged because of it. President Erdoğan said yesterday that all citizens live their rights and freedoms in the broadest sense and that no one has the authority to intervene.

Now, you are fighting against the expulsion from the job the second time. How does it feel?

It hurts because I love my job a lot. I am always ready to die for this country. I do not have another homeland to go. I took the exam with the people whom I had been drafted together at the same time; then I passed the exam, met the requirements for the state of health, and became a police officer in this country. However, I face discrimination now, despite the principle of equality at the Constitution. If there was a situation preventing me from being able to work as a police officer, then I would say OK. But I went to Bakirköy Psychiatric Hospital twice and I got the report stating “there is no inconvenience for him to work as a police officer” on both times. I have excellent performance grades, but you see the decision of the court. I am tired of being a victim from this sort of thing. Can they destroy me? No, they cannot, I am a strong guy.

The Osman I met 5 years ago was different. Now, I see a self-confident, fighter, resistant Osman. Do you feel the same?


If the things you face make you stronger, that means you are on the right path. One of the reasons for this interview is that: Yes, we are a couple of people; however, there is a quote from His Holiness Umar “if there is nothing you can do against cruelty, announce it to the people.” I made it my priority. I am announcing to the public the cruelty that I have faced, the rest depends on the opinion of the people. I hope they will correct their mistake soon and allow me to resume my job which I love a lot. Actually, this is not asking a favour, I will not die until I get my right back.

During the first time you were expelled, you didn’t have any relation with activism nor the civil society. But in the meanwhile you met with LGBTI organisations. Can we say that this period made you an activist?

Yes, I realized the importance of organisations. Two heads are better than one. Maybe it seems like I am fighting alone, but there are lots of activist people who support me.

Before 2013, I mean, before the first expulsion, did you as a police officer have any prejudice against activists?

Police officers and activist people generally stand on opposite sides. But you stand at some kind of junction. It is correct, if you are a police officer, you have to obey the orders when a superior gives them, as long as these orders comply with the laws.

Orders may not always comply with the laws. I couldn’t go on without saying this when I find a police officer who answers my questions.

Then, you ask for a written order and fulfil the duty. No unlawful order can be given. If so, it is not fulfilled.

Regarding the topic, we can understand from their glances and body languages that police officers dislike or even hate activists and journalists.

Yes, because we have become polarised.

The thing that I am trying to understand here is that, did your thoughts about civil society and social movements change during your fight after the expulsion?

They definitely changed. I look at the case now as a human being. Nationality, gender, sexual orientation, etc are not really important. A person is a human being. Now, I don’t have any relation with politics, I stand apolitical.  

 

Court nullified the termination of a contract due to a “homosexual relationship”

Source: “Court nullified the termination of a contract due to a “homosexual relationship” (Mahkeme “eşcinsel ilişki” gerekçesiyle sözleşme feshini iptal etti) Kaos GL, 30 January 2019, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=27479

The 34th Labor Court of İstanbul enforced the re-employment of R.S. whom Kağıthane Municipality fired without any severance pay upon discovery of a “homosexual relationship”.

The lawsuit filed against Kağıthane Municipality by garbage truck driver R.S. whom the Municipality fired without severance pay as a consequence of being in a “homosexual relationship” has been concluded. The court accepted the re-employment lawsuit of R.S. and nullified the termination of the contract.

According to the news piece by Dinçer Gökçe from the newspaper Hürriyet, the lawsuit was heard at the 34th Labor Court of İstanbul, where R.S.’s lawyer Mehmet Benan Ülgen demanded that the re-employment lawsuit be accepted, and stated that his client had no grounds to be fired.

Kağıthane Municipality’s lawyer Nebi Karaca stated as the defense that the lawsuit was not filed within the trial time limit and asserted that “we have rightful and valid reasons for the termination”.

After hearing the claims of both parties, the court decided to accept the lawsuit and invalidated the termination of the employment contract. As a result of this decision, R.S. can go back to their job.

The lawsuit of the other garbage truck driver A.S. who also filed a lawsuit will be heard in February.

What happened?

In July, the newspaper Hürriyet published the news with the headline “the homosexual relationship of garbage truck drivers caused trouble in the Municipality” and announced that the Municipality “fired 3 garbage truck drivers for having intercourse with the garbage collector laborer who works with them”. The newspaper used a discriminatory language regarding the violation against the right of privacy and the right to work.

Kağıthane Municipality said to the newspaper that the event which it describes as “improper” didn’t take place during the work hours and “as a result of the internal investigation carried out at once, the required procedure was conducted and the relevant people was fired immediately”.

The newspaper published these events as news and stated that “Kağıthane Municipality is shaken by the news of a homosexual relationship between 4 laborers who work in garbage collection for the district.”

President of the Council of Higher Education of Turkey: “The notion of gender does not fit our social values.”

“[The notion of gender] clashes with our social values and approvals”– president of CoHE Turkey, Yekta Saraç.

Source: President of the Council of Higher Education of Turkey: “The notion of gender does not fit our social values.” (YÖK Başkanı: “Toplumsal cinsiyet kavramı toplumsal değerlerimize uygun değil.”) Yolculuk, 17 February 2019 https://gazeteyolculuk.net/yok-baskani-toplumsal-cinsiyet-kavrami-toplumsal-degerlerimize-uygun-degil

The project for Gender Equality, which was sent as the Approach Document* issued to universities by the Council of Higher Education of Turkey (CoHE), has been waived. During his press statement regarding the issue, the President of the CoHE Yekta Saraç stated that “[The notion of gender] clashes with our social values and approvals.”

While the murder case of Özgecan Aslan was still in the headlines, Saraç stressed that the Approach Document was issued and sent to the universities and that it is within the scope of the international agreements for which Turkey is a party. Saraç asserted “the main principles of this document contain points as what can be done regarding the violence and harassment towards women in the Institutions of Higher Education (posters, seminars, conferences, handbooks) and how a safe environment can be achieved in university campuses (transportation control, night lights, increasing the number of dormitories for women, providing relevant education/training to the security and transportation personnel), as well as preparing and providing a compulsory or elective course in this context.”

“[The notion of gender] clashes with our social values and approvals”
During the press statement, Saraç stated “since the Approach Document was issued in 2015, all these actions will be carried out in order to prevent all kinds of inequality and injustice as stated under the term of Gender Equality. However, today it appears that different meanings other than desired have been attributed to the notion of Gender Equality and there is need to consider the fact that these ideas clash with our social values and approvals and they are not accepted by society. In parallel to this, the CoHE have been working for a while in order to make the necessary changes to the Approach Document. As of today, the work regarding updating the Approach Document by removing the notion of ‘gender equality’ from it has reached the final stage and will be announced to our universities soon.”

Saraç added “In this manner, it is required to pay attention to the curricula for women’s studies courses in our universities which should be determined with the understanding of ‘Women’s Studies Based on Justice’, rather than ‘Gender Equality’ and Turkish society’s esteemed values, particularly the notion of family, should be highlighted in the current courses, seminars, and conferences.”

 

  • Translators note: This document was issued within the scope of the international agreements (CEDAW and Istanbul Convention) and the relevant Articles of the Turkish Constitution. According to the document, the Council of Higher Education promises to act as being aware of gender equality and lists the actions to be carried out in the universities and institutions in order to prevent gender inequality and injustice.