The Military and the ‘Gays’

Source: Mehveş Evin, “Askerlik ve ‘gay’ler,” (The Military and the ‘Gays’,”) Milliyet, 17 November 2010,

When it comes to the “headscarf” debates, the words “fundamental rights” and “freedoms” are flying around. Well, what about the rights of those who are discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation?

If Der Spiegel had not reported on the issue, it would have continued to be an urban legend. The German magazine ran the headline “Porn for the General” and reported that homosexual men are asked to present documents along with photos and videos to the Turkish military as proof of their sexuality in order to be approved for exemption from service. The news have entered mainstream Turkish press, while the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) have denied it. Thus, the TSK, for the first time in its history, has delivered an opinion on homosexuality.

While the TSK filed a complaint against the German magazine (Der Spiegel) with the German Press Council, the Turkish press ran headlines such as “The TSK has the biggest porn archive.” In the meantime, it was revealed that a report from the EU Commission mentioned that the TSK considers homosexuality as an illness and that non-governmental organizations had already been making noise about the use of photographic documentation.

I found the original copy of the news story released in Der Spiegel. There are two anonymous sources, along with another named witness who tell their stories explicitly. In addition, Lambdaistanbul, lawyers, and another unidentified psychiatrist gave their opinions on the issue.

Is this a one-sided analysis?

It is interesting that despite these sources, newsmakers in Turkey made comments about the report’s “one-sided analysis” and “judgmental comments on homosexuality in Turkey.” Regardless, its seems anyone critical is perceived as the enemy of the state in Turkey. The eye-catching points regarding the news are:

  • The news in Der Spiegel does not only criticize the TSK. It stated that “This story is unbecoming of the 21st century and of Turkey, a country which is attempting to become a member of the EU… It is a story which makes us question once more Erdogan’s conservative government and its attitudes towards homosexuality.”
  • The TSK has been greatly peeved by the use of the words “top ranks” and “porn” in the same sentence. However, they were mute regarding the actual focus of the news piece, that is, the TSK’s view that homosexuality is an illness.
  • It has long been rumored that homosexual men are asked to present explicitly sexual documents such as photos and videos as proof of their sexuality, but The TSK has never responded, sticking to their “do not let it out of this room” policy. That is, at least until it was published in the German press.
  • Another passed-over detail is that there is great risk for those who manage to win exemption from mandatory service by virtue of the diagnosis of “sexual disorder;” such individuals are often unable to apply for certain jobs due to the bias surrounding such status. On the other hand, the horror stories about homosexual men who hide the truth and serve in the army are plenty.
  • The only person in the report who revealed his name is one Mehmet Tarhan. Tarhan does not hide his Kurdish or homosexual identity, choosing to become a conscientious objector as well as to unveil his sexual orientation. The TSK brought charges against him as a draft dodger and asked for four years of imprisonment. Tarhan was sentenced to one year. Currently, his name is one of the most symbolic for conscientious objection in Turkey. However, the Turkish press has also quite conveniently ignored him and his story.

Fundamental Rights?

Just for a moment, let’s contradict the stories of the aforementioned witnesses. Let’s assume the TSK doesn’t actually ask supposedly homosexual men to present compromising and humiliating photographs and that all these stories are a bunch of lies. Even so, we cannot deny that the Turkish state has serious problems with its stance on homosexuality. We still remember what the Minister of Family commented on homosexuality. Like it or not, the German journalist is right about the criticism. Turkey is still a country where people are denigrated, labelled for life, broken. So with the media abuzz with questions about “fundamental rights”, like the controversy over “headscarves” and so on… why can’t we discuss an issue as important as points of view regarding something so “fundamental”?


A.A. tells his story in KAOS-GL about the report which he got with the “D/17 F4” code;

  • I also got this report many years ago, I wish I had not! Do not look only on the bright side. The suffering till you get the report is one story and the suffering you experience after you get the report is another.
  • I am not an effeminate person. I could have completed my military service without revealing my sexual orientation. However, the environment within the military made me believe that I could not do that.
  • I went through the same process; 15 days of anal examinations at the psychiatric department, photos taken during intercourse, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, and the certificate of discharge on grounds of disability is now in my hands.
  • The real story starts from here. A man who found himself at the Syrian border with the report in hand and a piece of paper which you will deal with your whole life. A new job? Apply to a factory? Pray to God they will not ask for your discharge papers.

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