Welcome to the Fag Case

Source: Karin Karakaşlı, “İbne Davasına Buyrun,” (“Welcome to the Fag Case”), Radikal 2, 09 March 2014, http://www.radikal.com.tr/radikal2/ibne_davasina_buyrun-1180089

The next hearing will take place on 25 March 2014.

Prime Minister Erdoğan has raised an official complaint against LGBT activist and HDP (People’s Democratic Party) Beyoğlu District President Levent Pişkin. The first trial of the court case will take place at the Çağlayan Courthouse on March 13 (Thursday) at 9 AM.

Topkapı? Dolmabahçe? The most respected palace for me is the Çağlayan Palace of Justice. I have visited Çağlayan more times than I have the others. And what about that magnificent C Gate with its vast, cold and windy square? There are no words to describe it. But I shall try. Because once again, it looks like we, the impure, are headed for the Palace of Justice.

We are an idiosyncratic crowd. I mean, we might not resemble a festive, charmingly bewildered and careless tourist fleet but we have gathered enough visibility to deserve our own description. You will recognize us from our troubled faces. There are bags under our eyes but our eyes are always bright. We owe that brightness and the tension in our souls to the consistency of the state. We usually carry a number of different banners. We scream for whichever soul has been wronged most recently and we make it our own struggle to achieve justice that never seems to manifest in the courts.

Now, we have a new object of struggle. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan raised an official complaint against LGBTI activist and HDP (People’s Democratic Party) Beyoğlu District President Levent Pişkin. The first trial of the court case will take place at the Çağlayan Courthouse 18th Criminal Court of Peace on March 13 (Thursday) at 9 AM.

The Levent of the Impures 

The PM accuses Levent of defamation through the media. Every single day we listen to the most recent voice recording to be reminded of how much they have made a fool of us. We are appalled to witness the endless gang-like formations in the state in relation to some astonishing parallel entity. We are referred to as terrorists in every mention of Gezi. And we are mocked when we try to express our concerns over the social issues that hurt us. But, whatever, none of this is important. All that matters are the rights of those in power.

Anyway, let us see what Levent Pişkin, one of the impure among us, has done. After the Prime Minister’s declaration stating, “If Alevism is to love Prophet Ali then I am a perfect Alevi,” Pişkin tweeted the following: “I am waiting for Erdoğan to say ‘I am a perfect fag, it is not as if we will learn from you how to be a fag.’ Kisses. #LGBTintheConstitution (#AnayasadaLGBT).” Now, remember those days. It was almost as if they had declared a national mobilization against including clauses about sexual orientation or gender identity in the constitution. It is precisely because of these rights breaches, and because of the binary heteronormative status quo, that dictates what is moral and what is immoral from primary school onwards, that many homosexuals, trans people and women are victims of honor/hate killings. And the murderers are rewarded by unjustly accusing the victims of provocation.

LGBTI activist Levent’s message is crystal clear against this backdrop. He is using black humor to criticize a political attitude, which claims to know everything better – even better than the victims themselves, as well as the relationship of domination that results from such an attitude. Oh, but that word: “fag.” That word is everyone’s sensitive spot.

We are used to hearing the chant “the ref is a faggot” at every football game. It was Halil İbrahim Dinçdağ who was able to disrupt such learned behavior by coming out as homosexual and fighting for his breached rights of employment. Despite the many pressures at play at the Pride Parade after Gezi, the march was multilayered, incredibly well attended and full of banners saying, “What if we are Fags?” In his defense statement, Levent Pişkin states that the word “fag” is not an insult but an expression of sexual orientation. Based on this point, he countersued the PM for labeling his sexual orientation an “insult.”

We are behind this case

LGBTI organizations and many independent LGBTI activists claimed this case by signing a press declaration that included the following: “Homosexuality or ‘fagness’ is not a disease, not a sin nor an insult. Homosexuality is a form of existence just like heterosexuality. Fighting for LGBTI rights is to fight for human rights. We cannot accept how the Prime Minister perceives of the word ‘fag’ as an insult, how he continually ignores LGBTI people whose existence is discounted and who are deprived of the right to life and, in doing so, targets an LGBTI activist friend of ours. We hereby announce to the Prime Minister that the case against Levent Pişkin has been opened against all of us and we all consider ourselves a direct party in this court case.”

That state of being directly implicated in this court case obviously involves something larger than the LGBTI movement. It includes everyone who fights for a free society where identity rights are under constitutional protection by the pillar of equal citizenship. That is the reason why this time, everybody will cheer, “We are all faggots and we are behind this case” on March 13 at 8:30 AM at the Çağlayan Courthouse, attending the press statement and the following trial.

The situation is grave. The state is testing our patience with extremely infrequent releases in the KCK cases and exhausting our lives with unsolved murders. The state still has the prerogative to destroy. Amidst these conditions, we, on the other hand, have a relentless struggle to exist. Long live Levent with your name and may you see the best of days. When he was asked for a statement, he noted to following staying true to his name: “The state of being a fag does not refer to an insult or a behavior, it expresses a state of being. In other words, ‘fag’ (ibne) is the Ottoman term for homosexual. For example, in Ferit Develioğlu’s Ottoman-Turkish dictionary, the ninth interpretation of the name ‘Levent’ is ‘fag.’ The first interpretation is “Ottoman marine.” The reason why the ninth interpretation is ‘fag’ is because of the frequency of homosexual relationships between those marines referred to in the first meaning.”

It is this bright and shining form of existence that they keep on trying to hunt down and destroy. At the end, what we are left with is our unyielding commitment and Edip Cansever’s lovely poem:

Just how a game cannot but be that game

And how a word cannot but be that word

And how a thing cannot but be that thing

Just like that, almost reaching happiness

What can we be but humans?

What can we be but humans?

No matter if you do not understand us

Right, your understanding does not matter

Oh, it does not matter if you do not understand us

Does not matter at all

We will live on happily with our songs, poems, loves, struggles, laughter and tears

Despite the enemy as well!

Translator’s Note

*The Turkish term ibne is originally derived from the Arabic word “boy” and is widely used today as a derogatory slang for gay men. The Turkish Language Institute Dictionary defines ibne as “a passive homosexual man” and “a word said in anger.”  The term is being reclaimed by many in the LGBTI movement in Turkey. The court case of Levent Pişkin can be seen as a critical instance of such reclamation.  In this sense, ibne’s current connotations lie somewhere between the American English terms “fag” and “queer.”

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