‘Marginal’ debate in the Peoples’ Democratic Party and the LGBTI community

Source: Barış Avşar, “HDP’de ‘marjinal’ tartışması: LGBTİ zaten hiç sorgusuz sualsiz kabul edilmedi ki”, (“‘Marginal’ debate in the Peoples’ Democratic Party: as a matter of fact, the LGBTI community has never been implicitly, unquestioningly accepted”), Radikal, 26 August 2014, http://www.radikal.com.tr/politika/hdpde_marjinal_tartismasi_lgbti_zaten_hic_sorgusuz_sualsiz_kabul_edilmedi_ki-1209120

‘The debate about the Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) avoidance of marginalized persons’ continues with evaluations from well-known names such as Member of Parliament Ertuğrul Kürkçü, after statements made by Cemil Bayık, leader of the the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. Party member and LGBTI activist Mehmet Tarhan, however, draws attention to a ‘mishap’ in the debate.

After the interview that PKK leader Cemil Bayık gave to Vatan newspaper writer Ruşen Çakır last week, the most salient statement [he made] referring to the HDP was, “It could become Turkey’s greatest opposition force. It needs to avoid certain marginal political positions. For instance, there is a group in Beyoğlu… I do not wish to give their name. In any case, people know who I mean.”

Following this statement, it has been alleged, especially in social media, that the group referred to is the LGBTI movement within the party. Ertuğrul Kürkçü, one of the founding leaders of the party and deputy for Mersin, has made comments on the matter, stating that the HDP should not be engaged in efforts to distance itself from marginal political positions.

We asked Mehmet Tarhan, one of the HDP’s LGBTI activists, what his thoughts about the debate were.

How do you assess the fact that such a debate has made it to the top of the agenda?

First of all, one needs to ask what the issue is, because from the point of view of the LGBTI movement, the point in question has never been ‘being accepted without question.’ The HDP is a party that came into being as a result of the efforts of various opposition movements to form a more effective opposition. Various conflicts are bound to occur in any party that consists of such diverse segments.  We are no exception to this. That controversy could be related to both class and ethnicity…

Could the point in question be an approach where the HDP, as a ‘union of oppositions,’ will, at certain periods, in a tactical sense, give prominence to some of these; as, for example, when a struggle is taking place against ISIL, LGBTI demands will be held back?

The LGBTI movement naturally developed in big cities, but from the nineties even up to this point it has had a relationship with the Kurdish movement. Nevertheless, it is natural to encounter difficulties. Within the Kurdish movement, even the women’s movement encountered resistance as it was gaining strength. Moreover, yes: from time to time, certain political alliances come to the fore. On the other hand, the LGBTI movement is not interested solely on LGBTI rights demands. The demands of other identities, and of those who are oppressed because of [sic] these identities, have been, and will continue to be, on our agenda as well.

In that case, in your view, how should a debate like this be conducted?

These debates should certainly be carried on within the party, and they should be followed by the party members as well. But while the debate is going on, one must not ignore the party’s official position and statements with regard to the LGBT issue [sic], as happened in this latest mishap. When I say mishap, I am referring not to Cemil Bayık’s statement, but to what was subsequently expressed in the course of the debates taking place on Twitter.

 

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