Who will defend the LGBT organization in Kurdistan?

Source: Müjde Tozbey Erden, “Kürdistan’da LGBT derneğini kim savunacak?” (“Who will defend the LGBT organization in Kurdistan?”) Sol Portal, 19 September 2014, http://haber.sol.org.tr/yazarlar/mujde-tozbey-erden/kurdistanda-lgbt-dernegini-kim-savunacak-97415

[The Van Attorney General’s Office has moved to disband the Van Youth and Ecology Association (Van Gençlik ve Ekoloji Derneği) on the grounds that the Association’s bylaw to “support sexual orientation” is against morality as determined by the Article 56 of the Turkish Civil Code.]

[Update: The court has ruled that it is not “contrary to morality” for Ekogenç to be active in the area of sexual orientation.]

You might have heard of the establishment of the Van Youth and Ecology Association [Van Gençlik ve Ekoloji Derneği] in our region. “What does this Association do?” you may have asked. The association works on several matters, but one of its primary goals is to lend support to individuals regarding their sexual orientations.

According to Article 2 of the Association’s code, “The Association may form alliances with, become a member of, work in solidarity with, and provide financial and moral support to local, national, and international and cultural and academic associations and/or associations working in the fields of women, refugee, asylum seeker, ecology, humanity, youth, children, sexual orientation as it sees fit by following relevant legal procedures.” [sic] Under the “Activities” heading, the code states that “The Association pursues activities in the fields of life, organic agriculture, climate change, rural development, education, culture, social politics, art, gender, discrimination, poverty, refugee, asylum-seeker, youth, children, the disabled, sexual orientation.” [sic]

The issue begins right there; the Van Attorney General’s Office has brought in a case for the annulment of the Association on the basis that the Association’s bylaw to “support sexual orientation” is against morality as stated in Article 56[1] of the Turkish Civil Code.

This case has failed to catch the attention of the media and the public opinion. This might stem from insensitivity towards LGBT rights and efforts to work towards them. Nevertheless, this case is being taken seriously by a “marginal”[2] section of the people in our region. The space in which they can organise themselves is under threat.

The concept of “sexual orientation” that is in the association’s code refers to a certain form of diversity. According to scientific findings, there is no single sexual orientation. The concept of sexual orientation incorporates multiple orientations (heterosexuality, homosexuality, asexuality, and so on). As such, to attribute this only to homosexuality can only be described by homophobia. Let’s move on since this is not surprising. Of course they cannot stop the establishment of the association. Legal precedents in our country clearly demonstrate that the code is neither against law nor life [sic].

For instance, when the City Associations Directorate of the Ankara Governorship [Ankara Valiliği İl Dernekler Müdürlüğü] requested the annulment of the Kaos Gay and Lesbian Cultural Studies and Solidarity Association [Kaos GL] on the basis of Article 56 of the Turkish Civil Code, the Attorney General’s Office of Ankara [Ankara Cumhuriyet Başsavcılığı], in its nolle prosequi no 2005/2247, turned them down, on the basis that there is no justification on the grounds of morality, stating that[3]:

In the scrutiny of the concept of morality, it must be taken into account

  • that it [the concept of morality] is the entirety of rules, principles, and beliefs,
    • which have been adopted in time by human groups [sic], and
    • which regulate the relationship between individuals the family, the society, and all humans,
  • that the sum of behaviors that are evaluated in the context of good-bad [sic] is called a society’s morality,
  • that the main goal of morality is to maintain order in social life and to bind relations between individuals to rules,
  • that it [the concept of morality] varies between societies and incorporates the concept of relativity,
  • that, in a period where ‘discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation’ in the Turkish Penal Code is being debated,
    • being gay or lesbian does not mean being devoid of morality,
    • what should be realized is ‘the freeing of human will’ as agreed upon by everyone who works in the sciences of ethics

Again, in the 2008 decision by 7th Legal Department of the Supreme Court [Yargıtay 7. Hukuk Dairesi] LGBT rights are protected as it states that:

“Even though the justification section of the court’s decision indicates that both the name and the goals of the association are against the law and morality, sexual identity and orientation are not personal choices but rather are encountered inadvertently by individuals through birth or the family’s manner of nurturing. As all nations in the world do, our nation too recognizes the existence of persons of a variety sexual orientations, as defined by the terms lesbian, gay, bisexual, transvestite, or transsexual… Not only is it not forbidden by our laws, but also it is not possible to characterize as immoral persons possessing such a sexual orientation, one that is independent of their volition or that such defining terms are used.”

The founders of the association explain their use of this concept on the basis of their “aim to incorporate all groups who are subjected to rights violations / who are oppressed in the industrializing society.” Isn’t it great that someone is trying to embrace all oppressed peoples in our region as well? But who will defend the rights of these friends? Does radical democracy embrace these groups? I can hear you say “of course it does” but it is not so in our region. I, as a communist, am the attorney of this association, because it is not easy for LGBT activists who reclaim their status as “marginal” to find an attorney in our region. Note this: the state allows LGBT associations and they are active throughout Turkey, but attempts to prevent the establishment of such associations in the Kurdish region. Is this not discrimination; is this not an effort to leave Kurdish LGBT individuals without organizational structures?

We have argued in previous articles that socialist movement works not only for a bright future but towards improving the conditions of today.[4] We have seen yet again with the proceedings of this case that one ought to be in a socialist struggle in order to defend people without discriminating on the basis of region, race, or gender [sic]. We will see what happens next …


[1] Article 56 defines and regulates associations founded or operating in Turkey and states that “it is not allowed to establish associations for goals that are in violation of law or morality.” Neither the Article nor the relevant section of the Civil Code contains language pertaining to sexual orientation. Article 57 guarantees that anyone with legal capacity can establish an association. According to Article 60, the chief administrator shall request and allow 30 days for revisions only when a legal problem pertaining to the association’s code or to the legal status of the founders is observed. At the end of this period, if revisions were not submitted, the chief administrator is to inform the Attorney General in order to request the annulment of the association. The Attorney General may also decide to halt the activities of the association at her/his discretion. (Source) The source article does not identify the chief administrator in question.

[2] In Turkish politics, the concept “marginal” (not to be confused with “marginalized”) has become a popular term used by both the ruling party and oppositional parties in order to alienate them from the public opinion and to delegitimize various rights advocacy groups and organizations. Here, the author attempts to subversively mimic, and thus reclaim, this concept.

[3] The original has been converted to a bulleted list by the translators in order to assist the reader.

[4] The author is making an argument associated with what is commonly called “Classical Marxism.” See the Wikipedia article on the New Left for more information.

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