The AKP’s LGBTI history from 2001-2015

From “their rights must be legally protected” to the prevention of inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in the constitution and to directly targeting LGBTI through references to “the tribe of Lot”… Here is the LGBTI history of the AKP from 2001-2015.

Source: 2001’den 2015’e AKP’nin LGBTI tarihi (“The AKP”s LGBTI history from 2001-2015”), Kaos GL, 2 September 2015, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=20109

akplgbtmanset

We summarize the timeline that began in 2001 prior to the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) tenure with the view that “legal protections are warranted for gay rights and freedoms.” This view gave way to the approach in the context of constitutional reform debates that said regarding homosexuality: “it is not this century’s problem” and finally we saw homosexuality denounced as immorality.  

The Justice and Development Party was founded on 14 August 2001 as a socially conservative Turkish political party. The AKP government followed moderate politics during the first period of their tenure and alleged to pursue a democratic and rights based approach regarding the LGBTI. In response to a question on a television program by Abbas Güçlü, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan replied, “Gays must have legal protections in terms of their rights and freedoms.”

2004: It is unnecessary to add sexual orientation!

The term sexual orientation which was included in the draft of the Turkish Penal Code through the efforts of LGBTI and feminist organizations was removed by the AKP government. The AKP government ended the prospect of preventing discrimination against LGBTI individuals. Cemil Çiçek, Justice Minister at the time, explained the rationale behind removing the term ‘sexual orientation’ from the draft of the Turkish Penal Code presented to the Parliament: “It is unnecessary to add sexual orientation because gender already covers it.”

2006: Wrong sexual preference!

Targeting a Republican People’s Party (CHP) MP Dengir Mir Fırat, an AKP MP at the time, said:

He  talks as though he has the wrong sexual preference.

2007: Constitutional debates

Burhan Kuzu, Head of the Constitution Commission at the Turkish General Assembly and AKP MP said on 20 October 2007:

There is no such ruling [article banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation] in scientists’ texts. I have not received their letters yet; they will be considered when they are received. But at this point I do not expect the parliament to agree to it. It is presented as freedom, but there is yet no ground for this in Turkey. It does not appear to the kind of demand that would be approved by the Committee and the General Council. It is early for Turkey. The parliament cannot undertake a regulation without societal approval. Moreover no European constitution has it. Once we have the EU constitution we can see what to do.

Dengir Mir Mehmet Fırat, AKP MP, said on 20 October 2007: 

It is difficult for the constitution of 21st century; perhaps it would work for the 22nd century constitution. We have included in the draft what we call the third generation rights such as environmental rights. But this would be a fourth generation right. We have not considered such freedoms, and I doubt they would be accepted. There is no EU Constitution. Neither is there a consensus in Europe on this issue. Society will have to have a longer debate on this.

2008: “An AKP member who makes pledges to Dönmes [1]

Columnist Serdar Arsever from the Yeni Akit newspaper published an op-ed about the participation of Zafer Üskül [AKP MP] in a conference organized by Kaos GL in 2008 titled, “International Anti-homophobia Meeting.” In this op-ed, the author described Üskül as “an AKP MP who makes pledges to dönmes” and added:

He participates in the sexual perverts’ meeting! Excuse me…he appears in the meeting of f..ts (sic)!…And that was not enough…He proceeds up to the dais and points to the administration [AKP government] as “the guarantee that they would not be discriminated on the basis of their sexual preferences.’

In response to the concern expressed about the spread of the freedom to wear headscarves to high schools, AKP MP Burhan Kuzu stated:

We have received intense demands from homosexuals about equality and the right to marry as well. Are we going to give these rights because they want them? The public is not ready for this.

(28 January 2008, http://www.milliyet.com.tr/2008/01/28/siyaset/asiy.html)

2009: They are up to something else!

AKP MP Burhan Kuzu was on the program “One on One” on Haberturk channel on the evening of 19 February 2009. Kuzu said that many individuals and organizations had approached them with proposals and that they were seeking consensus for the constitution. While showing to the camera various booklets with proposals for the new constitution, he held up a rainbow colored postcard that included proposed changes to the constitution prepared by the LGBTT Rights Platform and said, “and these ask for gender equality,” and added that “they are up to something else!”

(https://escinselhaberleri.wordpress.com/2009/02/22/bunlar-n-derdi-esitlik-peki-burhan-kuzununki/ )

2010: Selma Aliye Kavaf and the disease statement

The most scandalous statement about LGBT rights in 2010 was made by Aliye Kavaf, the then state minister responsible for family. Aliye Kavaf said:

I believe homosexuality is a dysfunction, a disease, and needs to be cured.

Ahmet Iyimaya, the AKP MP member of the Committee for Drafting the New Constitution continued [the idea behind] this statement which was made in 2010 in 2013. He made clear the position of the AKP vis á vis LGBT rights and demands. Iyimaya claimed that if the term sexual orientation was added to the article of the constitution regulating equality before the law, that would pave the way to same sex marriage. Therefore, he announced, it would not happen.

Recep Akdağ, Minister of Health, said on 09 March 2010:

Same-sex marriage is not an issue that Turkish society can accept. We must leave it to personal freedom. We must do what is required for the proper development of children’s sexual education. The healthiest relationship is a monogamous relationship between a man and a woman. Truth be told, homosexuality as experienced by those in Turkey is very difficult. It can be cause for discrimination. Society must be tolerant and merciful. There are clearly elements that distinguish a homosexual relationship from a normal one. 

http://www.milliyet.com.tr/escinsellik-kisisel-ozgurluk/guncel/haberdetay/10.03.2010/1209258/default.htm

Selma Aliye Kavaf, AKP MP, state minister responsible for Women and Family Affairs, said on 07 March 2010:

I believe homosexuality is a dysfunction, a disease. It is something that requires treatment. Therefore I do not approve of same sex marriages. There is nothing in the works in our Ministry about this. Neither is there a demand for it. We do not say that homosexuals do not exist, there is such a phenomenon.

http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/pazar/14031207.asp

Selma Aliye Kavaf, AKP MP, state minister responsible for Women and Family Affairs, said on 23 February 2010:

We do not have a law about same sex marriage. We conveyed to the European Council our sensitivity about different family forms albeit as a recommendation. The council took note of this and made the necessary changes in the declaration text.

Regulations concerning “the rights of children raised in different family forms” were discussed in the meeting of the Conference of European Ministers Responsible for Family Affairs held in Vienna in June 2009. Turkey foresaw that the term ‘different family forms” might pave the way for legalizing gay adoption and sent a statement to the European Council that said: “We would like to state that we do not accept gay marriage as a country nor do we accept gay parenthood.”

2011: Ministry of Family continues homophobia

Fatma Şahin, Minister of Family and AKP MP said on 19 August 2011:

The WHO has a study on this, the scientific community is debating the topic. I do not find it appropriate to comment as the State Minister for Family Affairs while scientists are debating the topic. It is important that we have an approach which rejects discrimination of any kind, sees everyone as a citizen and seeks to problem solve. If you recall, our Minister of Health had stated in that debate that if they have a problem we must help. It is also important to note that while we discuss this, we find ourselves at a dead end if the issue is pulled into different directions. I am a minister of a conservative democrat party, we will be there for what needs to be done in the name of a solution, we also need to take protective measures against concepts that destroy the family. Therefore I think we need to govern while distinguishing these two[family and gay rights?]

http://www.kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=9477

On a television program on Habertürk channel with anchor Balçiçek İlter called attention to the background of violence against women as an issue that warrants examination and posed the question: “How appropriate is it for the committee to be limited by the family? AKP MP Naci Bostancı said:

Life has different realities. Different models may emerge in the course of social change that do not fit. There are religious conjugal unions. What will we do when in the case of appeals to the Human  Rights Committee for cases of violence that occur in these unions? There is the issue of fellow wives in a polygamous household. What will we do when they appeal to us? There are free relationships. There are people who cohabit for 3-5 years. What will we do when they appeal to us? I am saying this provocatively. There are same sex relations. Are we going to pretend not to see them? Or are we going to formulate an approach based on human rights? I think it is more fitting with social reality to consider violence in all kinds of relationships and unions based on a human rights approach.

(14 October 2011,http://www.haber5.com/siyaset/ak-partiyi-bolecek-escinsellik-cikisi)”

2012: “There will be no gay mayor!”

On 2 April 2012, Ankara Metropolitan Mayor, Melih Gökçek responded to a question about the prospect of a gay mayor in Turkey posed by Okan Bayülgen on a TV program, Gökçek said:

Of course we have a lifestyle of our own, we have customs, traditions. Over there they are at a different place…God willing there will never be a gay mayor in Turkey and there must never be.

What he said: Despite the fact that the CHP and the BDP emphasized numerous times the context of the demand to include sexual orientation and gender identity under the article on equality in the Constitution as an issue of discrimination and equal citizenship, Mehmet Ali Şahin, Member of the Constitutional Reconciliation Committee and AKP MP interpreted this demand as a demand for same sex marriage and on 18 May 2012 made the following statement:

Now this is a very sensitive issue, particularly a very sensitive issue for our society. They want us to see this as normal, that is, they want us, the constitution makers, to take sexual orientation and such as normal and to make regulations that protect their rights and laws. This is not a lack, to act like this is not a lack, etc. Now this is put on record, but I say with sincerity that if my 22 year old daughter comes to me and says she wants to marry her girlfriend or a 20 year old son comes to me and says he wants to marry his boyfriend, I cannot say fine, sorry. I would be very sad. If you want me to do something that would make me very sad, let me speak candidly and say I cannot. (…) Then tell me what this is, explain to me! What is perversion? I mean, what is, excuse me, what is sexual orientation, gender identity, explain to me, what are you referring to? (…) You mean to tell me ‘you must see these as legitimate.’ You are not going to treat them differently. As a father, you must not say ‘No, get lost, I will strangle you, I will kill you.’

http://anayasaizleme.org/komisyon-tutanaklari/

The process of drafting the new constitution came to a halt at the proposal to add sexual orientation. The AKP and MHP object to the inclusion of sexual orientation rights in constitutional protection.

The Constitutional Reconciliation Commission made important progress on the first three articles of the Constitution. However, there was a lack of full consensus in the subcommittee chaired by Sırrı Süreyya Önder.

The reason for the failure to reach an agreement in the article on equality is the discrimination law. The MHP demanded general descriptions whereas the BDP characterized these proposals as vague and objected.

The commission proceeded to the third article on equality after discussing and reaching an agreement on the first two articles.

There was a failure to reach consensus on the article on equality upon the demand to add laws of discrimination into the article.

(http://www.ntv.com.tr/turkiye/anayasa-escinsel-haklarina-takildi,Z8NXqL5FUk-3I6zLQTJjWw?_ref=infinite  21 May 2012 )

2013: Türkan Dağoğlu’s statements

On 29 May 2013, AKP MP Türkan Dağoğlu, who has a medical background, drew on her outdated medical knowledge and rambled about homosexuality being abnormal and a disease. She also made the following statement: 

As a criteria for democracy, we do not recognize practices that would lead to societal corruption by opening the door to, or in any way encouraging, lifestyles our people would not approve of.

Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek shared the following tweet targeting the CHP MPs Şafak Pavey, Binnaz Toprak, and Hüseyin Aygün; the BDP MP Sebahat Tuncel; ÖDP MP Alper Taş; and German parliamentary representatives who participated in the 21st Pride Week in Taksim:

Interesting, three CHP MPs have joined the parade. Citizens must wonder and ask Hüseyin Aygün, ‘Hüseyin Aygün, are you gay? Don’t misunderstand, we just wonder…’ They wonder in Tunceli [the province the MP represents], too.

In response to the transfer of Yunus, the son of Azeroğlu family, to a lesbian couple by the Dutch Youth Affairs Department on account of abuse, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, then the Prime Minister, said on 21 March 2013:

In the foster family, children must be given to culturally appropriate families, for example, if they are Muslim, they should be given to Muslim families. NGOs must not leave this up to the Dutch government and judiciary, they need to intervene. I say this for a people who are predominantly Muslim; giving a child to a gay family goes against the moral principles and religious values of that society. We have to give what is entrusted to us to secure hands. Since a six-year-old cannot choose, the choice must be made by the relevant institutions. I set up the Ministry for Family Affairs and Social Policies. The reason I set up this ministry is because the family is a social institution. The matter of returning Yunus to his biological family is in the hands of the judiciary. The family has two children. We hope that their third child is returned to them just as their other child was returned.

http://www.bianet.org/bianet/lgbti/145282-erdogan-escinsel-cift-ahlaka-ters

On 18 February 2013, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ said they initiated an investigation about Yunus, who was taken from his biological family and given to a lesbian family by the Dutch Youth Affairs Office on account of abuse. He said that they have met with other countries to prevent a similar situation, and added that at times children are removed from their families for rightful reasons. Bozdağ explained that it is wrong to give the child to a family the child’s own society disapproves of, and that they are working on the issue.

http://www.haber7.com/avrupa/haber/991435-kucuk-yunusun-velayeti-lezbiyen-aileye-verildi

Ahmet İyimaya, Member of Constitutional Reconciliation Commission and AKP MP said on 21 May 2013:

I do not see marriage between women, or marriage between men as a right. This is a corruption. Even if it is the only issue we cannot agree on, we will not allow the term sexual orientation to be included.

This statement demonstrates the shallow approach of Iyimaya, himself a jurist, to LGBTI’s human rights.

http://www.sabah.com.tr/gundem/2013/05/21/anayasa-komisyonu-escinselligi-tartisti

On 18 February 2013, Ayhan Sefer Üstün, Chair of the Parliamentary Human Rights Commission and AKP MP responded to the case of Yunus who was taken from the Azerioğlu family on account of abuse and given to a lesbian couple by the Dutch Youth Affairs Office and said:

Parenthood is a sacred right, it cannot be taken away by an administrative decree. It requires a judicial decision. We do not criticize that culture, but he has been given to a foreign culture, that of a lesbian family. Even if the child was taken for rightful reasons, he must be given to a familiar culture.

http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/22621448.asp

On 29 May 2013, Türkan Dağoğlu, AKP MP, Deputy Chair for the Health, Family, Work and Social Work Commission and member of the Committee of Equal Opportunity for Women and Men said:

Precautions taken at the social level are not geared toward a specific sexual orientation, but to the benefit of all humanity. In addition, the importance we attribute to our people cannot be realized by welcoming practices that open the door to and encourage lifestyles disapproved of by our people, and that would lead to societal corruption, as criteria for democracy. Such a consideration would not be fair. Women marrying women and men marrying men is not right. On the contrary, it paves the way for societal corruption by overturning sexual models and presenting them as an accomplishment. I find the proclamations that advise us to use the West as a model groundless.

Dağoğlu’s speech is a response to Binnaz Toprak’s [CHP MP] proposition to establish an LGBTI Investigation Committee. The AKP blocked the proposal from passing in parliament.

http://onedio.com/haber/-escinsel-haklarini-konusmak-ahlaksizliktir–115961

Idris Bal, AKP Kütahya MP who was sent to the discipline council to be expelled from the party, raised the fact that same sex marriages are legal in certain states in the US, and that they can be discussed in Turkey as well.

http://www.radikal.com.tr/turkiye/kizli_erkekli_ev_tartismasinda_escinsel_evlilik_ornegi-1159634 , 24 November 2013,

2014: Homophobia against AKP MP!

AKP MP Nursuna Memecan and CHP MP Binnaz Toprak participated in a seminar called the Protection of Vulnerable Groups including the LGBTI.

CHP MP and Nursuna Memecan participated in a seminar on November 20-21, which was organized by the EU Parliament and held in Albania’s capital Tirana entitled, “Fundamental Rights, Discrimination Law and the Protection of Vulnerable groups including LGBTI.” The MPs were targeted by columnists and media close to the AKP for their participation in the seminar. (http://mobil.kuremedya.com/HID=8635)

The provincial headquarters of the AKP in Batman gave a homophobic response to the panel organized by Eğitim-Sen Batman Office in which Remzi Altunpolat from Kaos GL participated. (http://hurseda.net/printNews.php?id=99278)

2015: Elections and Homophobia Peaks!

While answering questions from journalists at the reception held on the 95th anniversary of the opening of the Turkish Parliament, Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan mentioned the HDP’s rainbow policies; he revealed the government’s attitude in his statement:

We saw their declaration; It has words like ‘lesbian, gay, whatever’. In other words, they are so far from Turkey’s reality.

The panel titled, “Islam and Homophobia,” which was scheduled to be held in the Martyrs’ Mosque associated with the Turkish Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) was postponed upon homophobic reports in the media. The panel was publicized as a scandalous decision by the Yeni Akit newspaper; Takvim newspaper characterized participating gay individuals as ‘perverts.’

Faruk Çelik, Minister of Labor and Social Security gave the following response to an inquiry by Mahmut Tanal, the CHP’s Istanbul MP, regarding LGBTI employment and policies geared towards LGBTI youth:

The measures taken by our Ministry to support the labor-force participation of especially disadvantaged groups and to tackle discrimination and social exclusion concern women, children, people with disabilities, the youth, ex-convicts, the Roma, immigrants, the poor or people under poverty risk, addicts and seasonal workers.

He thereby ignored the LGBTI with his response.

Adnan Türkdamar, Interior Ministry Assistant Legal Adviser, gave the following statement in the context of an ongoing court case about the expelling of a police officer from civil service for being gay:

The law aims that public service be conducted by people who are credible, reliable, and respected by the public. The performance of public service by civil servants who have lost respectability would without a doubt result in damaging the trust of individuals in the administration and lead to negative and undesirable developments in the relations between individuals and the administration. The law has taken measures to prevent such a threat and provides that such civil servants who cause this be removed from public office.

During his tenure as the Chair of the Commission for Foreign Affairs in the Turkish Parliament, Volkan Bozkurt tweeted the following:

As I look at the Austrian winner [Conchita Wurst] of the Eurovision Song Contest, I say to myself, ‘Thank God we are not participants in this contest’.

Mahir Ünal, Deputy Chairman of the AKP Group asked Selahattin Demirtaş, the HDP Co-Chair:

I ask Selahattin Demirtaş: What do you think about the statement of the HDP candidate MP first in line, that if they become part of the government coalition they will legalize same sex marriages?

(21 May 2015,http://www.milliyet.com.tr/ak-partili-unal-dan-demirtas-a-escinsel-kahramanmaras-yerelhaber-797421/ )

Commenting on the 23rd LGBTI Pride Week to be held on June 22-28 [2015], theologian Prof. Hayrettin Karaman who is known for being close to President Erdoğan and who is followed carefully by AKP followers said:

The regime of this country may be laic, secular, liberal-democrat, etc., but lest anyone forget, the overwhelming majority of our people are Muslim and accept homosexuality as immoral; homosexuals cannot join the ranks of pure and honorable people by coming out, their ‘misdeed’ is met with disgust as a shameful act.

Former president of the Grand National Assembly’s Constitution Commission and advisor to President Erdoğan, Burhan Kuzu said:

Another promise from the HDP: Gays will be able to marry. When we go to the polls, let us remember this promise as we vote.

(25 May 2015, http://www.sozcu.com.tr/2015/gunun-icinden/kuzudan-tepki-toplayan-mesaj-841043/ )

While President Erdogan said, “We do not nominate a müfti [religious legal expert] in Diyarbakır, or a gay in Eskişehir,” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said, “Homosexuals caused the destruction of the Tribe of Lot and yet the HDP nominates them.”

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu used homophobic hate speech through his commentary on the HDP Eskişehir MP Candidate Barış Sulu. In a meeting with the NGO representatives in Diyarbakır on 1 June, Davutuoğlu said that homosexuals caused the destruction of the tribe of Lot and claimed that a political party that nominates such individuals as MP candidates could not represent a faithful society.

While Davutoğlu targeted gays and the HDP in his homophobic hate speech, the emphasis on Gay Pride was notable in the brochures of the AKP.

Pictures of the Gay Parade and the ODTÜ [Middle East Technical University] Gay Parade were used in the brochures handed out by the AKP. The brochures handed out by the AKP in Beyoglu feature pictures of LGBTI protests and ask:

People who are not from the AK Party and who are not conservative believe that their life styles are being interfered with. Do you think you interfere in the life styles of people who are different than you?

The answer to the question emphasizes how difficult it is for the AKP to solve the question of freedom in Turkey and adds:

Turkey is a country that can hold a Gay Pride on Istiklal Avenue even in the middle of the month of Ramadan. The increased visibility of conservative people does not carry the meaning that there is an intervention against people’s life styles.

(1 June 2015, http://www.sozcu.com.tr/2015/gundem/akpde-escinsel-kafa-karisikligi-847228/)

In a speech to the General Council of the Federation of Bus Companies in Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan referred to Barış Sulu, the Eskişehir MP candidate from the HDP and said: ”We do not nominate homosexuals.” He said: 

We do not nominate a müfti in Diyarbakır, or a gay in Eskişehir. We do not have such an issue.

It was notable that Erdoğan referred to the AKP, a political party, as “We” in his capacity as the president.  

(http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=19543 )

Bilal Erdoğan [President Erdoğan’s son] visited the AKP election office in Gaziantep. During his visit, [Bilal] Erdoğan criticized the HDP:

The party of purples, greens, and pinks. There are people from every color in the party, including the müfti, gays, Yazidis—a total mix. It is nice that there is such a mix, I do not see anything wrong here. What I don’t understand is they act differently in the East and in the West.

(1 June 2015, http://www.tvemhaber.com/gundem/bilal-erdogan—escinsel-adaylari-yadirgamiyorum-ama-/18176 )

Efkan Ala also targets gays: “Same sex marriage is the destruction of humanity.”

On a program on TGRT News channel, Efkan Ala, former Interior Minister and MP candidate of the AKP for Erzurum, objected to same sex marriage and said that it caused the destruction of the tribe of Lot. Targeting Barış Sulu, an Eskişehir MP candidate from the HDP and LGBTI individual, Ala said:

For God’s sake, look at these candidates that the HDP put forth. I can’t even bring myself to say it. They have put forth candidates that our citizen [sic] cannot accept.

(2 June 2015, http://www.birgun.net/haber-detay/efkan-ala-da-hedef-gosterme-pesinde-escinsel-evlilik-insanligin-helakidir-82104.html )

Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç responded to a question about the LGBTI Pride March in Istanbul on 2 July 2015:

Unfortunately, I am ashamed to say this in a place where our lady sisters are present but some people turn this into honor, meaning people in different sexual orientations. But it is extremely saddening that they get completely naked in broad daylight, challenging and having fun in the middle of Istanbul, and unfortunately, parliamentarians from the CHP and HDP supporting them.

(3 July 2015, http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/29445022.asp )

**This report is a combination of media sources compiled by Kaos GL intern Tun Semir Akpınar and the report prepared by SPoD LGBTI for the elections.

[1] Dönme is a pejorative term used to refer to trans people in Turkey. Originally used to describe converts from Judaism into Islam during Ottoman times, it is commonly used to refer to trans people.

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