How does the state of emergency affect Turkey’s LGBTIs?

Kaos GL’s Seçin Tuncel speaks with activists involved in LGBTI policy-making to ask how Turkey’s state of emergency, declared after the July 15 failed coup attempt, affects the lives of LGBTI individuals.

Source: Seçin Tuncel, “LGBTİ’ler OHAL sürecinden nasıl etkileniyor?” KaosGL.org, 22 March 2017, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=23366

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Ayşe Panuş- Eğitim-Sen (Education and Science Workers’ Union) Istanbul No: 3 Branch LGBTI Commission: Rainbow against the One!

“The rainbow is liberation. With the rainbow against the [rule of] One”

The coup attempt of July 15, 2016 resurrected existing homophobia and transphobia against LGBTI public servants. Just as it was before the coup attempt, unionized LGBTI workers found themselves in an environment of nationalist, religious, conservative and militarist violence.

Even though the LGBTI movement continues its organized resistance through this period, the present climate resulted in the closure of the cracks that were opened in the workplaces and unions. The threats against and the targeting of LGBTI public servants via the press, were ignored by the unions and the answer of the union administrators to questions asked was “We have no LGBTI.” The union, heavily influenced by the conservative aspect of nationalist, conservative and militarist violence has abandoned LGBTI public servants both politically and with regards to social rights. Such institutional abandonment led the LGBTI public workers to a greater anxiety, as they were already forced to work hiding their identity.

After the declaration of the state of emergency, nationalist, conservative, militarist and male violence has escalated. Since government practices were eager for this drift, the expulsions and suspensions through government decrees resulted in the silencing of LGBTI public workers who have already been ignored politically within the union.

Yet, despite all attempts of homophobia and transphobia to close the cracks, LGBTI public workers do not refrain from making their voices heard. The unions should come together against nationalist, conservative, militarist, male and heterosexist impositions and build an LGBTI policy on this basis: rainbow is liberation, with the rainbow against the [rule of] One.

Yalçın Koçak- Lawyer for Pink Life Association: “We are under state of emergency, it shall be as we want”

Without a doubt, the “state of emergency” practice which has been going on since July 20, 2016 has had a negative impact on LGBTIs, as it did on many other sectors of the society. It should be stated that in such periods when security-based “unlawfulness” substitutes “the law,” the victimization of the disadvantaged, socially marginalized and othered groups increases.

The “security concept” put in place with the state of emergency is causing great difficulties especially for trans sex workers. As the streets they work are under police blockade, their houses are getting closed. Many of the avenues where trans sex workers work were raided by the police under the guise of “routine check.”  Their work was not allowed. They were exposed to physical assault and insults. The only explanation the law enforcers gave was “We are under state of emergency, it shall be as we want.”

This “security concept” is making the streets less secure in general. The guarantee of impunity encourages transphobic, biphobic, homophobic people and gangs to assault. One can say that phobic assaults have increased all around the country during the state of emergency, that the assailants make use of the terrorized environment and build their defense on “state of emergency, national will, the unity of the state, honour etc.”

Yıldız Tar- Editor of KaosGL.org online newspaper: Is the LGBTI issue a luxury?

Every week we expect a new government decree. We wonder which association or media organization will be shut. Who will be detained? How long will detention last? We have many questions and worries.

Under the state of emergency, it’s always about the “big” stories and how “important people” are affected. How LGBTIs, considered unimportant, are affected by this process is not covered by or talked about by anyone outside LGBTI organizations. Most often, they don’t even hear it. According to Kaos GL’s 2016 Media Monitoring Report, since July 2016, print stories on LGBTIs have dropped in an unbelievable way. In the last six months of 2016, LGBTIs are almost invisible. Of course other than the stories that target them! There was a dramatic drop in news stories about LGBTIs in July. The reason for this can be interpreted as the July 15 coup attempt and the declaration of state of emergency. LGBTIs could not find a place in the coup attempt and the following “large and national mediatic developments.” Visibility in the media dropped significantly when compared to the first six months. The reason is not only the fact that many media organizations were shut but also because the LGBTI issue started to been as a “luxury” by rights defenders.

Two sad stories in July and August deeply affected the LGBTI society. Syrian gay refugee Wisam Sankara and trans woman Hande Kader were killed. LGBTIs gathered in the streets against violence. There is no legal process about these two murders following the coup attempt. Effective investigations have not and are not being done. The killers are on the loose.  

On the other hand, every day we receive news of rights violations on KaosGL.org. Trans sex workers in Izmir Alsancak were practically imprisoned in their homes due to police pressure. Violence by police has increased in the streets. Trans women across the country are trying to live in the throes of violence and survive the state of emergency.

This state of emergency regime is leading LGBTIs, like the majority of society, to fear and despair. KaosGL writers increasingly use pseudonyms, remove their photographs and stay clear of articles with political content. People, rightfully, do not want to end up in an investigation. They know they’ll be “easy bait.” After all, any gay or trans individual knows the sexual abuse, harassment and violence that can befall them if they resist law enforcement.

KeSKeSoR Amed LGBTI initiative: They want to take away all our successes

For some time now, we use Amed instead of Diyarbakir in our name. Our decision to do so was before the July 15 so-called coup attempt and the state of emergency. Our decision was influenced by the suspension of the peace process in July 2015 and the decimation of cities in Kurdish provinces. The pain of Suriçi, Silvan and Kaynartepe continue. Suriçi is now being rebuilt by destroying all history and culture. The name Amed was removed from the municipality as part of the “trustees” appointed to many municipalities in Kurdish provinces. In this process, akin to the village guard system in the 1990s in Kurdish provinces, thousands of young Kurds have been employed as guards to supposedly protect neighborhoods. The Roboski monument was also destroyed by police in an effort to wipe out identity and memory. As KeSKeSoR, we had made a statement of conscientious objection in the second anniversary of Roboski. Of course the destruction of one monument will not make us forget this massacre but rather etch the state’s Kurdish policies on our minds.

As if these were not enough, the current ruling power has begun to threaten and isolate all opposition under the state of emergency. Of course this affects LGBTI activism negatively. With government decrees like nightmares, associations are shut, people are sacked. At this point, all our comrades are either suspended or dismissed. The aim is to make sure that people and institutions working in education, health and law, people we have a united struggle with, cannot work or produce. As KeSKeSoR, we can no longer use many of the institutional spaces we once did. Due to bans on meetings and demonstrations in public spaces, the conditions for us to meet are eradicated. Despite our democratic struggle and due to the fact that events are seen as criminal, we can only hold events in commercial places to a limited social environment.

Well, before the state of emergency, our events were prevented by so-called Islamic NGOs and we were threatened and pressured. With this process, these pressures are being normalized. The gates of appeal are closing up with legal routes being choked. We cannot consider any of this separately from the new constitution and especially the presidential system. The system, reduced to a personal issue, aims to take away all our successes by allegedly rebuilding society. As KeSKeSoR, like all democratic society organizations, academics, public servants and journalists, we remind you of this slogan: “We will not make you president!”

*This conversation was first published in the KESK Kadın March 8 special issue.

 

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