Author: lgbtinewsturkey

“Şugariyet Awards”* is inviting activists to embrace each other

Recently SPoD announced the launch of the “Şugariyet Awards” which will be awarded to those who have dedicated themselves to LGBTI+ activism. The announcement underlined the concern that the LGBTI+ movement did not spare time to appreciate its own accomplishments as much as it does for self-criticism, while battling intense pressures. We interviewed SPoD’s General Coordinator Mustafa Sarıyılmaz on how LGBTI+ activism can fight burn-out syndrome with all the weight on its shoulders.  

 

How did the idea of the Şugariyet Awards come about? 

Our board member Cihan Hüroğlu came up with the idea. Cihan has contributed a lot to the  LGBTI+ movement, and in a meeting he said he’s been thinking about this for a while. It got us very excited and we said “let’s do it!”. The LGBTI+ movement is deeply impacted by the political context and lately people have been moving abroad, people have been distancing themselves from getting organized due to the increase in exposure and loss of safe spaces.

We all started doing a lot of madilik** for better or worse, so it got us thinking “Have we started to forget to appreciate each other?” 

 

Are the Şugariyet Awards going to be an annual event like the GMO Tomato Awards? Have you received any funding for the event? 

 

We definitely would like to have the Şugariyet Awards every year. Our aim is to make it regular like the GMO Tomato Awards, this time to thank those who contributed to the LGBTI+ movement and to render their efforts visible. Of course we found support and funding for the awards. We took the idea to the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) Turkey Branch, they loved the idea and wanted to support it. But certainly we are always open to more support. As far as we know, Şugariyet will be the only award ceremony of its kind in this country. What we want is to do it in Turkey this year and try to make it regional and hopefully international in the future. We want to support the LGBTI+ movement in our region, to increase collaboration and communication. 

 

The LGBTI+ movement in Turkey is standing strong against the pressures. Yet this resilience takes its toll on the psychological wellbeing of the activists, perhaps those outside the movement are not really cognizant. Can you tell us a little about how being an LGBTI+ activist can lead to burning out? How does SPoD deal with it? What is the significance of healing and reparative events for the sustainability of your activism?

 

 

I’d like to answer this question first as an individual and then as a spokesperson for the association. Being an activist in general is highly stressful in this part of the world. As someone who started working in the field of LGBTI+ issues in the issues of youth and refugees, I can say that each field has its own challenges. As people who want to be human and lead a humane life, it is quite exhausting to try to build a life and do activism in a context where this condition is not provided. Things are constantly going wrong, you receive bad news every day, perhaps moving from one city to another, such conditions can easily undermine your idealism and your motivation; therefore you are always trying to continue your activism, hoping a double edged knife will not hurt you. You try to find a way, if it works out, it works out, if not you lose your connection. You start moving away from everything that reminds you of your field of activism.

I can’t really claim that as SPoD we have a very effective way of dealing with the burn out. We are trying to learn and constantly discussing what these methods can be, how we can stand by each other. We want to learn the support methods necessary and to use them effectively. I must stress that when the people we provide help to reach us over the phone, e-mail or social media to thank us, it rekindles the fire in us. It gives us the opportunity to see the concrete outcomes of the work we do. These messages of gratitude increase our threshold of stress. The reparative and healing events allows us to rid ourselves of bad news, negativity and perhaps secondary traumas. These are in fact a great way of unwinding, which is invigorating.  

What you said is right, the LGBTI+ movement in Turkey is the strongest it has been. And so is the pressure perhaps. In this context, the platforms who are the agents of the LGBTI+ movement are communicating more, appreciating each other more, collaborating more and trying to make each other more visible. After the state of emergency we started to collaborate with many more CSOs. LGBTI+ movement is expanding and growing stronger each day. This organic growth empowers me and raises my threshold for burn out. 

LGBTI+ movement is as diverse as the letters in its acronym. It is imperative to have a constant dialogue within the movement, to avoid turning the diversity into separation. What do you think is the significance of events like award ceremonies and parties for staying together? 

That is the case indeed. The LGBTI+ movement has a wide range of diversity. I care about diversity turning into separation. Such separation does not always take place in a dialogue. I hope that [those with] differences can find themselves a place in dialogue and we can continue our way in a truly inclusive manner, we can grow stronger. Indeed this is the idea behind the award ceremony. Parties and similar gatherings helps us unwind and catch up with each other. And surely they are cheerful happenings where we can be ourselves and move away from negativity.

It is often the case that we see the outcome of the efforts spent working in civil society in the long run, yet we have to constantly question the level of our success, I guess this is also quite exhausting. Perhaps this is why we need to hear more on the positive stories, stories of success. Sometimes good news gets lost in bad news as we are inclined to share bad news more. For instance recently the Queer Olympix was banned yet the teams still went ahead with the games and stuck together. What do you expect from media, civil society supporters, and social media users regarding this issue? What can our readers do, with regards to what the Şugariyet Awards aim for? 

This is an important point. We tend to miss the positive stories and achievements as we are constantly in crisis. Or we don’t really talk about them much. It is in the nature of the LGBTI+ movement to come up with ideas like changing the events or relocating them, just like in the case of the ban against the Queer Olympix. Although we are under pressure, we are also able to produce solutions as we move one step beyond. We shouldn’t overlook the fact that these pressures have an important impact on our creativity. And our dear Queer Olympix crew showed a great example of that.  Our expectation from the supporters of civil society is that they become a member of whichever association they feel close to, to support, follow and spread their work. This is how you get our work to be visible. I don’t know what to say to the media, because the typical media outlet is completely anti-LGBTI+ and hate speech is rampant. I hope they grow distant from hate speech. We expect from social media users what we expect from civil society supporters. They should follow the associations they feel close to and get in touch about things they feel they don’t understand.

Regarding the Şugariyet Awards, the readers can follow the award selection process. They can see the categories and jury is to be announced, they can check out the nominees. And for the following years, they should try and follow the LGBTI+ movement and those working for the movement. They can help us render many more people’s efforts visible with more categories for awards.

 

What would you like to tell our readers who like to volunteer or work for the LGBTI+ movement and civil society but have reservations? What keeps you in civil society despite its stressful aspects? 

I would like to say, please do not hesitate. I would just tell them to question why they want to be a volunteer. Why do I want to become a volunteer? People become a volunteer thinking “I got upset with a hate crime I read somewhere”, “I watched ‘My Child’, I’m rediscovering myself”, “This matters to me”, but they do not last long in volunteering. When that moment of being upset or excited passes, their volunteering ends as well which is no good to them or the associations. 

Those who would like to become a volunteer should apply to an association they feel close to, with the answer they found to this question. If possible, they should meet the people working at the association and check if they get along. This is crucial as you become friends and have joint responsibilities while working together. It does not work when you are trying to do good with people you don’t get along with.

I guess what keeps me going is the idealism I have. I have always been working to right wrongs since I was a child. This is the case while waiting for my turn at the hospital queue or holding a place at the water queue after the earthquake in ‘99, when I was at the age of 9-10.  In my highschool years, I found myself abroad for a project, thanks to my curiosity and a bit of hard work. 6 days in total. When I came back I noticed how lucky I was because all my labour and work paid off. I got to fly in a plane for the first time in my life and I got to go abroad. Then, everything else followed. I found myself working in youth projects. I looked for ways to help young people like me to go abroad, I tried to guide them as much as I could. I tried to pass the torch, I worked with lovely people and I continue to. In sum, the reason why I started working is to help people reach the opportunities I reached. Working in civil society can be satisfying and motivating. Yes, it can be very exhausting but when someone thanks you or your association, all is resolved. And this is enough to keep me going 🙂

 

Let’s ask you something fun and a bit sensational 🙂 Who will be the host at the ceremony? Should we expect any surprises? Will the ceremony be aired live?

These are all going to be a surprise, the ceremony will be hosted by someone we love. And you should expect something beautiful! Save the date September 21st on your calendar, because there will be plenty of gullüm*** that night! We are working on live broadcasting, hopefully if all goes well we will be live and those who can’t be present will be able to follow it too! 

Is there anything you would like to add or announce? 

This is not related to the award ceremony, but I would like to remind people of our support campaign for SPoD. It still continues. If you like SPoD’s work, please become a supporter! SPoD wants to continue its work and aims to reach more people. In order to achieve that goal we need everyone’s support! You can see our call for solidarity and become a supporter through this link. 

Interview by Zeynep Serinkaya 

Translator’s note: 

*Şugariyet: In Lubunca (queer slang spoken in Turkey), şugariyet means jewels and/or a state of overall wellness, cuteness, pleasantness

**Madilik: Lubunca for trouble, problem, ill manners or bad intentions

***Gullüm: Lubunca for entertainment, fun, party or fanfare

Queer Olympix 2019 Banned by Kadıköy District Governorship

 

Queer Olympix 2019 was cancelled after the Kadıköy District Governorship banned the event. The organizers were given notice by the police, which arrived to Kalamış beach with a water cannon, according to KaosGL. The police told the organizers that they “should have notified the authorities” prior to the event. KaosGL asked Lawyer Hayriye Kara her opinions, who said : “There is no law article that requires such notification for sports events. Delivering such a notice on a Saturday morning deprives the organizers of the right to appeal against the ban, as the courts are closed on the weekend.”

Queer Olympix has published this message on social media shortly after the ban:

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Later in the day, Queer Olympix participants published a video. The full text of the video in English is as following:

We learned that if we do ‘long jump’, it threatens public health, public order, and public morality. If we jump too long and too far, if we insist on being in the areas where we are not welcomed, we can overcome heterosexism, god forbid!

The event Queer Olympix that we planned to organize for the third time has been banned by Kadıköy district governorate. We were informed about that when we arrived at the event area this morning (24 August Saturday). The preparation crew of 20 people in Kalamış was informed of the ban by riot control vehicles and riot police, the participants were followed until their homes, the decision was issued in the last minute while it would be done anytime throughout the year. All of these demonstrates one thing: These bans aim to function to oppress us not only physically but also psychologically, to ignore our voluntary effort, and to reject our existence. As Queer Olympix team and participants, we are aware of these aims and we want to inform everyone that we will continue defending our existence and visibility in the sports spaces against all these preventions. 

During the last two years, in Heybeliada and Kalamış, we organized this event with no problem together with many LGBTI+ and women participants from different cities and countries. The fact that such an event was banned in the last minute for the purposes of “protection of public health, public order, and public morality and prevention of crime” is a blatant example of intolerance towards us ‘even only when’ we want to do sports in public spaces. 

As women and LGBTI+ people, we care about being together while our living spaces were being limited, our fundamental rights -especially our right to live- are being violated. We are sad and angry about the fact that our event, which we made a great effort to realize throughout the year, was banned by a district governorate decision. Even though they banned our event, we know that the existence of LGBTI+ people and women in sports spaces anywhere in Turkey cannot be banned. Despite the arbitrary bans under cover of security, we are in the streets, in the schools, in the fields, and in the workspaces against binary system and heterosexism.

We said that “we will run if we cannot walk” to emphasize the importance of Queer Olympix after the prevention of Istanbul Pride March in 2015. Now it is obvious that what is prevented is not that we run or do race walking, we play football or volleyball, we do relay race or long jump, but that we insist on existing in public space as who we are. 

We cannot understand how sports can be banned on the grounds of public health; our understanding of public health includes securing our rights to live, providing equal opportunities to everyone to maintain their lives in a healthy way, and prevention of discriminating health practices which risk the lives of LGBTI+ people.

Instead of using the state resources to prevent the football games of LGBTI+ people, we invite the state to use their resources to prevent women killings and hate crimes. LGBTI+ people will continue existing in the fields as they exist in the fields.


Queer Olympix Organization Team and Participants:
-Atletik Dildoa
-Lolitop
-Muamma
-Olympikhalkedon
-Q-Bitches
-Queerpool
-Queer League Armenia
-Sportif Lezbon
-Queer Olympix Karması”

“We want Buse to live!”

The campaign to publicise the rights violations to which trans woman prisoner Buse is subjected has begun today with a press release at the Human Rights Association.

Source: “We want Buse to live!” (“Buse yaşasın istiyoruz!”), Kaos GL, https://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=28653&fbclid=IwAR05N640a22qEdstEfQlg_J8trmD4H7MSo6N01Uj3-6wIb0budISSzE5HN4, August 21, 2019

The campaign to publicise the rights violations to which trans woman prisoner Buse, who is currently kept in Tekirdağ F-type Men’s Prison no.2, is subjected has begun today (August 21) with a press release at the Human Rights Association.

Prior to the press release, Buse’s lawyer Eren Keskin stated that Buse harmed herself as a result of the violations of her rights in prison and she is currently in the Rehabilitation Center of Metris Prison.

After reminding [us] during the press release that Buse had been on hunger strike several times, struggling to initiate her gender affirmation process, it was stated: “The extent of this systematic torture became so unbearable for her that, on 27 July 2019, Buse performed an action by cutting off her genitals as a reaction to the Ministry of Justice’s arbitrary usurping of her right; her action was to escape from the prison that is her body and to prevent the surgical process from being interrupted and herself from being dragged to death. She was taken to the hospital.”

At the release, it was reminded that Buse needs to be saved from the prison of her body and she needs solidarity and power to do so: “We call on all LGBTI+s and those who are against LGBTI+ phobia to support the solidarity network we will establish.”

“We see that Buse’s body nor her psychology has now no power to withstand this torture.”

The full text of the press release is as follows:

“We, as Buse’s friends, know that this discriminatory process that Buse has been subjected to and has been fighting against for over 6 years is not the first example of the violence that trans women are exposed to both in prisons and in social life. It is necessary to see that this process, which has been extended by the Ministry of Justice for months, is the result of the whole policy of violence against trans women who are kept in isolation claiming security reasons, while [it is] their security [that] needs to be ensured. It is necessary to raise a voice against this cycle of violence. Transphobia and isolating conditions in prisons threaten and harm the psychological and physical integrity of trans people.”

“Last year Diren Coşkun and this year Esra Arıkan had to take various actions to make their voices heard because of the discrimination, violence and torture they were subjected to in prisons. Buse has been subjected to multiple discrimination, too, every moment she has spent in prison, and she has had to start hunger strikes during the 6 years she has fought for her right to start the gender affirmation process. Unfortunately, it is not difficult to guess that many trans people, neither whose names nor living conditions are known, have been subjected to various discrimination.”

“Buse has been in prison for 24 years. We want Buse to live. We see that neither Buse’s body nor her psychology now has power to withstand this torture that Buse has been fighting against for many years. The extent of this systematic torture became so unbearable for her that, on 27 July 2019, Buse performed an action by cutting off her genitals as a reaction to the Ministry of Justice’s arbitrary decision usurp her right; her action was to escape from the prison that is her body and to prevent the surgical process from being interrupted and herself from being dragged to death. She was taken to the hospital. She is better now and has been referred to Metris Prison.”

“Buse needs to be saved from the prison of her body so that she can live and she needs solidarity and power to do so. We call on all LGBTI+s and those who are against LGBTI+ phobia to support the solidarity network we will establish.”

“Buse is not the first to face these hardships; we will continue our fight to prevent trans women from being subjected to discrimination and ill-treatment in prisons. We ask you to spread this call to make the public aware of Buse and other trans prisoners.”

“You can follow the recent news via Twitter account @buseyasasin and the hashtag #BuseYaşasın (#LetBuseLive).

Article Translated from Yeni Akit: Scandalous Support to Perverts from Council of State.

Translator’s note: The following article contains offensive and violent language.

Source: “Scandalous Support to Perverts from Council of State”, (Danıştay’dan sapkınlara skandal destek), yeniakit.com.tr, July 19, 2019, https://m.yeniakit.com.tr/haber/danistaydan-sapkinlara-skandal-destek-849279.html

The Council of State’s 10th Chamber showed scandalous support to perverted homosexuals. The decision of a lawsuit Emirhan Deniz Celebi, a homosexual, filed against Cerrahpaşa for failing to perform ‘gender reassignment surgery’ in 2017, pleased perverts.

Imposing their illegitimate forms of relationships on the public by using the slogan, ‘Get used to it, we are everywhere,’ immoral homosexuals received unexpected support. The Council of State found the lawsuit valid, filed by Emirhan Deniz Çelebi, a perverted homosexual with an immoral lifestyle, against Cerrahpaşa Faculty of Medicine Hospital for failing to perform ‘gender reassignment surgery.’ The 10th Chamber of the Council of State found the ‘valid’ reasons given by Cerrahpaşa Faculty of Medicine Hospital for not performing gender reassignment surgeries of perverts ‘invalid.’ Upon the Council of State’s decision, the operations will now be performed. The hospital was not performing the operations due to ‘priority given to emergency patients’ and ‘regard for the privacy of female patients.’

Perverts will be crowding public hospitals

Using dirty money from the European Union, German associations and Soros, perverted LGBTI homosexuals are using every possible way to tear down our country’s basic moral principles. Putting up banners that say ‘Ramadan cannot interfere with Şaban and Recep’s love’ and using the slogan ‘Get used to it, we are everywhere’ during the holy month of Ramadan, homosexuals are imposing their perversion on the public, and they shamelessly want to have their gender reassignment surgeries in public hospitals that are paid for with people’s taxes. The case has been continuing between the homosexual Emirhan Deniz Çelebi and Cerrahpaşa Faculty of Medicine Hospital since 2017. The decision puts forth the severity of the situation.

In an academic council meeting, Cerrahpaşa Faculty of Medicine had made the decision to not perform gender reassignment surgeries in order to ‘protect the privacy of female patients’ and ‘give priority to emergency patients,’ but the implementation has been stopped by the Council of State’s incomprehensible decision. Cerrahpaşa Hospital had appealed Istanbul 10th Administrative Court’s ‘gender reassignment surgery is mandatory’ decision with valid reasons. The Council of State’s 10th Chamber turned down the appeal saying ‘there is no need for an appeal.’ With the scandalous case setting a precedent, homosexual perverts have now gained the right to have gender reassignment surgeries at any hospital.

A homosexual teacher was also acquitted

The Council of State’s 12th Chamber had found the dismissal of a homosexual teacher unlawful. The 2015 decision pointed to the fact that a teacher could not be dismissed from their profession based on their personal life.

Akit continues its attempts at defaming LGBTI+ achievements

LGBTI+ rights advocates continue their battles at court for the recognition of their right to gender transition procedures. As Emirhan Çelebi wrote in his recent article on his battle against Cerrahpaşa Training Hospital’s unlawful practices. In court Çelebi challenged the arbitrary denial of hysterectomy and oophorectomy surgeries to trans men. Çelebi and his attorneys won the case against the hospital, after the hospital administration’s appeal to Council of State.

This pursuit of justice seems to have upset the extreme rightwing daily Akit, who have repeatedly targeted LGBTI+ activists, with troubling examples of hate speech. Trans individuals in Turkey have the right to gender affirmation surgeries and are indeed forced to do so in order to have their gender recognized in their ID cards. Such mandatory surgery is in itself a violation of the rights of trans individuals, another realm of struggle for trans activists. The legal battle in this case was to ensure that the hospital follows the law.  Yet, Akit’s slur-ridden news article attempts to turn this struggle on its head, suggesting that this achievement is a travesty of justice, that the hospital’s “righteous” appeal was “tripped up” by the Council of State.

While the article lumps all LGBTI+ individuals under the all too familiar label “pervert”, it is completely in denial of any reality, as it announces that the trans individuals now have the right to get their surgeries done in any hospital of their choosing. The reality is that the trans individuals already have the right (and indeed, the obligation) to have a gender affirmation surgery in certain training hospitals. This is by no means an example of the lack of information, it is a further attempt to alarm the “public” and to mobilize transphobia (and homophobia, due to confusion of terms in the article) against the LGBTI+ rights advocates exercising their rights as citizens. 

Akit and other transphobic media outlets might be in denial, but the truth is trans citizens exist, out or not they are everywhere, they are not going anywhere and will continue the battle for their fundamental rights. We once more wholeheartedly celebrate Çelebi and all the achievements of trans individuals which remain unknown to us, in their battle for survival and for a decent life. 

 

Note: We choose to spare our readers the triggering affects of the hate speech, and we paraphrase its main points instead of translating the article in its original language. However, you can follow this link if you wish to read our translation of the article. Please be aware that it involves violent and offensive language.

Queer Friendship and Migration

Queer friendship opens the doors to a world that transcends all kinds of identity categories and is a place where closeness can be experienced anywhere at any time regardless of one’s identity, title, or past.

Source: Queer friendship and Migration (Kuir dostluk ve göç), Kaos GL, https://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=28543&fbclid=IwAR3cO0t6rQ3xebaH2QbxuI8WLxG2gvATeONFON4UIVAZtVEFLqqkYe2emE8 July 21, 2019

In the 165th issue of Kaos GL, Yener Bayramoğlu wrote on the subject of “Friendship”:

About nine years ago I emigrated from Istanbul to Berlin. During this process, Istanbul, the place where I was born and grew up, turned into a foreign city where I could not remember the street names, I could not find the bars and cafes I used to go to, and I did not know which route to take to go from one neighborhood to another. Although I couldn’t follow the transformation of Istanbul personally, it was possible to feel the vibrations of these changes taking place in Berlin. Istanbul has undergone tremendous change in the past nine years and as a result, it has transformed Berlin as well.

In the past two years, Berlin has become a city where a lot of people who didn’t feel at home in Turkey anymore have immigrated. Among these newly arrived immigrants are my old friends whom I fought together with in Istanbul in the past. Thanks to them, Berlin reminds me of old Istanbul more and more. Istanbul, on the other hand, has turned into a completely different city that I don’t even recognize anymore because so many have left.

Although it is not talked about, there is unrest in Berlin for new immigrants. Especially between the new and old generation of immigrants, there is a subtle tension. Most of the new immigrants, unlike the older generation, are highly educated people who found a job or scholarship despite not being able to speak German and are building an international career. They have the opportunities that the workers who immigrated to Germany previously, who were either victims of a coup or those who escaped from the ethnic conflicts, could never imagine. In other words, there is a sense of unrest rather than solidarity between different generations of immigrants due to class differences. The newcomers look down on the old generation of immigrants and the old ones look at the newcomers with envy.

The only group that doesn’t fit into this situation and follows a different logic from the one that all the other immigrant groups have are LGBTI immigrants. Although it is a vast generalization, I think LGBTI immigrants are the only group that does not harbor tension between generations [and] where there has been more solidarity than tension. So, what’s the reason for it? I think this is because ‘migration’ and ‘friendship’ are actually two rather queer experiences. Both migration and friendship are the two lifesavers that almost every single queer individual has to hold on to at some point in order to survive.

Although migration and diaspora studies proceed from an extremely heterosexual vein, what we call migration, even forced migration, is actually one of the most fundamental experiences of many LGBTI people for centuries. ‘Home’ or ‘family’ is a problematic area evoking of bitter, painful or even traumatic memories for many LGBTI people. Sooner or later, almost every LGBTI experiences roughness in their relationships within the house or family where they were raised, even if they do not suffer trauma due to their own identity. When this roughness is felt, the house ceases to be home. For many LGBTI people, the home longed for is not the house left behind. A long awaited desired home that is dreamed about is a home waiting to be established elsewhere, in another city or in another country. That’s why history is full of stories of queers who escaped from their family and found their home in Istanbul and had to build it again and again. Therefore, not the feeling of homesickness, but the desire to immigrate is queer. Although similar feelings are spreading throughout the society today, the feeling of not being able to fit into the city or country where the person was born and raised is a feeling that many LGBTI people have known for a long time.

Just like migration, friendship allows holding on to life for queers. They feel the dazzling taste of closeness, solidarity, unquestioning support and self-realization, not with their family or relatives, but with their friends. For many queers, freedom does not occur in relationships with the family, but in friendships. And freedom is like bread. Therefore, history is full of stories of queers who left their biological family completely behind and found alternative families with friends in another city. These families, established with friends, do not follow the rules of biology and blood. It is deaf to hierarchies that may result from age and class differences.

Friendship has an important place in queer theory. For Michel Foucault, queer friendship is an important tool for us to build another world. Queer friendship opens the doors of a world that exceeds all kinds of identity categories, where closeness can be lived anywhere at any time, regardless of one’s identity, title, or past. A partnership based on blood, class or ethnic identity is not required for being close. In addition, friendship is a non-institutionalized close relationship, unlike all other close relationships such as those established with siblings, parents, spouses, lovers, or relatives. It is a true form of closeness literally because it has no institutional binding and control. As a matter of fact, when you lose its sincerity, no one can hold you, you can just go away.  However, one of the points that the studies on queer friendship miss is that a friendship’s real potential emerges with migration. Starting from scratch, away from family, old friends, old ties, old rules, is not only difficult but also liberating. With new friends in a new city or a new country, it is easier to sail to new experiences and break taboos.

Another situation that I have observed in Berlin and have experienced in my own life is that migration makes queer friendship indispensable. Relationships with friends not only shields against homophobia or transphobia, but it also strengthens you against racism. It is precisely because of these multiple discriminations LGBTI people experience, unlike all other groups of immigrants, it is essential for LGBTI immigrants to establish friendships that transcend class, age and ethnic differences. When something happens to you, those who will rush to help you first is usually not the family or relatives, but queer friends.

From this perspective, queer friendship sets an example for all other immigrant groups. I think other groups of immigrants need to understand queer friendship and closeness, in order to understand why there is more solidarity between different generations of LGBTI immigrants than tension. Once again, LGBTI has a formula that can serve as an example for other social  groups and even for the whole society.

 

How can you get Kaos GL magazine?

This article was first published in the 165th issue of Kaos GL magazine. Online subscribers can reach the magazine through the website of the magazine. Those who want to get the printed version can buy the new issue from the bookstores starting next week. To purchase the magazine online, you can contact Notabene publications.

 

A Review of Pride Across Turkey: Defiance and Resilience

The horizon looks bright in some regions of Turkey for future LGBTI+ Pride weeks and marches. New opportunities have emerged for Turkish LGBTI+ rights associations and activists to gain concessions from the police and the judiciary. This year’s pride events highlighted the strength, capacity and resilience of rights defenders, even in a hostile political environment. 

LGBTI+ Pride weeks took place across Turkey, despite state repression and bans on public gatherings. From Istanbul to Mersin, LGBTI+ rights organisations and individual activists marked Pride across the country with defiance in celebration of their identities. Chants echoed across the country with the cries, “we are here, we are queer” and “where are you my love? / I am here my love”.

In many cities across Turkey activists and lawyers were able to win concessions from the police and judiciary making some of this year’s pride events the largest in years. However, in Gaziantep, a city in southeastern Turkey, no improvements were seen in recent years for LGBTI+ rights activists and the situation has even deteriorated since the official lifting of the State of Emergency.

In this article we will look at many of the Pride celebrations across Turkey, reporting the challenges as well as the successes of this year. Looking at the accomplishments of activists can open up new opportunities for Prides in the future. 

Istanbul

The theme of this year’s Pride, EKONOMİ NE AYOL? (‘Economy? What’s that?’), focused on rising inflation in Turkey and the vulnerable position of LGBTI+ individuals in an economic crisis.

Between June 24-30 art exhibitions, picnics, film screenings, workshops and parties took place in 29 venues across the city. The variety of events set an inclusive atmosphere for people of all identities, with an emphasis on inclusion and peace building. 

Early in the week Istanbul Pride Week Committee met with the Governor, who declined their request to hold Pride Walk in Taksim and stated that the LGBTI+ community was regarded as a “socially dubious group”. The Governor also declined a petition to have the Pride march celebrated in Bakırköy, another part of the city designated for demonstrations but less politically symbolic than Taksim.

On Sunday, June 30 without state permission, people were to meet in Taksim for the Pride Walk. Heavy police presence around Taksim and along Istiklal Avenue prevented people meeting on Taksim Square. However, the police consented to negotiate with some of the organisers, allowing the Pride to take place until 17:30 on Mis Sokak, a street near Taksim famous for its LGBTI+ friendly bars. A press statement was read there to sounds of hundreds of people cheering. One quote from the press statement was,

“We do not give up our lives, our solidarity, nor our organized struggle! We are here, get used to it, we are not going.”

At almost exactly 17:30 the police marched down Mis Sokak spraying the few people who remained with tear gas, rubber bullets and chasing them with dogs. A bar on Mis Sokak where people were continuing to celebrate was also sprayed with tear gas. Before the police attack, people were able to meet in security for over an hour. The police did not use water cannons as they had in previous years and some people taking part in the celebrations described the police as more restrained than in previous years. 

As the Pride march was chased from Mis Sokak activists kept meeting in various neighborhoods of the central district of Beyoğlu, reading press statements and celebrating before eventually being dispersed again by the police. The defiance of the continual celebrations was in line with  the message of Pride: we are here, we are everywhere.

Metehan Ozkan from LISTAG, an association which works with the parents of LGBTI+ individuals described this year’s Pride: “We had parents from Ankara, Izmir and Antalya parents groups, we had new members who had a chance to experience Pride for the first time with their children. Though the Pride was ‘limited’ it was very emotional for them.”

Mustafa Sarıyılmaz from SPoD, an Istanbul-based association focusing on social and psychological support for LGBTI+ individuals, said:

“Police was less brutal than last year. I might easily comment that what we had this year was a small gathering that we all missed and longed for a very long time. And, we now have our hope that we might be able to have our parade back in two year’s time. Because, these are all the signs that the movement in Turkey is getting stronger day by day. We have developed a huge solidarity between us now, which wasn’t the case before.”

That night two parties closed the Istanbul Pride, one was put on by Gzone Mag magazine involving trans and drag performers, the other event was hosted by local LGBTI+ DJs. 

During the Istanbul Pride, six people were detained by police.

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Ankara

An indefinite blanket ban against all LGBTI+ events was declared in the capital Ankara under the state of emergency on November 2017. Kaos GL made an appeal which the 12th Administrative Court used to re-examine the ban and ruled that the city governor did not have the legal power to issue bans of that kind. Although the ban was officially lifted, in practice it continued to be in effect.

On May 10, students at the Middle Eastern Technical University staged a Pride celebration despite the rectorate forbidding it. The celebrations were also dispersed by the police using tear gas and rubber bullets. Twenty-five people were detained including an academic working at the university. In reaction students released a press statement calling for “a ban on the bans”. A party was also held afterwards by the students involving drag performances, with the names of those arrested read aloud and applauded.

Some of these arrested students have subsequently had their student loans and assistance revoked on the recommendation of the Security Directorate to the Credits and Dorms Authority. 

Izmir

The 7th İzmir Pride Week planned for June 17-23 was banned on June 14 by the Governorship of Izmir. However, an appeal by the association Genç LGBTİ+ (LGBTI+ Youth) repealed the ban allowing many of the planned events to take place. In the decision to prevent a ban on some of the Pride activities, one judge voted in favor of enforcing the ban and two votes were for the bans repeal. One of those two votes repealing the ban, commented that this decision should be applied to all Pride activities in İzmir.

However, the ban was not fully lifted for the Pride march nor for two events entitled “Bondage Workshop” and “Sex Toy Workshop”. Activists persisted in marching and negotiated with the police, winning the concession to read a press statement on Kıbrıs Şehitleri Avenue in the center of Izmir. However, after the press statement 17 activists were detained. 

Gaziantep 

In Gaziantep  a blanket ban for 20 days on LGBTI+ events prevented Pride events from taking place. During Pride week activists were prevented from putting up a Pride rainbow flag in Çınarlı Park and police prevented activists reading a press statement at Yeşilsu Square. Instead, the Human Rights Association, IHD (Insan Hakları Derneği) hosted a Pride event to read the Pride’s press release:

“As long as you view our existence as a threat, we continue to say, ‘Every step of ours is a Pride March.’

“If it is your tradition to declare those who strive for an honorable and just life immoral and terrorists to cover up your “sins,” it is our tradition to not stop speaking, not stop and not obey.

“We know that what fuels your aggression is our power. We know in our struggle since the 1980s that you are trying to exploit the beauty of our togetherness.”

ZeugMadi Lgbt, an Antep based LGBTI+ Rights association told LGBTI+ News Turkey that for them there was no improvement in how Prides were experienced in previous years. 

“In fact, the State of Emergency is still not over in Turkey. As LGBTI+ individuals we are still under martial law. Both socially and by the law. Harassment, incidents of rape, sexism, homophobia, transphobic rhetorics have all increased after the formal ending of the State of Emergency.”

Mersin

Despite a blanket ban on LGBTI+ events put into effect on June 25, the Mersin Pride still took place. Activists met in workshops and marched in small group unveiling Trans and LGBTI+ Pride flags in a few select spots across the city. Again, the defiance and determination of activists meant that few a short time in different parts of the city, LGBTI+ individuals were more visible. 

Municipalities’ Official Support

From across Turkey, municipalities controlled by the main opposition party, CHP sent out greetings and support to Pride over social media. This occurred in the past but a larger number of municipalities sent out posts  this year. 

On this topic Mustafa Sarıyılmaz from SPoD reported to LGBTI+ News Turkey that 

“Thirty-five municipalities around the country celebrated Pride over Twitter, it seems the visibility of queer community in Turkey has grown, in a positive way. Well, on the other hand, …. the director of religious affairs made all imams around Turkey curse LGBTI+’s in Friday prayers. Yet, we’re hopeful.”

 

Words by George Winter

Photos by Bradley Secker in the İstanbul Pride 

29/07/2019 Correction: The article had previously stated that a Pride after party was put on by GQ magazine, this was incorrect. Gzone Mag put the party on.