Best Practice

LGBTI-Friendly Policies and Practices in Turkey

Kaos GL: LGBTI billboards on the streets of Cyprus once more!

LGBTI awareness billboards are once more on the streets of North Cyprus after the attacks of last year!

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Source: Kaos GL, “Kıbrıs’ta bir kez daha LGBTİ billboardları sokakta!” http://www.kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=24490 September 1, 2017

The LGBTI awareness billboard campaign we launched last year in North Cyprus was attacked. Kuir Kıbrıs (Queer Cyprus) Association filled the streets once more this year with billboards for equality and freedom in spite of the attacks.

The new billboard campaign prepared within the scope of “Unspoken Project” (“Konuşulmayan Projesi”) was launched in order to call attention to the need for everyone to live as a human, without being othered or discriminated against based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

The billboards bear explanations of sexual orientation and gender identities such as “lesbian”, “gay”, “heterosexual”, “transsexual” and “intersex”.

Transformation of prejudices such as homophobia, biphobia, transphobia is among the objectives of the campaign.

Attacks against last year’s campaign

Last year in November,  billboards which read “Brother Kamil, I’m lesbian” and “Auntie Mediha, I’m gay” were placed around Girne, Mağusa, Lefkoşa, İskele, Lefke ve Karpaz. However, the LGBTI awareness billboards  in the cities in North Cyprus were first attacked and then taken down by the municipality.

What’s the Unspoken/Konuşulamayan Project?

“Unspoken: Creating Dialogue on LGBTI Rights in the Turkish Cypriot Community” (“Konuşulmayan: Kıbrıs Türk Toplumunda LGBTİ Haklarıyla İlgili Diyaloğu Güçlendirmek Projesi”) aims to increase awareness of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex people in key sectors such as media, education, law and health; in order to struggle against the discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender, to create social change and [improve] public opinion and to ameliorate media representation in Turkish Cypriot communities.

Kuir Kıbrıs Association is a civil society movement conducting work struggling against discrimination agaınst sexuality, sexual expression, sexual orientation and gender identity. Kuir Kıbrıs actively works to support LGBTI rights in various fields such as law, education and psychology.

Evrensel: Gender and LGBTIs in Alevism*

Source: Ali Kenanoğlu, “Alevilikte Cinisyet ve LGBTI’ler,” Evrensel, 21 July, 2017 https://www.evrensel.net/yazi/79533/alevilikte-cinsiyet-ve-lgbtiler

In prevalent faiths or religions with holy books, such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the attitude towards individuals with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) sexual identity is very rigid.

Every year the biggest threats against the LGBTIs who want to organize a Pride March come from the “nationalist Muslims.” As a matter of fact, in Turkey, nationalism, i.e. Turkism, and Islam are not thought of as separate things. Nationalism in Turkey receives acceptance as long as it is united with Sunni Islam. So much so that Turkmen Alevis were not accepted as Turks before the 1980s, and Christian Gagauz Turks were deported in the early years of the republic.

Despite some different approaches to LGBTIs by certain Muslims, such as the Anticapitalist Muslims going against Semawi religions’ approach, the general perception and definition is “pervert, perverted.” Considering these definitions, every mistreatment and attack against LGBTIs and even massacres are seen acceptable and in fact considered as “they deserve it.”

It’s not possible for LGBTI members of the Semawi community to worship without hiding their identity. Because, based on past experience, we all know that they have no safety in the mosque they’ll enter.

In Alevism, however, there is no gender discrimination. In the Alevi mass worship ritual, cem [pronounced as jam — Trans.], everyone is referred to as “Can [or jaan, meaning “life” or “the essence which gives one life” but also used as a name with the extended meaning “dear” –Trans.], Cem Saints” which are gender-free descriptions. There is no gender discrimination in Alevism, however, individuals who fail to comprehend Alevism, make gender discrimination and LGBTI discrimination as they do in other faiths.

Despite many examples, there are still those who couldn’t grasp, understand, comprehend Alevism, those even arguing that women cannot take a “post” [a seat reserved for a high ranking leader in Alevi hierarchy –Trans.] and lead the cem.

A couple of days ago, Alevis Union Federation in Germany made one of the most important statements of recent years and presented Alevis’ approach to jaans with LGBTI sexual identity which was not declared to public until now probably because there was no occasion.

The statement with the title “the ka’bah of our belief is human, its pilgrim is jaan” included the following sentences; “Our association, not only disregards all the common prejudices against LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender and Intersex) individuals but also does not consider the unwarranted statements based on these prejudices worth discussing. We refuse all the approaches, advocated by conservative fractions starting with the AKP, which make representation of homosexuals in public space difficult. As an association, we do not only fight against the marginalization of the Alevi community. Our belief that brings forth the concept of “Jaan,” instead of the concept of congregation that exists in panislamist societies, rejects every kind of discrimination. The Alevi community whose ka’bah is human, sees everything as a reflection of Haq [Allah, the fair and noble one — Trans.]. Our teaching does not discriminate based on language, religion, nationality, color, gender. Humanity is the most sacred value.

We defend a social order that delivers all the rights extorted from all individuals starting from women, far from male-dominant understanding and rest on the ideal of equality amongst genders.

In addition, we demand the impunity and guarantee of private lives, and an end to social grudge and hatred. At this point, our ground is respecting human rights including all the members of society.”

The approach in Alevism towards gender identities is best summed up by the Sovereign Haji Bektash Veli’s following words:
“In the language of friendly conversation, one does not ask about male-female,
Everything Haq created is in its proper place,
In our view there is no female-male difference,
Flaw and lack is in your view.”

With love…

*Alevism is a mystical branch of Islam whose adherents follow the teachings of Caliph Ali.

Municipal Equality Index is in Turkey for More LGBTI Friendly Municipalities

SPoD LGBTI transfers Municipal Equality Index Project to Turkey. The index serves as a roadmap for municipal services to include LGBTIs.

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Source: Çiçek Tahaoğlu “Daha Fazla LGBTİ Dostu Belediye İçin Belediye Eşitlik Endeksi Projesi Türkiye’de” (“Municipal Equality Index is in Turkey for More LGBTI Friendly Municipalities”)  Bianet, 27 January 2017 http://bianet.org/bianet/lgbti/183068-daha-fazla-lgbti-dostu-belediye-icin-belediye-esitlik-endeksi-projesi-turkiye-de

Sosyal Politikalar Cinsiyet Kimliği ve Cinsel Yönelim Çalışmaları Derneği (SPoD) [Trans. Social Policies, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Studies Association] transfers Municipal Equality Index project to Turkey.

SPoD, which builds a bridge between local governments and LGBTI activists, aims to highlight the practices performed by LGBTI friendly municipalities by using this index and encourage LGBTI friendly practices across Turkey in the long run.

Municipal Equality Index, (MEI), which has been in practice in the US for five years, is now spread across 506 cities. The index evaluates the extent to which the municipalities include LGBTIs in the law, policies and practices.  Anti-discrimination laws, the assessment of the municipality as an employer, the level of inclusion of services, the law enforcers and of course the public stances of the mayors regarding equality are points of evaluation. Scores are given based on the criteria defined under these headings. Every year a report card is given according to their level of compliance with these criteria and those which get high scores are rewarded.

In the meeting of the partners of the project the criteria of Municipality Equality Index Project planned to be applied in Turkey were discussed, with the participation of Ankara Çankaya Municipality, Bursa Nilüfer Municipality, Çanakkale Municipality, Eskişehir Metropolitan Municipality, İstanbul Şişli Municipality, İstanbul Kadıköy Municipality, İstanbul Beylikdüzü Municipality, İstanbul Beşiktaş Municipality, İzmir Karabağlar Municipality and Mersin Akdeniz Municipality.

5 Municipalities that Signed LGBTI Friendly Municipality Protocol

Since it was founded, SPoD has been conducting studies for the local governments to include LGBTIs. The association had prepared the LGBTI Friendly Municipality Protocol before the local elections of March 30, 2014 and the protocol was signed by 40 mayor candidates from BDP, CHP, DSP, HDP and TKP. Currently there are five municipalities which have signed the protocol: CHP’s Istanbul Kadıköy, Beşiktaş, Şişli Municipalities and Bursa Nilufer Municipality, DBP’s Mersin Akdeniz Municipality. (Akdeniz Municipality was appointed a trustee on December 18 and its Equality Unit and all its activities were halted.)

“Equality Index is a road map”

SPoD project coordinator Neyir Zerey says that Municipality Equality Index Project can be considered as a continuation of the protocol prepared before the local election and she adds:

“ The number of municipalities which are active on LGBTI related issues is actually more than five. Aside from that, there are municipalities that would like to do something about the issue but has not carried out any activities yet and does not know how to proceed.

“ The evaluation criteria on the index is a road map, an action plan. After that the argument ‘We want to do something but do not know how’ will cease to be.”

What are the potential criteria?

The work on Municipality Equality Criteria continues, currently the criteria are listed under four main headings:

Under the heading “Institutionalization of awareness” there are over ten criteria such as trainings inside and outside the institution, the inclusion of the terms of gender and sexual orientation in the strategic plans, the preparation of the budgets with regards to LGBTI needs, the acceptance of the anti-discrimination rules by the companies that are employed by the municipalities, and establishing Equality Units.

Criteria such as relations with LGBTI community and associations, support for special days and commemorations are listed under “LGBTI Presence in Participatory Municipality”.

Under the heading “LGBTI Awareness in Services”, there are articles on the facilitation of the LGBTIs’ access to services.

The last title is “Public visibility, reputation and esteem”. These are criteria such as sharing messages to increase the recognition and visibility of the LGBTIs and using billboards and others outdoors screens for gender equality.

Rainbow Cities Network

İstanbul Beşiktaş Belediyesi ve İstanbul Şişli Belediyesi. There are currently two municipalities which are members of the network: İstanbul Beşiktaş Municipality and Istanbul Şişli Municipality.

Gizem Aykanat from Equality Unit of Beylikdüzü Municipality:

Equality Unit was recently established in our municipality. Right now we are working more on women’s issues. We directed our attention on these issues in our action plan and as “disadvantaged groups” in our regulations. Surely there is a concern about getting reactions, we have already experienced problems with our partners and our own employees while talking about male-female relationships and had some obstacles.  We listened to Nilüfer Municipality’s experiences in the meeting, and they told us that they went to the schools, and that they have received both positive and negative reactions on  the work they did with LGBTIs. This motivated us. From now on we will focus more on LGBTI issues and try to work with the articles in the index.

Çankaya Municipality Women and Family Services Director Asiye Ülkü Karaalioğlu:

We scheduled activities regarding the LGBTIs in our municipality’s Local Equality Action Plan. But we are a new directorate. This meeting has been very productive on communication and planning what we can do by looking at what is happening at other municipalities. Each criteria is a task on its own. Now we know what we need to do. This has been a road map for us. I think it’s practical, though we might need to spend some time with higher administrations. If we give them  training first, maybe our task will be easier.

Ali Sevilen from Equality Unit of Bursa Nilüfer Municipality:

Equality Units are not very active in Turkey unfortunately.  We are trying our best to be active together with Şişli, Beşiktaş, and Mersin Akdeniz Municipalities.  We believe that working only on gender  equality is futile, and we don’t think it’s possible without the LGBTI work.  The LGBTI movement is actually a milestone for gender  equality, the vegan-vegetarian movements, anti-discrimination and the anti-violence struggle. The Index Project is very valuable. The equality work in municipalities should become a policy so that these activities can continue even when the administration changes.

Boysan’s dream comes true: Equality Unit in Şişli Municipality!

The launch of the Şişli Municipality Social Equality Unit will take place on October 22. Boysan Yakar will be commemorated that night.

Source: Yıldız Tar, “Boysan’ın hayali gerçek oldu: Şişli’de Eşitlik Birimi!”, (“Boysan’s dream comes true: Equality Unit in Şişli Municipality!”), kaosGL.org, 20 October 2015, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=20380

Şişli Municipality has established a Social Equality Unit. The process that began with Boysan Yakar’s work as Advisor to Mayor Hayri İnönü has come to fruition and the unit has begun its work.

The Equality Unit’s establishment will be announced with a launch at 19:30 on Thursday, October 22 at the municipality’s new service building. Boysan Yakar, who lost his life in a traffic accident, will also be remembered that night.

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“Different politics for a more equal world”

Lambdaistanbul LGBTI activist Elif Avcı who began working at the Social Equality Unit explained the unit’s establishment to KaosGL.org:

After the 2014 local elections, talks began with municipalities which signed the LGBTI-Friendly Municipality Protocol to hold them to their promises. In the strategic planning phase of this process, we spoke with the Şişli Municipality as LGBTI associations and communicated our requests to be included in the strategic planning. The Equality Unit was one of these demands. Then Boysan Yakar, who began working as the mayor’s advisor at the Şişli Municipality, followed up on these demands and after his struggle for a year and half, the equality unit within the municipality has been founded.

This unit will serve to create equalitarian and participatory politics for LGBTI, people with disabilities, senior citizens, minorities, refugees, children, youth, and women. Boysan could not see the establishment of the unit he worked so hard for. So as much as the unit excites me, it also breaks my heart. We are working in a place where we feel Boysan’s loss every day. On the other hand, we don’t have the luxury to fail his hard work. With his inspiration, we are trying to make real a different politics for a more equal world.

Municipalities in Rainbows for Istanbul Pride Week

Municipalities covered their social media accounts in rainbows during LGBTI Pride Week. With the legalization of gay marriage in all states in the US, rainbow shares on social media rose.

Source: Hakan Özkan, “Belediyeler gökkuşağına boyandı,” (“Municipalities in Rainbows,”) KaosGL.org, 29 June 2015, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=19728

For the first time ever, Turkey’s municipalities- all of them from the Republican People’s Party- provided services for the pride parade. Çankaya municipality provided a bus to transport pride parade participants from Ankara to Istanbul. Beşkitaş municipality provided the 60 meter rainbow flag for pride parade. Şişli municipality covered production and printing costs for brochures and posters.

Beşiktaş Municipality Hosted a Pride Week Reception

Beşiktaş Municipality organized a reception for LGBTI pride week on Saturday, 27 June. Mayor Murat Hazinedar supported [and spoke at] the reception, which was organized by Beşiktaş Municipal Assembly member and LGBTI activist Sedef Çakmak.

Rainbows on Social Media

Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 20.31.54Nilüfer Municipality [in Bursa], “For the love of rainbow! Long live the equality of colors!”

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Kadıköy Municipality [in Istanbul] shared a photograph of a rainbow shot from the municipality and wrote “The rainbow will never leave Kadıköy.”

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Şişli Municipality [in Istanbul] shared a Şişli rainbow map and tweeted “We always love Şişli with all its colors, we all exist together!” while mentioning Lambdaistanbul. Şişli municipality also hosted the Genetically Modified Tomato Awards.

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On 27 June, Odunpazarı Municipality [in Eskişehir] tweeted “Love is to organize #LoveWins”. A twitter user called emrahdal replied to the tweet by saying “my municipality cannot be the only one to support this kind of Love that is disgusting!!!” Odunpazarı Municipality replied by saying, “Are you homophobic by birth or did it happen later? Get well. We can help with treatment.”

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Tepebaşı Municipality [in Eskişehir] tweetedLove will always win”

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Maltepe Municipality [in Istanbul] tweeted “Let go of homophobia, let’s look at the sky”

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Edremit Municipality [in Balıkesir] tweeted “nobody can interfere with everybody’s life” referring to CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu’s responses on Ekşi Sözlük prior to the elections.

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Ataşehir Municipality [in Istanbul] tweeted “We carry our logo with the rainbow emphasis throughout the 23rd Pride Week” and mentioned KaosGL and Lambdaistanbul.

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Aydın Metropolitan Municipality [in Western Turkey] tweeted “Each color is beautiful. None of them can ask the other ‘why are you different?’… It shouldn’t ask :)” and emphasized individual freedoms.

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Silivri Municipality [in Istanbul] emphasized the importance of unity by sharing both Ramadan and Pride Parade events and tweeting “Today is a beautiful day 🙂 It’s beautiful to live in Silivri”.

Boston Gay Men’s Chorus: “We are not worried, we are excited”

First their concert at Zorlu Center was cancelled. When the concert was moved to Bosphorus University, another university’s chancellor reacted on social media.

Source: Şafak Timur, “Boston Gay Korosu’nun Türkiye Konseri: “Endişeli değil, coşkuluyuz”, (“Boston Gay Men’s Chorus: “We are not worried, we are excited”,”) BBC Türkçe, 23 June 2015, http://www.bbc.com/turkce/haberler/2015/06/150623_boston_gay_erkekler_korosu

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The Boston Gay Men’s Chorus, which has been performing for 33 years in the USA, says they are not worried about the reactions to their first-ever concert in a Muslim majority country. On the contrary, they are excited to be coming to Turkey.

Reuben Reynolds, the music director of the chorus for 18 years, laughs when I ask him “Are you and the chorus members worried?” and says, “We talked a lot about this. We have no worries, we are filled with excitement to be there.”

The chain reaction in the media began when Yeni Akit published a news article [“Pervert Chorus Coming to Turkey!”] last month. Zorlu had not cancelled the concert yet.

After Zorlu Center cancelled the concert, Yeni Akit and Yeni Şafak claimed that the concert was cancelled by Zorlu Holding’s Chairman of the Board Ahmet Nazif Zorlu.

Reynolds says they were informed of the cancellation but were not provided a reason.

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We ask MP Candidates: Will you defend LGBTI rights in the Parliament?

As the parliamentary elections in Turkey approach, The Istanbul-based LGBTI advocacy group, Social Policies, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Studies Association (SPoD) has called on candidates, political parties, and party leaders to work towards the active inclusion of LGBTIs in decision- and policy-making mechanisms. SPoD has prepared an “LGBTI Rights Pledge,” the full text of which is presented below, and has circulated it to be signed by all parliamentary candidates.

SPoD LGBTI  calls on candidates to follow a political approach that guarantees LGBTI rights and freedoms, stating:

Recently, we have witnessed that the politicians have began assuming responsibility to promote LGBTI rights and freedoms. This is mainly due to the efforts by LGBTI rights movements, working  for LGBTIs to have equal citizenship status and fighting oppressive and discriminatory policies and practices against LGBTI persons in Turkey. We know that the number of politicians who are defending LGBTI rights is insufficient and that political parties ought to display a much more effective stance for LGBTI rights, especially when we take into account the alarmingly high prevalence of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

As SPoD LGBTI, we have invited parliamentary candidates, political parties, and party leaders to work together on policies to support LGBTI rights, in accordance with our campaign, “LGBTI in the Parliament.” We submit the following “LGBTI Rights Pledge” to be signed by all parliamentary candidates in the upcoming parliamentary elections in Turkey. Through this pledge, we call on all candidates to present a political approach that guarantees LGBTI rights and freedoms. We declare that we will continue to monitor the performance of the candidates who sign the LGBTI Rights Pledge, if elected to the new parliament.

The Pledge that the candidates are asked to sign is as follows:

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