Censorship

Censorship and Fines against LGBTI content in Turkey

Istanbul Film Festival Director Responds to Censorship Allegations

Following criticism by LGBTI organizations that Istanbul Film Festival translator censored Sir Ian McKellen’s “as an openly gay man,” the festival’s director Kerem Ayan spoke to dispel censorship allegations and said the festival supports LGBTI movies.  

Kerem Ayan, Istanbul Film Festival Director:

If I may, I want to make a short statement, as I have the opportunity to speak in a conference hall full of people here. Some of you might have seen on social media yesterday. They said, “Ian McKellen said that he was an openly gay man during the opening ceremony of Istanbul Film Festival and that the festival censored it.”

I laughed a lot when I first heard it. I thought, “our audience actually knows who we are, this cannot be true.” Then, we saw that people actually don’t know who we are. This became a big issue on social media.

Why would we censor a person who we invited as a defender of LGBT rights, when we also have a “Where are you my love?” [LGBTI movies] part in the festival. That would be interesting.

I was on the stage, the translator was really just next to me, we were not able to hear clearly what Ian McKellen was saying. There was an acoustic problem and the translator skipped it. It was an unfortunate skip. We didn’t understand why people were reacting and we continued. Later we explained to him the situation as well.

Here, I would like to say again, as Istanbul Film Festival, we neither interfere with our guests’ sexual identities, nor do we prevent them from expressing it clearly. I want that to be known.

On social media, they also wrote that Istanbul Film Festival was “homophobic.” That’s interesting. Now, if you allow me, I would like to invite Ian McKellen to the stage. This would be an answer to those who call us “homophobic.” I hope you will join me.

  • Kerem Ayan: Where are you my love?
  • Crowd: I am here, my love!
  • Sir Ian McKellen: I am here, my love! [1]

Maybe he wants to say a few words.

Sir Ian McKellen:

What a wonderful privilege it is to be in your beautiful city. Invited first by the festival as a film actor and before I knew what was happening, I was meeting the ambassador from my country to your country and the British Council.

[1] “Where are you my love?” or “Nerdesin Aşkım?” and the response “I am here, my love?” or “Buradayım Aşkım” are popular slogans in Turkey chanted by LGBTI individuals and allies.

Kaos GL: Ian McKellen said “as a gay man,” translator ignored!

Sir Ian McKellen was presented an award by the Istanbul Film Festival. During his speech at the opening gala he said, “as an openly gay man” but the translator didn’t translate it into Turkish.

Editor’s note: See the festival’s response here.

Source: Yıldız Tar, “Ian McKellen said ‘as a gay man’, interpreter ignored!” Kaos GL, April 5 2017, http://kaosgl.org/page.php?id=23476

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Organised by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV), Istanbul Film Festival’s 36th edition kicked off with an opening gala on Tuesday night, April 4. The opening gala brought the stars and distinguished figures of Turkish cinema together at TİM Show Center where Cinema Honorary Awards and plaques were presented.

Sir Ian McKellen was one of the actors who won an award. During his speech at the gala he said, “as an openly gay man”. However, the translator of the festival ignored this phrase. LGBTI activist Seçil Epik told KaosGL.org what happened during the gala:

“After being invited to the stage by Kerem Ayan, one of the coordinators of Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts Film Festival, to receive his Honorary Award, Ian McKellen started to introduce himself by saying that he is 78, born in England and that he identified himself as an actor from Great Britain. Then he continued his speech with the words “as an openly gay man”, but the simultaneous translator did not translate those words into Turkish. First Kerem Ayan on stage, then the audience who speak English were in a little bit of a shock. Subsequently, even if Ian McKellen understood that something went wrong with the translation and looked at the translator, the program flow continued as if nothing had happened.”

Murathan Mungan: Great shame!

Famous poet and author Murathan Mungan shared the incident from his social media account:

“A great shame happened during the opening gala of the Istanbul Film Festival. As a gay rights activist as well as a great actor, Ian Mckellen started his sentence while mentioning the bans on Turkey and said, “As an openly gay man” however simultaneous interpreter skipped this sentence, censored it. It is worrisome that even in the Istanbul Film Festival organization there are ‘morality guards’ regarding the internalization of fear, oppression, anxiety and homophobia.”

McKellen’s Istanbul program

One of the most beloved actors of the screen and theatre with his outstanding performances in Richard III, Gods and Monsters, Lord of the Rings series and X-Men, Sir Ian McKellen has also been the ambassador of British Council’s Shakespeare Lives programme in 2016 Opens in a new tab or window.

Sir Ian McKellen will be the guest of Istanbul Film Festival by IKSV and receive a cinema honorary award. Sir McKellen will also be meeting LGBT groups to support equality.

Editor’s Note: Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts tweeted the following response after Kaos GL’s story.

“An incorrect perception that honorary guest of the 36. @ist_filmfest Sir Ian McKellen’s speech during the opening ceremony was censored.”

“We would like to express that the hitch in the translation @ist_filmfest was caused by sound not reaching the stage during the speech and was not intentional.”

Doğuş Media Group’s Strange Censoring of National Geographic

Both the headline and cover photo of January 2017 issue of National Geographic magazine, published under Doğuş Media Group in Turkey, were strangely censored.

Source: GZone, “Doğuş Dergi Grubundan National Geographic’e Tuhaf Sansür” ( “Doğus Media Group’s Strange Censor to National Geographic”), 2 January 2017, http://gzone.com.tr/dogus-dergi-grubundan-national-geographice-tuhaf-sansur/

The historic issue, which we had covered earlier on GZone, has  9 year-old trans kid Avery Jackson on the cover and the headline reads “Gender Revolution,” i.e.  “Cinsiyet Devrimi” in Turkish.

Avery Jackson, who is the first trans individual to appear on the cover of the 128 year-old magazine, had  reported having received homophobic insults and threats via social media after the publication of the issue.

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Doğuş Media Group, who own the rights of the magazine in Turkey and have been publishing it for the last 17 years, has in a sense censored the cover photo and the headline by mistranslatıng it.

The same issue of the magazine in Turkey did not have the trans kid Avery Jackson on the cover and the headline which should have been translated as  “Cinsiyet Devrimi” [“Gender Revolution” –trans.] was translated as “Cinsiyet Mücadelesi” [“Gender Struggle” –trans] for some reason.

The cover on the Turkish edition of the magazine minimizes the perceived content to heterosexual female and male gender despite content which predominantly addresses LGBTI individuals and the expanding perception of gender.

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Şaban and Recep’s love was acquitted

The trial against the activists carrying a banner that reads “Ramazan can’t interfere with Şaban and Recep’s love*” was concluded. The anti-homophobia and anti-transphobia activists were acquitted.

Source: “Şaban’la Recep’in aşkı beraat etti” (Şaban and Recep’s love was acquitted), kaosgl.org, December 27, 2016, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=22706

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The lawsuit was filed with the charges of “deliberately denigrating the religious values adopted by a certain part of the public” (TCK Article 216) against three people carrying a banner that read “Ramazan can’t interfere with Şaban and Recep’s love”, and the second hearing was on December 27. The banner was carried during 2015 Istanbul Pride March, amidst the police assault.

Defendant G.H who was missing at the last hearing and who could not give their testimony, presented their defense at the Istanbul 33rd Criminal Court of First Instance.

In their defense, G.H. indicated that they joined the walk to draw attention to the pressures LGBTIs have to endure and stated “Our intention and our aim was completely peaceful. Police attacked us. After the attack, we continued our walk without any furor. At that moment I saw the banner. I did not know about it. I accompanied as I did not think it included any insult.”

G.H. stressed that the banner did not insult religious values and continued their defense as below:

“The banner is about the love between two months. Therefore there is no insult. In my opinion the complainant is the one who commits the crime of leading the public to rage and hatred because the plaintiff’s attorneys have deliberately stated their discomfort with LGBTI individuals and that the annual and peaceful Pride March leads them to “rage and aggravation”. Such a statement denigrates a certain part of the public.”

The court ruled that the act charged against the defendants was not a crime according to the law and acquitted the defendants.

* Translator’s Note: Ramazan, Şaban and Recep are Turkish names for the three sacred months of Islam, Ramadan, Sha’ban and Rajab. These names are also given as male names in Turkey, hence the pun.

Facebook Censorship of Lesbian Bisexual Feminists

The Facebook page of Lesbian Bisexual Feminists has been shut for the reason of “pornography”. LezBiFem criticized that Facebook continues to censor LGBTIs while simultaneously running campaigns like #LoveWins during Pride Week.

Source: “Lezbiyen Biseksüel Feministlere Facebook Sansürü”, (“Facebook Censorship of Lesbian Bisexual Feminists”), kaosGL, 12 February 2016, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=21079

Facebook Turkey’s management shut down the Lesbian Bisexual Feminists’ page. The reason for the censorship was that the content shared on the page “violated [Facebook’s] community standards”.

The most recent contents shared on the page were an invitation to a conference by [women’s rights organization] Mor Çatı, an article titled “Bras; A Product of Patriarchy” on biliyomuydun.com, and the poster for LezBiFem’s planned party on 13 February. When LezBiFem promoted the party poster through advertisements, Facebook had stated that the image did not fit advertising standards.

Campaigns for Pride Week and then censor LGBTIs!

After the closure of their Facebook page, LezBiFem told KaosGL.org that “the Lesbian Bisexual Feminists are now the target of Facebook’s morality”.

LezBiFem said, “We are guessing that our page was removed by Facebook after last night’s post on bras did not abide by community morality” and criticized that Facebook continues to censor LGBTIs when it simultaneously runs campaigns like #LoveWins during Pride Week:

“Facebook supposedly creates a free social arena through its Love Wins campaign throughout Pride Week but has now peaked with its anti-woman, heteronormative, and morality-based example”.   

This is not Facebook’s first LGBTI censorship!

This is not the first time Facebook has censored LGBTIs. Previously during the 2015 Pride Week, the event page “Lesbian Sexual Health: Myths and Truths” was closed due to the community standards reason.

Facebook Turkey’s management had also censored KaosGL.org’s news story titled “Naked against homophobia” in July 2015. The article was removed from shared content for violating community standards.

Facebook’s censorship was not limited to KaosGL.org. Bianet’s news story on Facebook’s censorship of Kaos GL’s article that depicted the Brazilian gay couple who shed their clothes against homophobia was also censored.

 

Lesbian Dating Site Banned Over “Obscenity” Back Online

Source: Çiçek Tahaoğlu, “Lesbian Dating Site Banned Over ‘Obscenity’ Back Online”, bianet, 17 November 2015, http://bianet.org/english/lgbti/169339-lesbian-dating-site-banned-over-obscenity-back-online

The administrative measure against lesbian dating site www.lezce.com, blocked over “obscenity”, has been lifted a few hours after the incident took place.

Web administrator Erman Paçalı telling the ban has been lifted after the incident took place and was in the media, said the following:

“They shut down the website and lifted the ban out of the blue. We haven’t made any change on the website as to the content. We hadn’t managed to contact an authority from TIB despite all our efforts. When we looked at the Presidency of Telecommunication’s (TIB) query panel, the administrative measure appeared on the screen. When we repeated the same query 20 minutes ago, it states there is no decision implemented as to this website.

“The decision to lift the ban hasn’t been issued to all service providers yet, but it will be by the end of the day”.

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What had happened?

Speaking to Bianet, web administrator Erman Paçalı had said that the site doesn’t have any content that could be a subject to blocking, they couldn’t find any addressee regarding the matter, and they will go to court to stop the execution.

Source: Çiçek Tahaoğlu, “Lesbian Website Blocked over “Obscenity”,” bianet, 17 November 2015, http://bianet.org/english/lgbti/169329-lesbian-website-blocked-over-obscenity

Turkey’s only lesbian dating website, http://www.lezce.com*, has been banned for “obscenity”.

“Since obscenity can’t be determined by looking at a user name and password page on our home page, it has obviously been aroused by the name ‘lezce’. We are face to face with an administration that is aroused by letters. These practices encourage homophobia by state itself”, said the administrator of the webpage that operates on a membership system.

Lezce.com content advisor and administrator Erman Paçalı speaking to Bianet said they couldn’t find any addressee relating to the blocking decision and that they will file a complaint with the administrative court to grant a motion for stay of execution.

“We’ve sent our petition to the Presidency of Telecommunication (TIB) but it is unclear when they will respond since there is no law imposing a time limit on TIB. TIB experts conveyed via central office that they won’t contact us directly. We can’t find any addressee. It is not clear what is obscene in the content and what sort of evaluation they made.

“This decision violates the principle of equality. We will go to the district administrative court to stop the execution. We want a verbal hearing because we want to express ourselves”.  

TIB doesn’t inform

Paçalı said they have tried to contact TIB but they couldn’t receive any information regarding even the grounds of the decision.

“Whenever we wish to contact the institution, they express that there is prime ministerial circular stating experts cannot be met with. Thus, as far as we understand there is a circular allowing them to not meet with anyone if they wish to do so.”

Paçalı added that TIB has taken the decision based on “reasonable doubt” and “in order to constitute reasonable doubt, there must be content in line with that. However, our home page doesn’t have any content except for username and password panel, and TIB doesn’t present any content as to the ‘doubt’”.

* Lez is shortened for lezbiyen, which means lesbian, and Lezce stands for Lezbiyence, which means lesbianish.

 

Istanbul LGBTI Pride Week Committee Press Statement

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FOR IMMEDIATE PUBLIC AND MEDIA RELEASE

The Istanbul LGBTI Pride Parade has been held for thirteen years. Yet this year the Istanbul Governor’s Office blocked the parade, citing the fact that it coincided with Ramadan. The use of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, as an excuse to curtail the freedoms of assembly, demonstration, and speech is a clear violation of rule of law. In taking this illegal decision, the Governor’s Office has thus broken the law.

In applying the governor’s illegal order, law enforcement officials, too, became accomplices in a crime. They attacked tens of thousands of people with tear gas, riot-control vehicles, and plastic bullets, even though those people had come to assemble peacefully, just as they had last year. Law enforcement officials violated their legal obligations by carrying out the unconstitutional and illegal order handed down by the Istanbul governor’s office. Indeed, on the day of the attack, many police officers lacked helmets and registration numbers that would have helped identify them.

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Moreover, the decision to block the parade because of Ramadan artificially inflames tensions by presenting LGBTI status and Muslim faith as if they were supposedly two opposing identities. It purposefully ignores the fact that LGBTI individuals can come from all walks of life and aims to demonize them in the eyes of the wider public, preparing the ground for future attacks against LGBTI individuals. The government and the governor’s office will thus be held directly responsible for any attacks against LGBTI individuals that may be committed from this point on.

In a statement following the events, the Istanbul Governor’s Office stated that it had not received any notification about the parade and also that it had felt that certain groups were going to react violently to the parade.

First, if there was indeed credible information that an outside attack was to occur, it is the duty of the governor and of law enforcement to take measures to prevent such an attack, not to themselves attack the group exercising its right to assemble.

Second, Law No. 2911 on Meetings and Demonstration Marches, as well as the relevant article of the constitution, are both entirely clear: Such assemblies are not subject to the prior permission of the governor’s office, nor is there even any obligation to notify the authorities. The 13th annual LGBTI Pride Parade planned for Sunday, 28 June in Taksim Square, was thus not in violation of any law. Moreover, after the parade itself was blocked, law enforcement continued to attack people gathered on the streets for hours. The streets and venues where the Pride Party was being held were attacked by police using gas canisters and plastic bullets long into the night. Such behavior on the part of the police goes beyond merely preventing an “unannounced” parade: It shows that this was an attack on our identities and our very existence.

Hundreds of people who came to participate in the parade were affected or harmed by the attacks, some with injuries serious enough to warrant hospital reports. We would like to take this opportunity to wish a speedy recovery to all of our friends and supporters who were victims of police violence on Sunday. For years, the state purposely ignored systematic violence being inflicted on LGBTI individuals and even reduced the punishments faced by perpetrators; now it is the state itself that has directly and physically attacked the existence of LGBTI individuals in Turkey.

Furthermore, we fail to understand how the same government that assured the United Nations on Friday (26 June) that it would protect LGBTI rights could on Sunday (28 June) go and attack the 13th annual Istanbul LGBTI Pride Parade without providing a legal justification. At the UN meeting on Friday [for the Universal Periodic Review], Turkey approved Norway’s proposal that “Turkey should carry out its human-rights obligations by ensuring that LGBTI individuals and non-governmental organizations are included in the process.” It also declared that it would carry out all proposals approved within the framework of the United Nations. A mere two days later, however, the government acted in violation of these proposals.

We repeat: We were here before, we are here now, and we will always be here!

Turkey has held an LGBTI Pride Parade for thirteen years. It is just one of the many activities of Istanbul LGBTI Pride Week in late June, which has been held for 23 years to mark the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots. It will continue to take place next year and every year thereafter. We will persist in our struggle for existence regardless of the government in power. We will continue to resist all forms of oppression, as we have for years.

We’re here to stay, so get used to it!

At 12:30 on Thursday, 2 July, we will file an official criminal complaint at the Çağlayan Courthouse in Istanbul against Interior Minister Sebahattin Öztürk, Istanbul Governor Vasip Şahin, and Istanbul Police Chief Selami Altınok for their role in ordering the attacks on the 13th Annual Istanbul LGBTI Pride Parade. We call on all political parties, labor unions, the democratically minded Turkish public, and international non-governmental organizations to come and express their solidarity with our cause.

Istanbul LGBTI Pride Week Committee

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