Discrimination & Hate Crimes

Discrimination and Hate Crimes committed against LGBTI in Turkey

A Lesson on ‘Discrimination’ for the Constitutional Court

The Turkish Constitutional Court faces internal dissent on its verdict that banning a gay religion teacher from teaching was not discriminatory.

Source: Nurcan Gökdemir, “AYM’ye ‘ayrımcılık’ dersi”, Birgün, 8 March 2018, https://www.birgun.net/haber-detay/aym-ye-ayrimcilik-dersi-207237.html

The Constitutional Court has recently rejected the appeal of a soldier, who was expunged from the Turkish Armed Forces. The reason given by the court for the decision was that “homosexuality is detrimental to the honor of military service”. Now, the Court has ruled that there was no discrimination against a Religious Culture and Moral Values teacher, who was fired for the same reasons.

The court ruling states “It is natural for persons, who want to work educating young children, to be subjected to certain restrictions to which other people are not subjected.” Deputy Chair Engin Yıldırım and member Muharrem Topal did not support the ruling. In his statement for voting against [the ruling] Yıldırım stated that discrimination based on sexual orientation is prohibited in international agreements and stipulations, which Turkey has agreed to uphold. The statement of dissenting vote, which emphasizes the fact that the Constitutional Court’s ruling is unconstitutional, included these points as the rationale:

“The Constitution states that the State does not have an official sexual orientation and the State must be equal and impartial to all genders, sexual identities, gender identities, and sexual orientations.”

“Discrimination against sexual orientation is an acceptance of the idea that some lives are less deserving of respect and dignity, and therefore lead to hindering LGBTI+ [people’s] participation in social life with equal opportunity and dignity.”

“One of the foundational duties of the state is to protect human dignity and refrain from policies, practices, and judicial regulations that will damage the dignity of people who constitute a particular community”

#BeAVoiceForDiren

Friends of imprisoned LGBTI activist Diren Coşkun have started a campaign to support Diren who has started a death fast against the rights violations she has been enduring in a Turkish prison. The campaign urges supporters to sign a petition and to write e-letters, which will then be taken to Diren.

Diren was arrested on Aug. 14, 2017 with the allegation of “propaganda for an illegal organization.”

Diren is a trans woman and has been put in isolation after she rejected to stay in the male ward of the prison. Demanding an end to her solitary confinement and access to trans-specific healthcare, Diren started the death fast on Jan. 25.

Kıvılcım Arat from Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association announced her own death fast on Feb. 6 in solidarity with Coşkun. (Read Arat’s account of life in prison for trans inmates on here.)

To support Diren, please sign the petition or join the social media campaign by sharing your messages of solidarity these hashtags:

#SeiEineStimmeFürDiren

#DireneSesVer

#BeAVoiceForDiren

#WeesEenStemVoorDiren #SoyesUneVoixPourDiren

#TransRights

 

Kaos GL: When the perpetrator is trans, the media is ready to lynch

Newspapers use wording that triggers transphobic hate and prejudice while covering an incident in Samsun, involving a group of men and a person who is stated to be transgender.

Source: Aslı Alpar, “Fail trans olunca medya attı tuttu bir asmadığı kaldı!”, Kaos GL, December 15, 2017, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=25094

“Youngster attacked by a transvestite with razor barely survives”, “Tran-slash-tite”, “Slasher transvestite now roams free”, “Transvestite terror”…These headlines today are from the coverage of the incident in Samsun which involves a group of men and a person who is stated to be a transgender individual.

Transphobia starts with headlines

The newspapers have interpreted the incident through a transphobic lens starting with the headlines. Local newspapers in Samsun, Vitrin Haber, Gazete Arena and Korkusuz preferred to use the headline “Youngster attacked by a transvestite with razor barely survives”. Takvim used a completely transphobic headline “Tran-slash-tite” while Milliyet wrote “Transvestite who assaulted an 18 year old in the middle of the street in Samsun was caught”. Şok made its own mis-en-scene and wrote “Transvestite bully was caught and restrained” and Haber Samsun chose to go classical with the headline “Transvestite terror”.

It was only Altınova daily which did not state the gender identity of the perpetrator on the headline and wrote “Knife attack in Samsun”. The same newspaper also stated that the incident happened “due to reasons yet unknown”.

‘Only a stare’?

All but one daily preferred to report the incident with phrases such as “while [the assaulted] was walking on the street”, “while [the assaulted] was walking home from work”, “the youngster who was beaten up in the middle of the street” and continued: “18 year old youngster was attacked by a person who is yet unidentified but known to be a transvestite with a knife, after [he] stared [at the assailant]”.

The statement that the person who is reported to be transgender attacked the person mentioned after ‘ a stare’ is highly concerning. Because the hate attacks targeting LGBTI individuals are often serviced in media as ‘merely a fight’, ‘merely a stare’. It is a partial approach to reporting to ignore the transphobia existing in society and to report the incident as resulting from a mere ‘stare’ between a group of men and a person stated to be transgender.

Transphobia at every opportunity

Ignoring the disadvantages of the group identity of the perpetrator or the victim of the incident might omit the fact that prejudice may have triggered the incident. Moreover, the newspapers foster the prejudice by highlighting the gender identity of the perpetrator and stigmatize all trans individuals as ‘crime machines’.

These news articles, at every opportunity, express hatred against trans individuals who are never covered in the news aside from violent incidents. Similarly, these stories are not written to inform the reader about the incident but to cater to transphobic hate.

Might the prejudice have triggered the incident?

Kaos GL Association’s report entitled “The prosecution of hate crimes” stresses that many hate crimes are reflected as “merely a fight”:

“Many hate crimes take place during incidents which have other triggers such as ‘traffic fights’, arguments about boundaries between neighboring property or arguments about noise. These motives might turn into crimes motivated by racism and other prejudices as the incident unravels.”

Released on judicial control

The news outlets indicate that the transgender perpetrator was caught, gave testimony at the prosecutor’s office, and was released on judicial control condition. A local daily, Hedef Halk, reported the development as “Slasher transvestite now roams free”.

Kaos GL: Transphobic hate murder in Ayvalık

A trans woman, living in Ayvalık Sarımsaklı, was murdered on the balcony of her house in December. The news coverage of hate crimes which normalize the violence renders social prejudice invisible and the crime insignificant.

Source: Kaos GL, “Ayvalık’ta Transfobik Nefret Cinayeti”, kaosgl.org, December 15, 2017, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=25090

A trans woman, living in Ayvalık Sarımsaklı, was murdered on the balcony of her house.

According to the news media coverage, the trans woman Kader was murdered with a single bullet to her head on her own balcony during the night of December 13. The murder suspects N.E.Ç and S.K. were taken into custody.

Newspapers normalize the hate crime

Hürriyet, Milliyet, Balıkesir Ekspres and Körfez’de Olay daily used Kader’s male ID name in their coverage of the hate murder against the trans woman. Milliyet, Körfez’de Olay daily and Balıkesir Ekspres used the headline “Transvestite Murder in Ayvalık”, Hürriyet wrote “Fortune teller Kader was killed on [her] balcony”.

These newspapers used expressions which strengthen the existing transphobic prejudice and introduced the victim as “[who] uses the nickname Fortune teller Kader”. All of the four dailies normalized the hate murder and violated the rights of the murdered person.

Hate murders do not only target the victim

In the crimes committed with hate the victims are chosen based on not by who they are in contrast to other crimes, but by what they represent. Therefore, the hate crimes give the message to the victim and the community the victim belongs to that they are not welcome and are not safe. The media coverage of the hate crimes which normalize the act render the social prejudice invisible and the act insignificant.

Kaos GL Association calls media employees’ attention to how the hate crimes which target LGBTI individuals are covered in its 2016 report on hate speech. You can access the report via this link.

Bianet: Fifth hearing of “Mobbing in GAP” case: “I have homosexual friends too”

Attorney for GAP, on trial for its practice of mobbing against a homosexual employee, claimed that Istanbul LGBTI was trying to build its reputation through the case. The association stated “We will not let our spaces of work be destroyed, they are already limited to begin with”.

Source: Çiçek Tahaoğlu, “GAP’te Mobbing Davasında 5. Celse: ‘Benim de Eşcinsel Arkadaşlarım Var”, bianet, November 9, 2017, http://bianet.org/bianet/lgbti/191391-gap-te-mobbing-davasinda-5-celse-benim-de-escinsel-arkadaslarim-var

U.S.-based textile company GAP’s Turkey branch is on trial for practising mobbing against a homosexual employee. The fifth hearing took place today at Istanbul Ninth Labour Court today (Nov. 9).

A homosexual man, store manager who had been working in the Kanyon Mall branch of GAP for nearly ten years, resigned in early 2015 when he had started to experience mobbing after the regional manager M.A’s arrival.

The gay employee says that someone had filed a complaint with the ethics department of the company based on his sexual orientation and that he was warned during meetings with phrases such as “Are you a man?”, “Be a man”. The employee later sued the firm for mobbing with the help of Istanbul LGBTI Association.

At the hearing GAP’s attorney claimed that Istanbul LGBTI filed a lawsuit against the global company in order to make a name for itself. On the minutes of the hearing, Istanbul LGBTI was stated as a “sexual LGBT association.”

Istanbul LGBTI’s Chair Kıvılcım Arat told bianet “We regard this case not as a mobbing lawsuit filed by an individual, but an exemplary case in which we defend everyone who has been discriminated against based on their sexual orientation and identity. We will not let our spaces of work be destroyed, they are already limited to begin with.”

Complaint against homosexuality with the company’s ethics department

At the second hearing today, a witness for the plaintiff and another for GAP were heard. The witness for the plaintiff stated that he is homosexual as well and that he witnessed the gossip about the plaintiff, suggesting that both himself and the plaintiff were subject to mobbing due to their homosexuality. The witness also stated that there was a rumor about himself and the plaintiff staying in a hotel in Bartın together and that one employee sent an e-mail to the company’s ethics department [based] on this rumor.

The witness for GAP, the regional manager M.A, said that there was no discrimination at the company “based on religion, language or race”, that he had not witnessed any cases of mobbing against the plaintiff and that this person left his job of his own will.

GAP’s attorney also claimed that the report written by the Council of Forensic Medicine which states that the plaintiff was psychologically affected by the mobbing is not scientific.

The next hearing where other witnesses will be heard will be on February 28, at 11:50.

Istanbul LGBTI: We will not be “men”, we will be humans!

In its statement on the case, Istanbul LGBTI underlined the fact that the GAP company is known for its global social responsibility campaigns against homophobia and gender discrimination, stating “Every barrier you build against our right to work strengthens our determination for struggle and our spaces of solidarity! We will not be “men”, we will be humans! And we will take you out of the darkness created by manhood into the light of being human!”.

The association’s chair, Arat, emphasized the lack of awareness about mobbing in the Turkish judiciary and said:

“This case has been continuing for the last three years and in each hearing GAP finds an excuse and pushes for postponement. GAP’s headquarters in the USA does not make any explanation about the mobbing against the employees in Turkey and about the fact that the forensic report proved the practice.

“What we have seen is that GAP’s policies for the USA and Europe are highly different than that of the Middle East. We had a brief talk with GAP’s attorney after the hearing. They said that they have homosexual friends too. So I said I have heterosexual friends too.

“When I think of the current state of the justice system in Turkey, I can’t really predict the outcome of the trial. We sued Alperen Hearths and Muslim Anatolia Youth under the state of emergency circumstances and it was the first ever case of ‘inciting the public to hatred and rage’ against the fascists -an article which is generally used against the oppositional voices. We will also be following this trial.”

Bianet: Lecturer exiled from Department of Architecture to Department of Physical Education after filing a criminal complaint against the Rectorate

Mardin Artuklu University Faculty of Architecture Research Assistant Emre Özyetiş says “I believe it is because of my gender identity that I went through all of this.”

Source: Beyza Kural, “Lecturer exiled from Department of Architecture to Department of Physical Education after filing a criminal complaint against the Rectorate” (“Rektör Hakkında Suç Duyurusu Yaptı, Mimarlıktan Beden Eğitimine Sürüldü”), bianet, December 29, 2017, http://bianet.org/bianet/insan-haklari/192877-rektor-hakkinda-suc-duyurusu-yapti-mimarliktan-beden-egitimine-suruldu

Emre Özyetiş, a research assistant at the Faculty of Architecture at Mardin Artuklu University filed a criminal complaint against the rector, claiming that the rector had insulted him based on his gender identity and had threatened him. His complaint was covered on the news, upon which Özyetiş was assigned to work at the Directorate of College of Physical Education and Sports.

Indicating that he believes he faced such treatment due to his gender identity, Özyetiş told bianet “What I went through is a textbook example of the legal definition of mobbing”.

Özyetiş graduated from the METU Architecture and Philosophy departments, completed his Master’s on architecture in Austria, and currently continues his Ph.D. in Architecture at METU. Özyetiş objected to the decision of the rectorate and demanded to be reinstated to his post at the Faculty of Architecture.

We called the rectorate regarding the matter; however our phone calls were not answered.

“If this gets on the news, I will sue you”

Özyetiş has been working at the Faculty of Architecture as a research assistant since 2014. He says that on December 26, 2017, he was invited by the rector of the university, Ahmet Ağırakça, to his office for a meeting.

“Without any explanation, Ağırakça asked me ‘Do you want to be a girl?’ When he saw that I was baffled, he said, ‘Don’t you realize you are in Mardin?’ When I said that I was trying to understand what is going on, he raised his voice and said ‘Get out!’ Then I told him that he uses hate speech which is against the law, he put his hand on his waist as if he was reaching for his gun, and threatened me to get out of the room. Right after this confrontation, he called my colleagues and said things like, ‘How can you teach a course with someone like Emre?’ and continued to insult me over my sexual orientation.”

On December 27, Özyetiş filed a criminal complaint with the Mardin Office of the Chief Public Prosecutor, accusing the rector of threat, insult and harassment through hate speech.

Journalist Zeynep Yüncüler covered the incident in Journo on December 28. She contacted Rector Ağırakça, who according to the article is to have said, “I don’t want any male professors at my school acting like a girl. This is immoral and shameful. If this gets in the news, I’ll sue you as well”.

“Assignment” to physical education from architecture

Today the secretariat of the Faculty of Architecture sent Özyetiş a notification signed by the rectorate, stating that “it is seen fit that [Özyetiş] is assigned to the Directorate of the College of Physical Education and Sports for a year”.

The premises for the decision was indicated as Article 13-b of the Law on Higher Education no. 2547, which regulates the duties of the rector and states the duty as: “When the rector sees it necessary, s/he can change the posts of the teaching staff and other personnel working at the institutions and units which constitute the university or reassign said personnel”.

Özveriş, who did his undergraduate, graduate and doctorate studies in the field of architecture, objected to the rectorate’s decision.

“I requested an explanation about why I was assigned to the College of Physical Education and Sports, and demanded to be reinstated to my post at the Department of Architecture. I will apply to the Administrative court, whether I receive a reply or a rejection of my demand or not.”

The times for the finals and make-up exams for which Özyetiş is responsible for at the Department of Architecture are about to come.

The Union of Education and Science Labourers’ (Eğitim ve Bilim Emekçileri Sendikası) statement titled, “Scenes of State of Emergency at Mardin Artuklu University”, indicates that there have been exiles disguised as reassignment.

“I was subjected to this treatment due to my gender identity”

Regarding the reassignment which followed his complaint and the news published on Journo, Özyetiş has said, “I see it as an effort to disrupt my working environment and to make my life harder”.

“What I’m currently going through is a textbook example of the legal definition of mobbing. A reassignment at a department where I’m not qualified for is seen as fit for me. There are no students enrolled here, therefore I don’t know what I’m assigned for, either.

“Exiles in universities have happened countless times before this happened to me. I’m subjected to this [treatment] because of my gender identity–because of the way I exist and because of my ideas on gender that I expressed in lectures. Other colleagues have been subjected to similar rights violations due to other reasons.”

“We were discussing whether architecture has gender or not”

“I’m asked why this has happened to me; I believe it’s entirely because of my gender identity.

“I guess the rectorate implies that this process started after we had the screenings of two films, Innocence and Cosmos, in class. I’m a research assistant; these are not classes I opened. I have colleagues with whom I share the instruction of these classes. Furthermore, these films can not be interpreted in the manner he does, nor are they incompatible with the criteria for class content.”

“We talk about gender in lectures. We talk about the fact that gender is not the assigned sex, but a matter of self-expression or self-assignment, which is much more significant.”

“The rector probably says, ‘Emre says he wants to be a girl in his class’, as I have stated that the assigned sex at birth is not the only determinant of gender and that any person has the right to express themselves as men or women. Or maybe that’s what he assumes. Not only I, but also those in class say that there is no such thing.

“Besides, I can be a trans individual; I can state that I am a woman. There is no legal measure against this; there is nothing to justify the accusation and the treatment I was exposed to.”

Bianet: We asked SPoD about the bans against the LGBTIs: The bans restrict the growth of the LGBTI+ movement

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Source: “We asked SPoD about the bans against the LGBTIs: The bans are against the growth of LGBTI+ movement” (“LGBTİ Yasaklarını SPoD’a Sorduk: Yasaklar, LGBTİ+ Hareketinin Büyümesine Karşı”), Çiçek Tahaoğlu, bianet.org, December 5, 2017, http://bianet.org/bianet/lgbti/192163-lgbti-yasaklarini-spod-a-sorduk-yasaklar-lgbti-hareketinin-buyumesine-karsi

Serdar Ocaksönmez, Communications Coordinator for Social Policies, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Studies Association (SPoD), has evaluated the new restrictions imposed on LGBTI activities following the ban in Ankara for bianet.

Ocaksönmez suggests that these bans are not just against film screenings but aim to criminalize LGBTI individuals and the LGBTI+ movement. SPoD are concerned by the increasing constraints.

Ocaksönmez invites all civil rights defenders to show up in solidarity, saying “we feel frightened these groups are targeting us and spreading hate speech”.

“The ban criminalizes our existence”

What is your opinion on the indefinite ban in Ankara?

The ban in Ankara is not only against a film screening. Due to its scope, the ban restricts all means of public engagement and mobility. The notions of “social sensitivity” and “morality” defined in the decision are highly concerning; we cannot allow the existence of LGBTI+ individuals and their identities to be criminalized under the pretenses of “social sensitivity” and “morality”. If we think about the consequences of these actions long term, the existence of LGBTI+ associations presently active in Ankara may be directly affected and harmed by this decision. Considering that Ankara is the capital, I see this as a strategic decision.

 

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“Censorship in other cities is no coincidence”

Can you observe the influence of this ban in other cities?

The ban affects different populations in different cities. An event in Mardin, planned before the ban in Ankara was declared, was cancelled after it was targeted by the hate speech. In Bursa, another event was forcibly cancelled by the police. Lastly, LGBTI+ film screening in İstanbul was banned by the District Governorship of Istanbul. We cannot assume that these are separate or purely coincidental cases.

“We feel threatened”

Did the bans have an affect on SPoD’s work?

Even though they haven’t affected us directly, there is the definite possibility [bans] will spread all around the country–especially in Istanbul. Bans have had a psychological impact on all of us in the LGBTI+ movement. We are concerned there will be further bans on the activities we are organizing or the ones we will organize. Aside from this, we feel threatened by the existence of those groups targeting us with hate speech.

“We will keep following the trial”

Did you receive any applications, questions etc. from the local organizations and activists regarding this ban or other bans in different cities?

We are in close contact with the organizations in Ankara. We are following the lawsuit filed by Kaos GL and Pink Life after the ban, demanding the halt of execution. We are trying to gather as much information as we can regarding other bans and interventions.

“The bans are a reaction against the growth of LGBTI+ movement”

Do you think the ban in Ankara can spread to the other cities?

Frankly, we weren’t expecting such a ban. There have been individual bans which cited  “security” concerns over the last three years such as the ban against LGBTI+ and Trans Pride Walks in İstanbul and the May 17 events in Ankara. But this last ban is indefinite and we therefore feel it  targets us personally. We are facing a very different kind of violence when the existence of groups of people, our ways of life, and the right to peaceful assembly are targeted here. When we look at the last three years in their entirety, this looks like a reaction against the growth of the LGBTI+ movement.

“We invite all rights defenders to show solidarity”

Do you have any plans, strategies or calls regarding the ban attempts?

Right now, we as SPoD are acting in coordination with other LGBTI+ associations and platforms. We are following the lawsuits filed by Kaos GL and Pink Life Associations in Ankra and we are hope to see the ban lifted as soon as possible so that we can continue with our activities.

We request the authorities adhere to Article 10 of the Turkish Constitution as well as with international conventions, including the Istanbul Convention, to which Turkey is a party. We want the authorities to correct this mistake immediately. We believe that we will overcome these bans through advocating solidarity, like we did when Lambdaistanbul was sought to be closed. We invite not only LGBTI+ organizations but all civil rights defenders to be present in a show of solidarity.