Discrimination & Hate Crimes

Discrimination and Hate Crimes committed against LGBTI in Turkey

“Propagating anti-LGBTI+ policies is against the principle of secularism”

The Confederation of Public Employees’ Trade Unions (Kamu Emekçileri Sendikaları Konfederasyonu, KESK): “It is not possible to think that hostility towards women’s liberation and LGBTI+ individuals’ existence is separate from the dominant male-oriented, heterosexist viewpoint.”

Source: “Propagating  anti-LGBTI+ policies is against the principle of secularism” (LGBTİ+ düşmanı politikaları ülkenin en kılcal damarlarına kadar taşımak laiklik ilkesine aykırıdır) Kaos GL, 7th of May, 2020 https://www.kaosgl.org/haber/lgbti-dusmani-politikalari-ulkenin-en-kilcal-damarlarina-kadar-tasimak-laiklik-ilkesine-aykiridir?

In relation to the Friday khutbah of the Directorate of Religious Affairs, which pointed out LGBTI+ individuals and people with HIV as the target for hate, the Confederation of Public Employees’ Trade Unions (KESK) Executive Board has issued a statement. The board said: “It is not possible to think that hostility towards women’s liberation and LGBTI+ individuals existence is separate from the mentality which defines women only within the family and through men, seeing interpersonal relations only as the way of breeding and the reproduction of labour power and “nation” which is defined within a nationalist-conservative framework, and the dominant male-oriented, heterosexist viewpoint.”

The full statement of KESK is as follows:

“The statements of Ali Erbaş, the Head of the Directorate of Religious Affairs, targeting homosexuals, people with HIV, and extramarital relations in the Friday khutbah and making them the scapegoat for the pandemic, are clearly disgraceful and hateful towards a certain section of society and points them out as the target for the masses.”

“In the Article 10 of our Constitution, it is regulated that everyone is equal before the law regardless of language, race, colour, gender, political opinion, philosophical belief, religion, sect and similar reasons. The khutbah of the Head of the Directorate of Religious Affairs constitutes a crime of hate and discrimination in the Article 122 of the Criminal Code, as well as a violation of the principle of equality regulated in that article.”

“After the reactions to the crime committed by the Head of the Directorate of Religious Affairs, the point we have reached today has ceased to be only that of a hate crime by a civil servant, but also that the belief principles of a religion have been given more power than the constitution and law. Instead of acting against this crime, which was committed directly by the person holding the title as a head of a government institution, the government also supported the crime with the statement that “any attack towards the Directorate of Religious Affairs is deemed to be made against the state”; and investigations have been initiated against the bar associations whose duties are to protect and promote human rights; the bar associations have been accused of hostility towards Islam and targeted directly by the government. The worst part of this [the government’s] statement is the discourse stating that the state is now a theocratic state and identifying the state with the Directorate of Religious Affairs. This discourse is a clear violation of the principle of secularism protected by the second Article of our Constitution. ”

“The Article 4 of the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey lists the Articles that can not be replaced and about which even an offer to replace cannot be made. One of these articles is “The  Republic  of  Turkey  is  a  democratic, secular and social state governed by rule of law”. Neither the President nor the Head of the Directorate of Religious Affairs, who identify the state with themselves and the religious affairs, is above the Constitution. Every institution and establishment can be criticized and the Directorate of Religious Affairs is not above that. Presenting the criticisms towards the Directorate of Religious Affairs as hostility to Islam is to cover its ideological function, to lead hatred and hostility from a section of society against those who criticize the Directorate, and to cause new Çorum and Maraş massacres.”

“The Directorate of Religious Affairs today is clearly a fatwa institution that works to legitimize the policies of the government; it desires to be free from all kinds of criticism by being sanctified and to wear some kind of immunity armour. The Directorate of Religious Affairs, which is affiliated with the Palace [the government], sees itself above the laws and the constitution and plays an important role in the religionization of all social bonds and relations through the fatwas it gives, just as the President’s orders are seen as laws. ”

“On one hand, the Corona pandemic in Turkey, just like all over the whole world, has increased the effects of the economic crises that we deeply suffer from. Unemployment and poverty have spread, the people have been unable to bring bread home. The right to access healthcare and education has been commodified through the mentality of “receiving service according to your money” due to the marketization of public services. The health and future of the people are in danger due to the fact that they cannot reach these services, and monthly receiving 1168 TL is deemed to be enough for employees who have been forced to take unpaid leave. On the other hand, the Directorate of Religious Affairs violates the rights of the people with its budget of 11,5 billion TL, which exceeds the budgets of the 8 other ministries and several executive institutions. With its luxury spending of 2,6 million TL for luxury cars and 1,8 million TL for the fuels of these cars over the last 3 years and with its donation campaigns promising acceptance into heaven, it works as an ideological tool in order to spread illegal, misogynist, anti-child, and anti-LGBTI+, but pro-capitalist policies and to make these policies be accepted by society without any reaction. 

“How is this happening?

“Through the khutbahs at the mosques by the mufti’s office, saying that strikes are not permissible in the religion and that “any act of decreasing the profit and profitability shall cause the employee to hold a serious religious responsibility”, after the employees were fired because they were members of the labour unions,

By saying that the massacre in Soma was fate and natural and prevented the people to claim their rights,

By obliging the contribution to the donation campaigns under the name of the fight against the pandemic and asking the receipts for the donations to be sent to the mufti offices,

By giving fatwas saying that 9-year-old girls and 12-year-old boys can get married,

By saying that the lust a father feels for his own child is not illicit by the religion, but the shaking hands with women is a sin,

By writing in the Encyclopaedia Islam, which they issued themselves, that stepfathers can have [sexual] relationship with young girls,

By stating that feminism is immorality and recommending women “to look for the wrong in themselves…”

“The Directorate of Religious Affairs functions as an ideological tool for AKP to reshape society with the religious rules of one sect through its giant budget consisting of the taxes collected from the public by violating the Constitution’s Article 136 which determines its duties and responsibilities, as well as the principle of secularism. It is not possible to think that hostility towards women’s liberation and LGBTI+s existence is separate from the mentality which defines women only within the family and through men, seeing interpersonal relations only as the way of breeding and the reproduction of labour power and “nation” which is defined within a nationalist-conservative framework, and the dominant male-oriented, heterosexist viewpoint.”

“The state must be neutral and equidistant to all religions. The ties that make up the society cannot be based on a religious understanding of the sovereignty of a single sect. The ties that make up the society can be defined by a secular and rational standpoint based on equality and the peaceful coexistence of differences. This is the requirement of the principle of secularism, and only in this way can freedom of belief be guaranteed.”

“LGBTI+ individuals exist, women exist; they have the right to live freely, as equal citizens of this society. Being completely distant to science, seeing the pandemic as a divine punishment, and functioning to support AKP’s pro-capitalist policies which are hostile to labour, women, children, and LGBTI+ individuals, to spread them throughout the country, to prevent the reactions about them, and to legitimize them, the Directorate of Religious Affairs violates the principle of secularism and is one of the biggest obstacles to equal citizenship and basic rights and freedoms.”

“We strongly condemn the attacks on Ankara and Diyarbakır Bar associations which have made statements on the government’s attitude clearly violating the principle of secularism, the rule of law, and the independence of the judiciary, which are protected by the Constitution, in order to fulfil the requirements of the secular and social state, to protect and improve human rights and freedoms. We do not accept that the law is being made a threat and an intimidation tool for those who criticize AKP policies and the Palace regime and for those who do not think the same way as the government. The government, which cannot tolerate any view and criticism other than itself, must stop using law as a stick to discipline the organized parts of the society.”

“We call on all the state institutions and administrators, especially the government, to comply with the constitution and international agreements, and to respect the rule of law. We will support the struggle to establish a secular, democratic, rule of law that respects human rights, and will fight against the governing mentality that is based on discrimination, hatred, grudge and enmity among different parts of the society, and which seeks to religionise all social relations.”

Rainbow Europe Map and Index 2020: A Make or Break Moment for LGBTI rights in Europe

ILGA Europe has published its yearly Rainbow Europe Index and Map, here is the executive summary of the report below.  The report states: “Turkey’s score has
been decreasing since 2015, due to restrictions on freedom of assembly and
association. Azerbaijan has also lost points over the past two years due to
irregularities on legal gender recognition.”

Source: “ILGA-Europe Rainbow Map Points To Make-or-Break Moment for LGBTI
Rights in Europe”,
http://www.ilga-europe.orgMay 14, 2020.  Map credit: ILGA Europe Twitter Account
Rainbow Europe – ILGA-Europe’s annual benchmarking tool – is comprised
of the Rainbow Map and Index and national recommendations. ILGA-Europe
have produced the Rainbow Map and Index since 2009, using it to illustrate
the legal and policy situation of LGBTI people in Europe.
The Rainbow Map and Index ranks 49 European countries on their respective
legal and policy practices for LGBTI people, from 0-100%.
In order to create our country ranking, ILGA-Europe examine the laws and
policies in 49 countries using a set of 69 criteria – divided between six
thematic categories: equality and non-discrimination; family; hate crime
and hate speech; legal gender recognition and bodily integrity; civil
society space; and asylum. More information on the list of criteria and their
weight on the total score can be found at http://www.rainbow-europe.org/about
Rainbow Europe 2020 individual criteria and the percentage ‘weight’ assigned
to them remain exactly the same as the 2019 version, meaning that it is easier
than ever before to compare a country’s momentum or regression on LGBTI
equality laws.
Policymakers, researchers and journalists are able to go ‘behind’ the points
and see the original information sources that we base our Map and Index
ranking on. This additional layer of information is available through our
updated Rainbow Europe web module, http://www.rainbow-europe.org.
The Rainbow Map and Index presents a picture of what the policy landscape
is like right now, while our country-specific recommendations attempt to
answer the question “what’s next?” These recommendations for national
policymakers are intended to encourage policymakers to address the most
pressing legal and policy priorities within the framework of our Rainbow Map
and Index. The recommendations were gathered following an online
consultation with a wide range of LGBTI organisations in the various
countries. As a result, the recommendations are tailored to the needs of
activists working on the ground.
TOP 5, Rainbow Europe 2020
1. Malta (89%)
2. Belgium (73%)
3. Luxembourg (73%)
4. Denmark (68 %)
5. Norway (68%)

BOTTOM 5, Rainbow Europe 2020
45. Monaco (11%)
46. Russia (10%)
47. Armenia (8%)
48. Turkey (4%)
49. Azerbaijan (2%)
For the fifth year in a row, Malta continues to occupy the number one spot on
the Rainbow Europe Map, with a score of 89%.
Belgium comes second place for the third time with a score of 73%.
Luxembourg receives the same score as Belgium and occupies the third
spot on the ranking for the second year in a row.
The three countries at the other end of the Rainbow Europe scale
are Azerbaijan (2%), Turkey (4%), and Armenia (8%). Turkey’s score has
been decreasing since 2015, due to restrictions on freedom of assembly and
association. Azerbaijan has also lost points over the past two years due to
irregularities on legal gender recognition.
Hungary is the country with the most dramatic drop in its score, losing
8.46% points in relation to the suspended procedures for legal gender
recognition and the lack of proper state protection at public
events. Poland has also dropped by 1.9% and is now the lowest EU country
on the map.
Another important deduction happened, with France losing 6.80% points due
to the expiration of the government’s action plan.

Montenegro, North Macedonia, and the Netherlands were the three countries
with the biggest jump in scores. Montenegro announced a comprehensive
action plan for the next four years and prohibited discrimination based on sex
characteristics. North Macedonia amended its equality and criminal codes,
adding sexual orientation and gender identity as protected grounds. In
the Netherlands, the Equal Treatment Act was amended with the inclusion of
gender identity, gender expression, and sex characteristics grounds.
Equality action plans have expired in Belgium, Finland, and France, while
Croatia, Ireland, and Kosovo have shortcomings and implementation
problems with their action plans. Serbia and Andorra included sexual
orientation and gender identity protection in healthcare legislation. Belgium
and the Netherlands were the only countries that recognised ‘sex
characteristics’ in their equality laws.

Recognition of family legislation is stagnating across Europe. This year,
only Northern Ireland (UK) introduced marriage equality and Monaco
recognised the right to cohabitation for same-sex couples (coming into effect
on 27 June 2020). Serbia imposed a ban on medically assisted insemination
services for people with a history of same-sex relationships.
Court judgements in several countries had groundbreaking effects on the
lives of LGBTI people, including Spain’s Constitutional Court’s ruling against
the age limit for gender marker change for trans
people; Switzerland’s Federal Court decision saying that the Constitution
protects ‘gender identity’ under ‘sex/gender’; and Kosovo’s Basic Court
decision approving the legal gender recognition of a trans man.

North Macedonia was this year’s only country extending protection from hate
crime, amending its Criminal Code to add sexual orientation and gender
identity grounds. Switzerland’s referendum approved the inclusion of ‘sexual
orientation’ grounds in hate speech legislation.

The right to self-determination for trans people has been recognised only
in Iceland with its new Gender Autonomy Act. Legal gender
recognition procedures have become more accessible through trans
activists’ efforts in Armenia, Cyprus, Kosovo, and Montenegro. The
implementation of existing procedures has worsened in Azerbaijan, Georgia,
Serbia, Turkey, and Northern Ireland (UK)

An interview with Morocco-based LBTQ+ womxn and feminist initiative Nassawiyat

LGBTI+ communities around the world are under pressure from conservative, heteronormative, neoliberal and patriarchist governments. The global rise of right wing politics makes it ever more important to strengthen the transnational LGBTI+ and women’s rights movements. As a part of these efforts, we interviewed Nassawiyat initiative from Morocco and asked them about the current situation of LGBTI+ communities in Morocco.

nassawiyat

Nassawiyat’s logo

-Thank you for taking time to answer our questions again. First of all, we would like to get to know the Nassawiyat team. When and how was your initiative formed? How does artivism play a role in your activism? 

Thank you for taking the time to do this interview, it is important for us to build an international solidarity network of the LGBTQAI+ community. Nassawiyat was created in 2018 in response to a strong desire to campaign for our visibility and our right to exist. We then thought of setting up an LBTQ+ collective where the word will be given to those who do not have it. We adopt an intersectional and feminist approach in our work and as a tool to fight against all forms of oppression. Through artivism we respond to a need for visibility of the Queer community in Morocco. As well as archiving and documenting committed Queer art.

-As some of our readers might know, homosexual relations are criminalized in Morocco, and so is publishing on homosexuality.  What does this mean in practice for the LGBTI+ community, how is the law enforced? Is law an instrument against the feminist struggle as well?

In Morocco the laws are not very clear in relation to publicity about the LGBTQ+ cause. What is criminalised is same sex sexual intercourse. This is part of a series of laws that constrain individual liberties such as sexual relations outside of marriage, abortion rights, the right to eat in public spaces during Ramadan, etc….The law is a tool to criminalize activists and human rights activists in particular. These laws are used but not very frequently as they remain more as a tool of blackmail and condemnation.

-Discrimination against women and LGBTI+ communities often feed each other under heteronormative and sexist governmentality. Currently in Turkey we are experiencing an intense impunity against sexual violence and hate crimes against the LGBTI+ communities. In fact, we still do not have a law defining hate speech or hate crime. The law against “incitement of public towards hate” is often used against the LGBTI+ communities, punishing the victims of the hate speech rather than the perpetrator. How is the situation in Morocco with regards to the protection of the citizens who are LGBTI and womxn?

In 2016, the current Islamist PJD government (which is modeled on the Turkish government), introduced a law against discrimination based on gender, class and validity. This law is certainly not made to protect the LGBTQ+ community but can be used totally in this sense. However, the problem is as you say in the system. A person from the LGBTQ+ community or even a womxn survivor of violence doesn’t feel safe to go to the police as they are not prepared to deal with such complaints. I think this is a universal problem and the result of a misogynistic and sexist patriarchal system that always proves the cis men right.

– Recently, a Moroccan person nicknamed Naoufal Moussa outed gay individuals from her social media accounts, putting their lives at risk. As far as we know, her Instagram account is currently down, but what has happened since then? Were your demands from Instagram answered by the company? How has the community been coping with the situation?

We have seen a great surge of solidarity among the people in the community. We have been strengthened by what has happened and we have found ourselves putting in place several initiatives to impose our presence and our existence. Several groups were opened, people who were far from traditional classical activism mobilized to stop the spread of Sophia’s videos. Instagram responded after a few days as well as Facebook and Grinder with whom we cooperated.

– Do similar cases of outing LGBTI individuals happen, has it happened before? 

Not on such a large scale, there are individual cases that have happened before but not on this scale and not in a situation of lockdown where people are with their parents and or family.

– Isolation is already a social experience for many womxn and LGBTI+ individuals, especially living in conservative, heteronormative and sexist contexts. The COVID19 outbreak means many LGBTI+ individiuals are isolated twice, having to spend time alone or in potentially risky family settings. The community ties which normally shelter and protect LGBTI+ individuals might be effected from the quarantine conditions. But we believe this ties are always strong and empowering. How is this playing out in Morocco? How is the community reaching out to the womxn and LGBTI+ communities? We saw that you provided some psychological counselling services, what are some of the activities of other grassroots organizations in Morocco?

At the moment we are working on two main projects:

– Nassawiy’ART: an open artistic platform for Queer people who use their arts as a medium to advocate for the human rights of LGBTQI+ people in Morocco. The goal of Nassawiy’ART is also to document and archive engaged queer art in order to contribute to the creation and reinforcement of queer discourses in Morocco. And at the same time, to work on the construction of an LGBTQI+ movement of Moroccan artists.

– The Trans Health Matter (THM) Project: The THM project aims to provide psychological and medical assistance to trans people undergoing hormone transition in Morocco, through counseling sessions with an expert in the field, as well as financial support to assist with medical health analyses for the beneficiaries, for a safe and secure hormone transition.

So we can conclude that civil society in Morocco is working on LGBTQI advocacy and women’s rights through direct services to respond to their needs and emergencies, and also through capacity building activities and movements in Morocco.

Civil society in Morocco remains a small movement with limited access to international resources and funding. Most organizations are currently working on their needs and organization in order to further expand work on the wider LGBTQI community and womxn.

– Last but not least, what are your opinions about the international feminist and LGBTI+ solidarity? What would be your expectations from the communities elsewhere and Turkey? How can our English-speaking and Turkish-speaking readers contribute local activism in Morocco?

We don’t have a concrete international solidarity actually on what is happening in Morocco. The only solidarity and collaboration we make are through the international gatherings and meetings to exchange on the situation in Morocco.

What we think will be useful as a first step to work on: -exchange about the situation of the community and womxn in Morocco as well as for as to know more about situations of the community in other countries- share and exchanges our challenges / needs -create linkages and collaboration with other organizations and civil society internationally.

The only connections we have/trying to create now are with other organizations regionally based in the Middle East and North Africa region, as well as organizations based in the African continent.

Make sure you follow Nassawiyat  on Instagram and Facebook  to be updated on their work!

Interview by: Zeynep Serinkaya

“Targeting and investigating organizations that criticize hate speech against LGBTI+ must come to an end”

Here is the press statement Solidarity Network for Human Rights Defenders – Turkey* has written following the homophobic Friday sermon of the Director of Religious Affairs and the prosecution of his critics.  da-03

 

“In days when Turkey and the world is struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are experiencing extraordinary times with thousands of people are losing their lives every day. Amid such crisis, the respect for human rights, the work of rights defenders and their existence are of utmost importance in terms of facilitating solidarity among citizens.

The Directorate of Religious Affairs had used discriminatory statements against LGBTI+ and those who are HIV positive during its Friday Sermon on April 24, 2020. The Directorate clearly conducted hate speech and targeted the individuals and groups associated. At a time when society as a whole is under risk of the pandemic, the main duty of the state respecting the rule of law is to protect the rights of all its citizens.

The Directorate of Religious Affairs is targeting a certain sector of the society while violating the Constitution, laws and international conventions that Turkey is signatory to. This is unacceptable. Moreover, targeting and investigating rights organizations that condemn the statements which undermine basic human rights and the rule of law is a clear manifestation of the accelerating pressure and harassment on the civil space in the last couple of years in Turkey. The main precaution should be fighting against hate speech and discrimination, not judicial and administrative harassment against those who remind public institutions of their responsibilities. It is against the rule of law that the branches of judiciary that are defined impartial did not take action after state officials targeted those who criticized these discriminative and hostile statements.

Turkish Constitution’s Article 136 defines the scope of the duty of the Directorate of Religious Affairs clearly. According to this clause; “Directorate of Religious Affairs, within the general governance and under the principles of secularism, carry out its duties defined within the specific law by staying out of all political views and thoughts and by aiming for national solidarity and integration.”

It is clear that the sermon in question does not comply with the abovementioned framework of the Directorate’s duties.

After the sermon on April 24, 2020, it was expected that the Ministry of Religious Affairs would be reminded of the scope of its duty and an investigation would be launched against those who do not comply with it. Instead, an investigation was launched against bar associations, lawyers and citizens who condemned the statement targeting the LGBTI+ with false information and hate speech. This attitude covers up the actual crime and its investigation while providing an environment that encourages hate speech.

Ankara and Diyarbakir Bar Associations condemned the discriminating statement that harbored hate speech. We, the rights defenders, see the investigations launched against Ankara and Diyarbakir Bar Associations for “insulting the religious values of a section of a society” per Turkish Penal Code’s Article 216/3 as a new cycle of increased attacks against human rights defenders.

The Council of Europe’s Istanbul Agreement, which Turkey is a signatory, prohibits discrimination against sexual orientation and sexual identity under its Article 3. Furthermore, the European Court of Human Rights, as the decision-making body of European Convention of Human Rights, has ruled in the past that it prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The raison d’être of human rights organizations is to stand up against the targeting of citizens based on their sexual orientations and against policies and statements that criminalize them and to struggle against these attitudes.

We stand in solidarity with the LGBTI+ organizations and rights defenders that are threatened and face investigations. We demand an immediate halt on targeting the citizens and an end on these unlawful investigations.  We base our demands first and foremost on the Turkish Constitution and on the international agreements that Turkey is a signatory of.

As human rights defenders, we are worried about the social impacts of the above mentioned sermon because we have repeatedly observed how hate speech conducted by state officials transition into hateful practices and moreover into hate crimes which heavily ended with impunity. The tradition of not launching an administrative or judicial investigation against officials making statements with hate speech followed suit after the aforementioned sermon. In the light of impunity and the public concerns, rights organizations shared their statements and criticism with the public and exercised their responsibility of correcting false information dispersed by the state.

The mentality of hatred that identifies a section of the society with sickness will make the struggle against the pandemic unsuccessful and ineffective when we are losing tens of people daily. In addition to the hardship we are going through, in order for the hate speeches to end targeting LGBTI+ rights defenders and organizations, an investigation should be initiated against those individuals and institutions.  Scientific and correct information within the frame of human rights law should be shared with the public immediately.”

Solidarity Network for Human Rights Defenders – Turkey

Association for Monitoring Equal Rights, Citizens’ Assembly Turkey, Civic Space Studies Association,Civil Rights Defenders, Foundation for Society and Legal StudiesHuman Rights Association İstanbul Branch, Human Rights Agenda Association, Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, Kaos GL, Life Memory Freedom Association, Media and Law Studies Association, SPoD LGBTI+, Punto24 Association for Independent Journalism, Research Institute on Turkey, Truth Justice Memory Center, Turkish-German Forum of Culture

 

*Solidarity Network for Human Rights Defenders – Turkey is a network of human rights organisations which insists that defending human rights is a universal right. The Network is committed to strengthen solidarity and communication among its members and to challenge all forms of repression and harassment against human rights defenders.

 

Trans people exist in academia too!

Kaos GL interviewed trans man and instructor Lukka Alp Akarçay in a series of articles they launched to mark International Trans Visibility Day. Lukka is also a volunteer for LGBTI News Turkey. We would like to take this opportunity to celebrate his activism and Kaos GL’s continued support for trans visibility. Trans people are here, get used to it! 

Source: “Trans people exist in academia too!” (“Akademide de tabi ki translar vardır”, interview by Hayat Çelik, KaosGL, March, 31, 2020, https://www.kaosgl.org/haber/akademide-de-tabi-ki-translar-vardir

 

111.jpg“Of course, trans people exist in academia too!”

Today [March 31] is the International Trans Visibility Day. This year to mark the day, we launched a special series, saying “We are here, get used to it”. We hope that this series of interviews and articles will contribute to trans people’s struggle for visibility.

Our first guest is Lukka Alp. Lukka is a 40 year old trans man. We talked about coming out, the university he works as an instructor  and his academic life.

Can you introduce yourself to us?

My name is Lukka Alp, I’m 40 years old. I did my undergraduate degree in Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, Painting Department. I finished my master’s in the United States. I’m an instructor and I work in a private university, in a language department. Currently I’m living in Istanbul. 

What do you like to do in your free time?

I love nature. I love going out to nature and hiking in my free time. I like climbing mountains and going for long walks. That is, when I get the chance to get away from work, because it’s usually quite busy. Aside from that, I love reading. And although I can’t get around to it these days, I like painting.  

akademide-de-tabi-ki-translar-vardir-1

Can you tell us a bit about the period when you hadn’t come out to anyone yet? 

It was a difficult period. I was feeling a bit lonely then. At first I was feeling like it was something I was ashamed of, something I wouldn’t be able to tell anyone…Of course, the first time I realized it, I was afraid and I felt like there was no one I could tell this to.

What scared you, why were you afraid? 

When I first realized it, I felt overwhelmed. That was my experience. But of course, it’s not actually that it happened suddenly, it was always in my life but I wasn’t aware of what had been going on. When it felt so suddenly, I got scared. The question of whether I was trans or not was scary. What did it mean for me that I could be trans? It seriously scared me in the beginning. 

Those days I had heard the word “trans” but frankly I didn’t really know what it exactly was. Yes, I was acquainted with a couple of trans friends, but it had never occurred to me that I myself could be trans. 

During the period you were questioning your identity, how were you relating to role models in the media? After all, trans men suffered a lot from this [the lack of role models]. Who were the trans men associating themselves with the most on media? 

It was the end of the year 2017, beginning of 2018 when I came out. I was 38-39 when I realized it. If there were any [role models], maybe I would have welcomed it [my identity] with an open embrace. Because I was not recognizing my identity.  

When and to whom did you first come out? What did you experience afterwards?

I first came out to my ex partner. Because they weren’t here. We were still together but they were away in the United States, we were communicating via video calls. I started opening up little by little, because I thought they’d understand, they had trans partners in the past. They even had asked me before, “Is it possible that you are trans, did you ever think about it?”. I, of course, laughed about it, because I didn’t understand. First they didn’t accept it when I started telling them. So I stopped talking about it and opening up. Later I came out to a close friend. I told them and they took it well.

Did you open up to your family?

Later, I came out to my family too. I came out on the phone. First they didn’t get what was going on. They were shocked of course, but they also showed support, the two reactions were simultaneous. They took it well and immediately wanted to support me. They sincerely told me that they don’t get it and they don’t know what it means but that they support me. They said “you are our child”. They asked questions as well, “how do you feel, what do you feel?”. So I told them.

When we first came together, they faltered a little, we had arguments about what we will do. For instance, in their first visit [after Lukka came out] they didn’t want to talk about it at all. I started talking about it, and they didn’t know what to do. They didn’t know how to talk about it. So there was tension. Recently they came to visit me, it went really well, they use my name too.

Before you came out as a trans man, how were you identifying yourself?

I wasn’t categorizing myself. It was undefined. It was always a question mark, an ongoing identity search that kept following me around. I was only defining myself over my sexual orientation, as an homosexual. But I would later realize that what was missing was my [gender] identity.  

In the period of coming out, most of the trans people first name themselves homosexual if they name themselves at all.

Yes, that’s what I experienced as well, because when I looked back to my highschool years, I saw that I was attracted to women, therefore I thought to myself, I guess I’m homosexual. I didn’t know much about being trans.

How was your experience during high school and college years, did you encounter any difficulties? Were you subjected to any discrimination?

I can’t say I did, because I was in the closet. My teenage blues was extra intense. Things about my sexual orientation kept popping up and I felt the urge to constantly suppress them.  Because at the time I was ashamed to feel that way. But I can’t say I experienced any concrete discrimination. I was going through a confused phase of not being able to figure out things about myself.  

What were the more challenging aspects of the school for you?

The dressing rooms were uncomfortable places but I couldn’t put my finger on what the reason for this discomfort was. 

How did you start taking steps about your process? How did you get into action? Did you receive any psychological, legal, financial support for your transition? 

Yes, I did. First of all I wanted to figure out and understand whether I’m really trans and what that means to me, so I got psychological counselling. Afterwards  I decided to transition and started the process. Now I’m getting legal support.

You mean an attorney?

Yes, I hired a lawyer.

Is your identity open at the university you’re working at? 

Yes.

How is your work life, have you been subjected to any discrimination based on your gender identity? Are there any challenging incidents or people?

I haven’t faced that many challenges at the institution I’m working at. As soon as I came out, my department director showed support, so did the HR department. They had some difficulties with my name change requests, but when I explained it to them they helped out. 

What exactly is your role at the university? Can you tell us a bit about your job?

I’m working under the languages department. Aside from teaching, we have an initiative made up of instructors from different universities around Istanbul. This initiative is built on feminist principles and does not have a hierarchical structure, we aim to queer the language instruction in higher education in Istanbul, so as to provide inclusion for all gender identities and sexual orientations. We encourage collaborations between the academics, instructors and graduate students to this end, we devise inclusive teaching material, redesign problematic materials and give training to instructors on LGBTI+ issues. Our ultimate goal is to create a concrete product with strategies, materials and lesson plans for instructors. We also devise our own curriculum in this trajectory and conduct research-based studies.  

How is your relationship with your students, did you encounter any problems? How did you come out to your students, what is your dialogue with them on the matter? 

I haven’t had any problems so far. Actually, I wasn’t thinking of coming out to my students. I was talking to our director in a meeting and they asked whether I would consider coming out to my students, I hadn’t thought about it then, later I decided that it was both necessary and important to come out during my transition. For the last four semesters, I come out on the first day of class and every semester how I come out changes format. The first semester I came out, I used a powerpoint presentation and I came out while explaining the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity. In the later semesters I continued to come out with shorter narrations.  This semester I came out while giving examples about the content of a class. I told the students that I was interested in trans rights as I am a trans man and that I would build a research problem from this perspective. I haven’t had any negative reactions from students so far. 

There is a circulation as well, you constantly have to come out to new students, is this challenging for you?

The meaning and the necessity of coming out to students changes for me. I thought I would continue coming out in the same way every semester. When I asked myself whether there is really a need or necessity for this, I was also thinking, every semester I come out to a different group of students, what does this mean to those students, does it change their prejudices towards trans identities, if they have any. This is also a part of queer and feminist activism for me, it is the need to be honest with myself and it is also important because it dismantles normativity and makes others question it. What happens when someone who doesn’t know [Lukka’s trans identity] suddenly thinks “Oh, the teacher is a trans man”? Maybe that contact will open a new horizon for them, or initiate a dialogue about something they haven’t thought of before. Therefore when I don’t come out, I say to myself “is this better or worse?”. (Laughs)

So every semester a new coming out ritual all over again? 

Yes, I come out every semester, just the form of the ritual changes. 

These are very valuable experiences. There can be trans men who might be in your position but who haven’t come out yet. What would you like to tell them? 

Visibility on campus is important because trans students exist. I have said it the first time I came out too: My door is always open to LGBTI+ students. If a trans student hears this, they can come and knock on my door to talk. 

And do you clearly express that, with a flag or a similar thing?

There is a little postcard. It’s always there. (Laughs) It’s in English and it says “Fighting for change”, it has a trans flag on it.

When I first came out this is what happened: After one of the lessons a colleague of mine had a student come up to them and say “I don’t use the name on that list, can you refer to me with this name?”, they came out to my colleague, who then said “We have a teacher like you, would you like to meet him?”. The student was very happy to hear this and replied  “of course”. This meeting and the dialogue that ensued was very valuable both for me and the student. I invite the student every now and then to my office, we chat a little, the student tells me their problems and I share my experiences, and this nice dialogue developed.  

Are there any other trans professors at the university where you work? 

Yes there are.

So you must be transforming the place together. 

Yes. (laughs) We are all very busy and although we can’t come together often, we support each other.

In your daily life, were you exposed to any discriminatory attitude or behaviour, on the street, in shopping or other social instances? 

Of course, while shopping for instance. I have been living in the same place for years so people know me. There was this market I used to go to, I would do my shopping there years ago. I wasn’t transitioning yet. I looked a bit more different too. I wasn’t here for two years, so this was five years later, when I came back. I mean the way I dress (masculine clothing) is obvious. I wasn’t going in this market in order to avoid a dialogue and be referred to as “ms”. Then one day I went in, it looked like it changed hands. Because they didn’t know me, they had no memories of me, they referred to me as mister, brother, sir. Another day I went back, the guy who knows me was there. (laughs) He hadn’t gone, he was standing there! When I first entered, he didn’t want to pay any attention to me and kept me waiting. I felt a very negative energy coming from him. Then he used the word “ms” referring to me, repeatedly. When he kept stressing the word, I felt uncomfortable. I said “What did you say? I think you are mistaken”. Then he apologized. He said “It’s been a long work day, I’m not myself” or something to the effect.  

I said “you are wrong” and left it there. Because I didn’t know what to do at that moment either. But I had to spell it out, it’s obvious that he needed me to clarify. If he gets that clarity, maybe he will say I mistook you for someone else, this is not the person I know. I don’t know, but I felt a negativity the moment I went into the market. It made me uncomfortable, so I never went there again. 

Your experience might resonate with others: Trans people find it hard to go back to certain spaces where they are well known, spaces which had an important place in their lives before the transition. I guess that’s what you experienced. 

Yes, yes.

Is that market on your street, close to your house? 

Yes, it’s nearby. But I chose not to go again. 

Did you go to a farther market where you are not known? 

I mean yes, that’s what I do. 

I had a hard time at the hairdressers. Because I had to go to a barbershop, and the conversations there were horrible. What was your experience?

Actually, I haven’t been for years. My partner used to cut my hair. When we broke up, I started cutting it. Now I do it myself. 

Did you ever question yourself, does my inability to go [to the hairdresser’s] have something to do with these places? 

Surely. I don’t know where to go, it might feel weird to go to a barbershop as I’m not used to it. But I’m dreaming of experiencing the barbershop. Maybe I will try to do it in a couple of months. But I want to have that old school, neighborhood barbershop experience. (laughs) 

Did you experience any difficulties in state offices?

When we switched to the new ID card, I went to the public registry office. I hadn’t started transitioning then. It was distressing to go there. They look at you, they laugh at you, I wanted to get it over with as soon as possible. It was discomforting, but I didn’t experience any discrimination. I was going to first aid training. My name has not changed officially, I went there with my ID card. There was a practical test, and they called out my name. I went next to them but they were still calling out my name, asking where this person was? (laughs) That person is here, I said. The examiner said “Oh, I wasn’t expecting this”. But I also got accepted to the exam. They used the name on my ID yet referred to me as “mister”. 

Did you intervene? 

I didn’t do much because there was an ongoing exam. I told them the name they should use but they didn’t hear. I just wanted to quickly finish the exam at that moment. 

Lastly, what would you like to say to mark the International Trans Visibility of Day?

Off, that’s a tough one. (laughs) It’s an important day, trans visibility and our struggle for it is important. We should continue our struggle. We should continue our activism. Whatever we can do in our immediate environment is a fight on its own. No matter how difficult it is, we must keep fighting. There are trans people in academia too, of course. Trans people exist in all realms of life.

 

Bitopya: Another universe is possible for the bi+ people!

Bitopya is a new platform founded by Umut Erdem. Umut has been writing about monosexism, normativity and bisexuality in contributions to the bi+, vegan and feminist struggles. In this interview, we walk together on the path to Bitopya (bitopia): The invisibility of bi+ existence, the pressing necessity for accesible and correct information on bisexuality in order to get rid of the stereotypes that reign over both the LGBTI+ movement and the heteronormative society , different layers of rescuing sexuality from the hegemony of norms…these are all the stations we will stop by. As LGBTI News Turkey we are excited to follow Bitopya in its journey and would like to thank Umut for taking their time for this interview!

First of all, we would like to get to know you and the crew.

My name is umut erdem (they/them). I’m the founder of Bitopya ☺. I have been actively pursuing bi+politics for a long while. I have been producing content on this subject and in 2019 I became one of the organizers of Bi+ Pride İstanbul which was the first of its kind to take place in Istanbul. We realized the Bi+ Pride together with dear Zeynab Peyghamberzadeh, another bi+ activist. I also organized a Bi+ Visibility Workshop during Pride Week in İzmir last year. In 2018, I prepared a Bi+ pamphlet together with Gözde Demirbilek, under Kaos GL’s roof.

 I live in Istanbul, I earn my living working in a private institution. I am a feminist and a vegan, I also do activism in these fields. Bitopya itself is a field of activism for me. The website was realized thanks to transfeminist activist Ecemen who helped me build the site. Ecemen had also created the website lgbtisagligi.org. This gave us the opportunity to work together. For now, I’m translating the texts about bi+ politics and bi+ healthcare, the ones which I read before and thought “these must definitely be translated to Turkish”. Yet I also need other pairs of eyes to check the translations and to contribute. I can’t really call it a crew but there are definitely collaborations. My friends with whom I exchange ideas and talk about bisexuality and bi+ politics have an important role in the creation of Bitopya.

Umut, your name will definitely ring a bell for our readers from Turkey, how did you come up with the idea to build the website? 

The idea of the website was mine. I personally really needed a true bi+ digital platform. This was my main motivation to realize it. Bisexuality is already an easily erased, invisible position, furthermore, both the lgbti+ and the feminist politics regard it as an intersection rather than an entity of its own. On social media, bisexuality is often targeted and there are many negative, judgemental and biased content, even hate speech about bisexuality. Therefore, I imagined a universe where we can respond to all of this. 

The need to increase the visibility of bi+ politics in Turkey was also a great motivation. I applied to sivildüşün and their support helped me realize the project. Since I know English, I aim to put bi+ people in the agenda of lgbti+ and feminist politics by translating articles about the bi+ politics and bisexual health published abroad. I thought that it would be a big step forward to create a source of information to battle against both the invisibility and the bias, stereotypes, hate speech and dire lack of information about the bi+. I can say Bitopya was born out of the passion to create a universe where we can try to oust monosexism and biphobia out of our lives, ways of thinking and acting; just like we have been struggling against discrimination, patriarchy, and heteronormativity. 

As its name aptly expresses, bitopya carries the aim to expand the horizons through new imaginings for bi+. What do you think is the work and role of digital activism?

It is surely not just tweeting ☺. It doesn’t matter how much that tweet is faved or retweeted. I find the power of social media significant, but I doubt that one tweet or one long flood of political discourse are digital activism. My questioning of the scope of digital activism pushed me to create the website. In my opinion, digital activism should carry the aim to counter the disinformation on social media and promote a healthy platform for debate, dialogue and contact. I’m also motivated to do digital activism for bi+ politics resisting hate speech against the bi+ people. I see so many biphobia ridden tweets written by users who would not accept their biphobia. I am trying to make the digital media a safer place for bi+ people, against monosexism and biphobia. This is what digital activism means for me as well. It is to carry out work of awareness-building without creating opposite poles, without siding with violence; caring for information exchange, healthy communication, equality and inclusion instead.  

How is the “B” and the “+” faring in the LGBTI+ movement of Turkey? How would you describe the hardships of being bi+ in Turkey? Is it any different around the world? 

It is as if bisexuality amounts to nothing. It might sound too tough but this is how it seems. We have just begun to walk on the paths opened by the subjects themselves. If it weren’t for them, no one would think about it. Of course there is a history to it all and it has only become possible to speak about bisexuality through the struggle of the bisexual feminists under the feminist movement, not just the LGBTI+ movement. 

People have been trying to build paths to bi+ politics and bisexuality specifically since 2015. We can say that 2019 has been more promising. But only thanks to the resilience and rebellion of the subjects themselves….The erasure of bisexuals continues, because there are only a handful of people struggling against the lack of information and prejudice. Due to this lack of knowledge, people overlook the fact that bisexuality is a range, an umbrella identity and existence. We try to put it in the literature as “bi+”. We try to put monosexism in literature. 

This is a new struggle of course. Our awareness as subjects is also quite new. Because it is ignored to such an extent that we got used to existing and practicing politics within an intersection of different ways of being.And then there is phobia and hatred. Such atmosphere prevents you from noticing the internalized biphobia. It is quite tragic. I for one can not separate the “+” from bisexuality. The politics of Bitopya is never independent or detached from “+” and trans politics. Because it carries the aim to expose the relationship and intersection of the systems built on binaries and on social consensus. This is why it is a difficult but not an impossible struggle. The steps we take to rid our thinking and judgements of those binaries, to think outside the binaries, to develop arguments and to refrain from generalizations will prioritize “B” and “+” in LGBTI+ movement. 

There is this supposed aim to not fall in the trap of gender binaries in general but I don’t think it’s practiced in reality. Language and politics are still built on the binary of homosexual vs. heterosexual. Bi+ politics criticizes this very binary and relates it to the other constructed binaries. If in fact the critique of binaries was carried out, no one would take the bait of homosexual/heterosexual binary.

There are hardships that begin with the moment of coming out as a bisexual: being invalidated, others’ expectations of proof, not being taken seriously and being showered with disapprovals. The negative experiences in relationships and the traumas have a great impact on your existence and your desire. You take your share from the hierarchy which sides with experience over desire. You can not come out. It all goes back to before you come out anyway. All the hate speech, prejudice, stereotypes, judgements and vilification conditions you and prevents you from finding a representation. In any case there can not be a representation which says “yes, this is bi+”. At least it can not be monolithic. 

Under  such circumstances you experience the absence of characters which identify as bisexual on media or encounter stereotypical representations unfortunately. You are eliminated by being sweeped under one roof. “Gay marriage”, “gay couple”, “lesbian films”, “gay representations”. Bisexuality is never imagined. Why would something laden with so many prejudices and disavowal be imagined anyway? Let’s say you did come out, then you are labeled as supporting binary gender. I’ve encountered this interpretation so many times. You are never queer enough, you are always so binary. Who has the right to come up with these judgements? The idea of bisexuals as being one homogenous group dominates the perspectives. I thought we were advocating for diversity? Let’s face it, we hit a wall when it comes to the matter of bi+ people☺. 

You suffer from not being able to reflect on monosexism or to make it an item in the agenda; you are assigned an orientation based on the person you are with, and depending on that you are either let in or cast out of the lgbti+ community. You are either perceived as a privileged person living their life stepping on others or as someone who suffers too if you are with a person of same gender at that particular moment. I don’t think you can disrobe your privilege depending on who you are with. It’s not like “bam” now I’m not privileged, because my partner is not of the same gender or is not regarded as normative, or “voila” I’m privileged now because my partner is of another gender identity. How can that be? Is this a game of musical chairs? We need to question this fixed, generalizing, clearly delineated way of thinking.

The situation is no different elsewhere in the world. Although I feel like there would be local differences, as far as I can follow, it is all quite universal: The invisibility, ostracization, exposure to negative bias, the binary thinking mechanism in society and the movement. The translations in Bitopya are not in vain  

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Bitopya website design and illustrations are made by Ecemen.

Since we are already in outer space, looking back at the world, let us also ask: An important mission of Bitopya is translation. You and LGBTI News Turkey have a common issue: To build a bridge between the bi+ folks in Turkey and around the world. What do you think is the significance and function of translation? What is the potential of the exchange that the internet provides for the LGBTI+ movement?

If we consider the fact that many LGBTI+ people use the internet and express themselves online more, we can see that our work is quite important. We have the potential to reach a lot more people. We can reach out to those who don’t breathe the same air with us or live in the same neighborhood. On its own the internet is a means that brings so many people together on a common ground. Yet we see that it also becomes a disadvantage when the social media is misused. 

That coming together also musters strength through polarization. Bitopya aims to disseminate its politics and its discourse without falling in that trap. A great lack of knowledge about bi+ politics reigns in Turkey. This is why it is crucial for me to follow what’s going on around the world. There are lots of sources in English but Turkey is unaware of that content, which makes Bitopya itself a responsibility. Not everyone knows English, therefore I wanted to translate the sources in English to Turkish. It was very vital that we have a particularly bi+ source and platform, otherwise bi+ existence is easily overlooked and not reflected upon. I thought that it was necessary to fight against the misinformation and hate speech disseminated on the internet, by creating such a platform. This is a choice after all. I hope it will reach a wider audience. 

Creating such a platform leads to international solidarity and communication as well, because the translation is not just a service for the readers in Turkey or a means of action, it leads to a contact with the owner/author of the translated content. Then that person also shares Bitopya. Next thing you know, Bitopya does not only reach Turkey anymore☺.  

Providing the transformation of language is another vital issue. It takes extra work to think about how to translate the English terms to Turkish and how to localize them while breaking the binaries reproduced in language.  My wish is to be able to introduce a link from the website against any misinformation or hate speech circulated on the internet, and to render Bitopya’s content widespread. I believe that this way people will no longer have a chance to ignore it anymore. We see the first steps in this path and I believe it will grow stronger. 

Let us briefly talk about the sections on the website too: Bi+ politics, bisexual health and bisexual history. How did these titles come about? Are you thinking of adding new titles? Will we see original content too? We are very excited!

It’s quite exciting for me too ☺, I’m happy that it resonates with you. The section “bi+ politics” introduces bi+politics pursued abroad to Turkey and to Turkish. “Bisexual health” provides articles about the impact of monosexism and biphobia on bisexual healthcare, to the health conditions that may be overlooked under the banner of LGBTI+ health and to the bi+ people’s access to healthcare. 

Bitopya also introduces videos published by the #StillBisexual video campaign with Turkish subtitles. This section will continue to be updated as well. #StillBisexual is a video content campaign developed by activist and writer Nicole Kristal in 2015. Bisexuals share various stories about their orientations at #StillBisexual and the hashtag aims to fight the negative bias and myths about bisexual, in order to develop an awareness about bisexuality as a range of existences.   

One of the reasons why bisexuality is lesser known is because its history is lesser known. Moving forwards with that idea, Bitopya aims to create awareness through the translation of the bihistory page. There will of course be additions. There are some ideas waiting to be realized in video format. I also want to dig deeper in bi+ history of Turkey. I’m not sure what you mean by original content but there will be new stuff for sure. Stay tuned!☺. 

Some of our readers may share the dreams of Bitopya and may wish to contribute to the site, especially our English speaking readers.  How can they contribute?

We will develop Bitopya together in fact. Maybe they can come up with an idea about how they can contribute when they look into the website. There can be help with translation. They can send articles either in Turkish or English. When we receive a text in a language other than English or Turkish, we need help with translation, so if you are fluent in other languages you are welcome to help. We had translated an article Zeynap wrote in ILGA before, about bisexual asylum seekers. It is very valuable to hear more about this issue. We are open to contributions in design and illustration. Our horizons are wide open as to how to grow together. I do not want to approach Bitopya as an editor, I see it as a platform shaped by togetherness, contact and sharing. 

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Bitopya’s logo is also designed by Ecemen.

It’s hard not to notice how beautiful your logo and web design is. Who is the designer? We definitely have to credit their contribution. 

Ecemen designed the website as well as building it. It is surely a work of the harmony between our imagination and ideas. I always say, if it weren’t for Ecemen, there wouldn’t be Bitopya.☺ 

We would like to thank Umut for taking their time for the interview. If you would like to get in touch with Bitopya, send an e-mail to bitopya.org@gmail.com

Don’t forget to follow bitopya.org ! Sharing is caring!

Social media accounts:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bitopya/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BitopyaOrg

Instagram: https://instagram.com/bitopya

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHhuPAUXMwf34utc4YlCATA

 

How is the trans sex workers’ right to work being violated in Turkey?

On the occasion of the 3rd of March International Sex Workers’ Rights Day, for the KaosGL readers, we have compiled the details of how the right to work, which is one of the fundamental rights of trans sex workers, is being violated and how this violation can be combated. 

Source: “How is the trans sex workers’ right to work being violated in Turkey?” (Türkiye’de trans seks işçilerinin çalışma hakkı nasıl ihlal ediliyor?), Aslı Alpar, Kaos GL, 3rd of March, 2020 https://www.kaosgl.org/haber/turkiye-de-trans-seks-iscilerinin-calisma-hakki-nasil-ihlal-ediliyor

According to the Constitution’s relevant article on the right to work, “work” is defined as “the right and duty of everyone”.

The same article includes the following statement: “the state takes the necessary measures to increase the quality of the employees’ lives, to protect the employees and the unemployed in order to improve working life, to support the work, to create an economic environment suitable for preventing unemployment, and to ensure peace of work.”

However, when it comes to sex workers, the right to work, which is one of the fundamental rights in the Constitution, is violated. Trans sex workers are exposed to discrimination based on gender identity as well as violations of the right to work.

So, by what means do the laws, those who work for the implementation of the laws, and the law enforcement forces violate trans sex workers’ right to work?

1 – The Law of Misdemeanours

The law of misdemeanours is a law defining various misdemeanours “in order to protect the social order, public morality, public health, environment and economic order.”

In this law, there is no article that defines the work of sex workers as misdemeanours. However, by using this law, law enforcement officers frequently impose administrative fines on sex workers who find customers on the street.

It is possible to fight against the fines imposed by the articles 32, 36 and 37 of the Law through the Criminal Court of Peace. You can use this link to reach an example of the petition that should be written against administrative fines, which was prepared by the Pembe Hayat LGBTI + Solidarity Association.

2 – The Law of Highway Traffic

Another tool used to violate sex workers’ right to work is the Law of Highway Traffic and the Highway Traffic Regulations enacted in relation to this law. Administrative fines are imposed on sex workers by using the first paragraph of the Article 68 of the Law, which regulates the rules for pedestrians.

The relevant article states, “The pedestrians who are on pedestrian roads, crossings or highways when necessary, are prohibited from acting in a way that will prevent or endanger the traffic.”

Sex work is not prohibited in the Turkish Criminal Law. In order to arbitrarily prevent sex workers from their works, the Law of Misdemeanours and the Law of Highway Traffic are being used to punish sex workers, although these laws do not contain the relevant provisions.

3 – Fines to the business cards

Business cards used by sex workers were sent to court under the article 226 of the Turkish Criminal Law, which regulates “obscenity”. After removing their photos, which had been seen as obscene images, from the cards, the sex workers faced another problem after the state of emergency.

The article 227 of the Turkish Criminal Law, which is one of the bag bills enacted during the state of emergency, was amended under the Law on the Amendment of Some Laws and the Criminal Procedure Law No. 6763 published in the official newspaper on December 2. According to this article, “prostitution” is not taken as a crime, but it is forbidden to advertise “prostitution”.

4 – Tracking on social media

Another practice that usurps the sex workers’ right to work is tracking on social media and law enforcement forces raiding houses. By hiding their identities and acting like a client, these officers make contact with the sex workers who use social media to communicate with the clients after the ban on business cards. Then, they go to the sex workers’ houses and impose fines. 

5 – Red tagging the houses, closing the streets

Another violation tool of the administration is to seal the houses with red tags and to close the streets.

Bornova Street in İzmir, where trans sex workers often work, for a while was closed every night the law enforcement forces and the trans people’s right to work was violated. Trans sex workers, whose rights and freedoms are restricted unlawfully in the closed street, are deprived of the procedural security granted to persons in case of detention, and the “medical examination” that must be carried out in custody is skipped.

Red tagging the houses where the trans sex workers work and live leads to another violation of the rights. In addition to being left homeless, the sex workers whose work and housing rights are being violated as a result of the red tags at their houses are not able to work until the tags are lifted.

 

Illustration: Aslı Alpar The person on the illustration says “Turkish Penal Code does not consider sex work to be a crime”.

LGBTI communities in Turkey mark the International Sex Worker Rights Day

March 3   International Sex Worker Rights Day was celebrated in Turkey with panels and meetings. Here is a short summary of the events organized by LGBTI+ communities in Turkey:

Pink Life LGBTT Solidarity Association held a meeting at the Nonviolent Education and Research Center in Istanbul. At the meeting, Efruz Kaya spoke about the history of the struggle of sex workers in Turkey for their rights, members of LİSTAG stated that they will try and focus more on the issues of the sex workers in their own agenda. Jiyan and Dilara from Legal Assistance against Sexual Violence Association also emphasized the need for joint struggle against the violence of law enforcers against sex workers in Turkey.

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Kaos GL published Aslı Alpar’s article on which law articles are used by law enforcers when violating the sex workers’ right to work in Turkey.

The Kadıköy  City Council LGBTI+ Assembly came together with trans sex workers residing in Kadıköy. Trans sex worker women talked about the rights violations they experience and their demands as residents of the city, the participants discussed ways in which a safer and freer living spaces in the city can be created for trans sex worker women. The event aimed to increase the active participation of the trans community of Kadıköy in local politics.

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Boğaziçi University LGBTI+ Studies Club will hold a panel on March 5 to mark the International Sex Worker Rights day at the campus, with the participation of activists and sex workers Svetlana, Zelal Demir and Hazal Yüksel.

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Trans woman inmate Ida is on hunger strike

Trans activist Diren Coşkun has announced that İda Koçak, a trans woman inmate, has started a hunger strike after she was denied vegan meals in prison. Today is the eighth day of her strike. Koçak has repeatedly demanded vegan meals which was denied by the prison administration.  Pink Life Association has contacted the psychosocial support unit of the prison and requested information about the current situation. Trans, inmate and human rights advocates have launched a hashtag campaign to raise İda’s voice, with the hashtag #idayasesver .

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Trans women inmates have been facing many discriminatory practices under incarceration. Diren Coşkun herself was on a death fast in 2018, demanding her right to gender confirmation surgery and an end to her confinement in solitary confinement.  In September 2019, Miray, a trans woman inmate from Alanya L Type Prison, started a hunger strike as the prison administration kept LGBTI+ inmates in solitary confinement based on their gender identity. On August 2019, trans woman inmate Buse mutilated herself after being kept in a solitary confinement in a men’s ward and denied gender confirmation surgery. Similarly, trans woman inmate Esra Arıkan has repeatedly started hunger strikes due to the inhumane conditions of her imprisonment, such as being confined to a solitary cell, physical abuse and torture as well as harassment. After a ten year long battle, Arıkan finally got her gender confirmation surgery and was transferred to a woman’s prison. However, last year on August, Arıkan was once more on strike, seeking proper medical attention.

 

UPDATE: İda’s demands were met the next day (21.02.2020) and she ended her hunger strike after receiving a vegan meal.

ILGA-Europe’s #AnnualReview2019 is now out!

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ILGA Europe’s annual review covering the period of January and December 2019 is published. The Turkey chapter was drafted in coordination with team members of LGBTI News Turkey. Once more, Turkey ranks 48 among 49 countries, with a score of 5%. You can read the Turkey chapter here and the full report here.

Below we share the press release on the report:

Annual Review of the situation of LGBTI people paints a picture at odds with a widespread notion that in Europe the work is done

Launched today [February 4, 2020] , the 10th edition of ILGA-Europe’s Annual Review details the human rights situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people across the 49 European countries, and the five countries of Central Asia. Created with LGBTI activists and experts on the ground, the Review also identifies trends, both current and on the rise.

This year’s review, which charts developments during the 12 months of 2019, paints a complex picture that diverges from the widespread narrative that all is well for LGBTI people in large parts of Europe. Central to this is a sharp rise in anti-LGBTI hate speech carried out by public figures across Europe – in countries ranging from Bulgaria, Poland and Turkey, to Cyprus, Finland, Greece, Portugal and Spain – and the very real consequences of this for LGBTI individuals and groups. In many countries across the European and Central Asian regions, and not only those with a documented growth in official bias-motivated speech, there has also been an equally sharp increase in online hate-speech and physical attacks on LGBTI people, many of the latter premeditated and brutal.

The review identifies that this is a pan-European phenomenon, from the UK where the populist narrative surrounding Brexit can be linked to an increase in anti-LGBTI hate crimes and incidents, to the banning of events in many towns and cities on the continent, the prosecution of participants in Pride marches in Turkey, and a growing presence of anti-LGBTI and neo-Nazi protesters in public spaces during LGBTI events across the region.

Alongside the rise in hatred, there is increased movement of people from within the region to countries perceived as less harsh. More LGBTI people left countries such as Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan for neighbouring countries where the situation might be perceived as relatively safer. There is also an anecdotal rise in people saying they want to leave countries like Poland for other EU countries.

Reported obstacles in access to healthcare, bullying in schools and the workplace, and LGBTI people being denied services, often with a lack of governmental intervention, all play a part in the overall picture of a Europe where lived experiences for a large part do not match up with the surface message that LGBTI rights and equality have been fully secured.

According to Evelyne Paradis, Executive Director of ILGA-Europe: “It is not all bad news. The issue of bodily integrity for intersex people continues to gain more prominence on the political agenda of governments and institutions. 2019 was a year of positive developments for rainbow families in the region, with an expansion of family rights in a few countries; and important advancements continue to be made on reforming or establishing legal gender recognition procedures, even if in many countries progress is slowing down.

“However, the lived reality of LGBTI people in many parts of Europe and Central Asia is increasingly difficult and for a large part remains invisible, even to organisations like ILGA-Europe. Action is needed. Governments still have so much to do, from adopting laws that guarantee the protection of people’s rights and giving public authorities the means to translate policy into practice across sectors, to leading by example in having a discourse promoting social acceptance and inclusion.

“By making people aware of such a broad and nuanced picture, which is constantly shifting and evolving, the ILGA-Europe Annual Review aims to give a sense of the enormity of issues and areas that affect the lives of people, which will continue to require attention, especially in a context where LGBTI people are being targeted and vulnerability is heightened.”

Trans Istanbul Initiative is Established

The Trans Istanbul Initiative, formed by a group of trans people who come together at Trans Therapy Group meetings, aims to work towards removing barriers to fundamental rights and freedoms.

Source: “Trans Istanbul Initiative is Established”, (Trans İstanbul İnisiyatifi kuruldu), kaosgl.org, January 2, 2020, https://www.kaosgl.org/haber/trans-istanbul-inisiyatifi-kuruldu

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Referring to the constitution’s 10th and 17th articles on fundamental rights, the initiative lists the most fundamental rights violations in their opening statement. The Initiative invites everyone to show solidarity and organize, “In order to fight against transphobic and heterosexist violence that we experience in all areas of life; together, we are going to create spaces that empower us.”   

“We invite all LGBT+ to empower each other”

The Initiative’s opening statement is as follows:

“According to the 10th article of the constitution, ‘Everyone, regardless of language, race, color, gender, political thought, philosophical belief, religion, sect and other similar reasons, is without discrimination, equal before the law.’ However, the equality clause does not include gender identity and excludes us trans people from constitutional security offering no protection against discrimination.

Again, according to the 17th article of the constitution, ‘Everyone has the right to life, to the protection and development of their material and spiritual existence.’ However, within the existing social, economic, political and legal order, we are first and foremost prevented from accessing our most basic rights, especially our right to life; including access to health, work, housing and education.

To eliminate the obstacles to our fundamental rights and freedoms and to fight against the transphobic and heterosexist violence we are exposed to in all areas of life; together we will create spaces that will strengthen us all. With this aim, as trans people that have come together at the Trans Therapy Group meetings, we planted the seeds of the Trans Istanbul Initiative. The Trans Therapy Group meetings have been held on the first Wednesday of every month in Istanbul since 2013 providing trans people with psychosocial support on transition processes.

 In order to enlarge such empowering spaces that belong to us, we decided to organize under an initiative. With this aim, every month, we will organize trainings, seminars, workshops and various socio-cultural activities for trans people in Istanbul.

 As the Trans Istanbul Initiative, we invite all LGBTI+ to show solidarity, to organize and empower each other. If you would like to organize with us around this purpose and be informed about our meetings, you can contact us at transinisiyatif@gmail.com. We were here, we existed, we will exist! We are Neither Wrong, Nor Alone!”

You can find the Trans Istanbul Initiative here.

Turkey marks November 20 Transgender Day of Remembrance

LGBTI+ communities across Turkey came together to mark November 20, the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Turkey currently ranks 48 among 49 countries in ILGA’s Rainbow Index and the Penal Code of the country still has no law defining hate speech or hate crime. With rampant impunity in the cases of violence against trans individuals, as well as LGBTI+ individuals and women, activists continue to demand recognition of transphobia as a political issue. Here is a summary of the events organized in different parts of the country:

İZMİR

The İzmir November 20 Platform gathered on the streets in the central district of Alsancak, with a candle lit poster reading: “The scales of justice weighted with transphobia take the lives of trans people. The perpetrators are all people and structures that maintain the cis-hetero-patriarchal system!”

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Photo: Kaos GL 

İSTANBUL

For Transgender Day of Remembrance on 20 November and World Children’s Rights Day, Bosphorus University Women’s Research Club (BÜKAK) along with Campus 404 and CİTÖK (Comittee to Prevent Sexual Harassment) held a screening of the documentary “My Child” which was accompanied with talks from the film’s director Can Candan, trans rights activist Doğukan Karahan and LADEG+ founder Sema Yakar.

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Photo: BÜKAK Twitter Page

Across the districts of Şişli and Kadıköy the CHP municipalities put up posters designed by Aslı Alpar with the trans flag and reading, “Alışın, buradayız” (Get used to it, we are here) or “Bir arada, buradayız” (We are together, we are here). 

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Photo: KadirKaraasu’s twitter page

The weekend was dedicated to November 20, with a wide array of events organized by Pink Life LGBTI+ Solidarity Association in İstanbul. This year’s programme centered around the struggle against Trans Exclusive Radical Feminism (TERF) as LGBTI+ communities in Turkey witnessed an online debate initiated by a group of trans exclusive feminist academics. The programme also included panels on the struggle of intersex individuals for human rights, transfeminism, visibility of trans individuals within the LGBTI+ movement, and current conditions of trans sex workers.  On Saturday night, the “Dilek İnce Award for Struggle Against Hate Crimes” award ceremony took place and the award went to trans activist Aligül Arıkan who lost his life in 2013. His friends accepted the award on his behalf. Pink Life Association had opened a library in his memory earlier this week. The night continued with a party against TERF’s. On Sunday night, the community came together to commemorate Devran Çağlar. 

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Photo: November 20 Transgender Day of Remembrance Schedule,Pink Life LGBTI+ Solidarity Association website

ESKİŞEHİR

Eskişehir Anadolu LGBTİ+ announced a declaration on November 20, calling for resistance to hatred. The declaration was signed by Anadolu LGBTI+ Trans Studies Commission, Cosmos Gender Studies Workshop, Democratic Women Movement, Eskişehir School, Women’s Defence Network, Özgür Genç Kadın, Tepebaşı Youth Assembly, University Students Women Collective, Yaşam Bellek Özgürlük Derneği. 

ANKARA

ODTÜ LGBTI+, LGBTI+ student collective of Middle Eastern Technical University, came together to commemorate Esra Ateş, Hande Kader, Simge Sezer, Gökçe Saygı and all of the unknown victims of transphobia.

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Photo: ODTÜ LGBTI+ Solidarity official twitter account

 

Dersim (Tunceli)

Women Assemblies of Dersim Municipality put up posters against violence against trans individuals on billboards around the city to mark November 20. The municipality posters read “Long live life, against hate! November 20 Transgender Day of Remembrance”.

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Photo: Kaos GL

Antalya

Human Rights Association (İHD) Antalya Branch and BİZ Antalya (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Research Association) went out on the streets with the slogan “Long live life, against hate!”. After their press statement, the group went on to call out names of victims of transphobia, followed by the slogan “We won’t forget!”

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Photo: Gazete Patika

Kocaeli 

Activists against transphobia organized a meeting in Kocaeli, demanding recognition of trans murders as a hate crime.

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Photo: Gazete Patika

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.