Discrimination & Hate Crimes

Discrimination and Hate Crimes committed against LGBTI in Turkey

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

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

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

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

Transphobia starts with headlines

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

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

‘Only a stare’?

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

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

Transphobia at every opportunity

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

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

Might the prejudice have triggered the incident?

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

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

Released on judicial control

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

Kaos GL: Transphobic hate murder in Ayvalık

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

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

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

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

Newspapers normalize the hate crime

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

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

Hate murders do not only target the victim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complaint against homosexuality with the company’s ethics department

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Assignment” to physical education from architecture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We were discussing whether architecture has gender or not”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The ban criminalizes our existence”

What is your opinion on the indefinite ban in Ankara?

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

 

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“Censorship in other cities is no coincidence”

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

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

“We feel threatened”

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

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

“We will keep following the trial”

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

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

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

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

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

“We invite all rights defenders to show solidarity”

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

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

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

 

Kaos GL: LGBTI+ rights in days of ban

We compiled what has happened before and after the Governorship of Ankara’s “indefinite” LGBTI+ ban, the rights violations and reactions against the ban.

Source: “Yasaklı günlerde LGBTİ+ hakları,” Kaos GL, Dec. 4, 2017, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=25036

lgbtiyasaklanamaz

Over the past fifteen days,  the Governorship of Ankara banned LGBTI+ activities in the city on the premises of “social sensitivities and sensibilities”, “public security”, “protection of public health and morality” and “protection of others’ rights and liberties”.

During this period, the District Governorship of Beyoğlu has banned another scheduled event. We have reports of censorship of LGBTI+ activities coming in from many other cities.

We compiled the details of events that have transpired before and after the ban decision regarding the violation of our rights alongside reactions against the ban for readers of KaosGL.org:

“Gender Based Journalism Workshop” was Disrupted in Mardin

The “Gender Based Journalism Workshop”,  undertaken by IPS Communication Foundation and supported by Kaos GL, was planned for November 18, but could not take place in Mardin as it was targeted in the media.

On November 9, an event in Mardin was postponed after it was announced to the media in a piece titled “Mardinites: We don’t want these immoral people!”  Later editorials targeted the workshop and were published on Sabah’s website as well as on Güneş, HaberVaktim, Yeni Akit daily, and in other local media.

Hate speech was propagated on social media. Posts were made stating that there will be “gays marching in Mardin” on November 18 and that “we will stand against this situation and kill [them] if necessary”.

Governorship of Ankara and the German LGBTI Film Days Festival

In collaboration with the German Embassy, QueerFest and Büyülü Fener Cinemas, The German LGBTI Film Days festival was scheduled to take place in Ankara between November 16-17. These events were unfortunately canceled as they were banned by an official notice sent to Büyülü Fener Cinema by the Governorship of Ankara on Wednesday, November 15.

The day before the decision to ban was issued by  the governorship, Yeni Akit daily published an editorial defaming the event. In a news article titled “Support for the Perverts by the German Embassy”, Yeni Akit stated that the event was “supported by Germany which has participated in every activity meant to disrupt the country’s peace and will feature perverted films within the scope of the events [which are] to take place for two days”. The same newspaper announced the ban decision of the Governorship with the title “Governorship Slams the Brakes on Perverts”.

Prior to the governorship’s decision, hate speech was disseminated on social media with hashtags #LGBTfilmgünleriiptaledilsin (#LGBTfilmdaysshouldbecancelled) and #İstiklalimizeKaraLeke (#BlackStainOnOurIndependence)

Following the decision, the Pink Life QueerFest organizing committee issued a statement  indicating that, just like the arbitrary and unlawful ban against Pride Walk which took place over the past several years, the film screenings were banned using the same public security rhetoric and was only used to raise alarm over provocation and terror.  The Pink Life committee warned that this decision legitimized hate speech against LGBTI individuals and cast them as a threat to society.  Producers of QueerFest also stated that the decision deprives us of our constitutional rights under the disguise of “protecting” LGBTI individuals and continued: “The duty of the governorship is not to ban the marches or activities but to make sure that they take place in safety.”

Following the ban against the German LGBTI Film Days, the German Minister of State Michael Roth announced via his Twitter account that a rainbow flag was hung at the German Embassy. Roth wrote “The Governorship of Ankara banned the #LGTBI Film festival of our Embassy. The freedom of arts and minority rights are untouchable. This must be valid for Turkey too. Our colleagues in Ankara manifest their attitude clearly by unfurling the flag”.

After the governorship ban against the German LGBT Film Days festival, Hacettepe University subsequently banned a discussion titled “Gender and Discrimination” which had previously been approved.

The discussion planned for November 22, which was to be attended by Kaos GL as well, was banned with a verbal notice, even though there was official university approval 15 days prior.

The indefinite “public morality” ban from Governorship of Ankara

After the ban against the German LGBTI Film Days, which was scheduled to take place on November 16-17 in Ankara Büyülü Fener Cinema, the Governorship of Ankara announced on its website  the event has indefinitely banned “the activities undertaken by LGBTI civil society organizations” in Ankara. The statement lists banned activities as:  “film screenings, cinevision, theatre, panels, discussions, exhibitions etc. [and] activities”.

The governorship listed “social sensitivities and sensibilities”, “public securities, “protection of public health and morality” and “protection of others’ rights and liberties” as the reason for the ban.

Kaos GL and Pink Life : “The Ban is Arbitrary and Discriminatory”

In response to the Governorship of Ankara’s decision to ban,  Kaos GL and Pink Life have released a collective statement which announced that the governorship’s ban is unlawful, discriminatory and arbitrary and that a legal follow-up is in place.

Pink Life and Kaos GL indicated that the scope of the decision was vast and that it led to an ambiguous situation which ostensibly criminalizes LGBTI existence, opening  the door for further rights violations. They announced that the LGBTI civil society organizations have been fighting against discrimination and hatred as well as for equal citizenship for years and that this decision has rendered these associations inoperative.

In their statement, Pink Life and Kaos GL emphasized to the public these discriminatory policies are unacceptable as they are against Article 10 of the Constitution on equality in addition to Article 26 on freedom of expression and publication. Pink Life and Kaos GL also note these bans are in conflict with international conventions to which Turkey is a signatory.

LGBTI Associations of Ankara Take the Decision to Court

Kaos GL and Pink Life, LGBTI associations from Ankara have filed a lawsuit against the ban, demanding the ban be cancelled and its execution halted.  

The organizations call for the ban ordered by the Governorship on the premises of “social sensitivities and sensibilities”, “public security”, “protection of public health and morality” and “protection of others” rights and liberties to be cancelled and its enforcement be halted immediately as the ban can result in irremediable consequences.

Media Targeting LGBTI People and Hate Speech

LGBTI individuals and organizations were targeted in print press and digital media before and after the ban decision. Many media outlets, especially Yeni Akit daily, labelled the LGBTI individuals as “perverts”, “degenerates”, “against the public morality”. The hate speech was spread through libellous claims that LGBTI people are “diseases” or “criminal”.

Among these articles is a piece on Takvim daily’s website, titled “LGBTI Provocation Supported by CHP and HDP under the Control of Global Powers”, published November 14 . The article is an example of the press constructing a narrative of hate speech which is used to incite public discrimination of LGBTI persons as well as unlawful infringement on our rights.

Kaos GL is soon to publish its annual report which has tracked the use of discriminatory language and hate speech against LGBTI people in media on a daily basis coupled with reflections on the ban and the legal way forward.

Arbitrary Ban in Bursa

As part of the programing for events surrounding November 20 Transgender Day of Remembrance, Bursa Özgür Renkler of LGBTI Association (Free Colors LGBTI Association) was pressured to cancel the screening of the film “Gacı Gibi” via  notification by police to event organizers that “the event will be shut down if it is not cancelled”.

Özgür Renkler LGBTI shared the cancellation on its social media accounts and wrote: “Our attorney got in touch with the Directorate of Security and was redirected to the security branch but received no answer at that office. We are yet to receive a written notification regarding the issue. We announce that we have cancelled the event and that we will be following [the process] as the association.”

District Governorship of Beyoğlu’s Ban Decision

“Queer Shorts” — a film screening and discussion panel planned to take place in Istanbul on November 25 in collaboration with Pink Life QueerFest, British Council and Pera Museum was banned by the District Governorship of Beyoğlu.

In a similar manner to the Governorship of Ankara, the district governorship in Beyoğlu indicated “[the event] might cause open and immediate danger against the public order and safety and might be against the constitutional order and public morality”.

Reactions against the Ban: #LGBTİYasaklanamaz (#LGBTICantBeBanned)

Keyfî yasaklara karşı kurulan LGBTİ+ Yasaklarını Geri Çekin Platformu, 29 Kasım’da #LGBTİYasaklanamaz ve 3 Aralık’ta #LGBTİFilmleriYasaklanamaz hashtagleri ile yasaklara karşı ses çıkardı. Her iki hastag kampanyası da Twitter’ın Türkiye gündeminde yer aldı. Çok sayıda sosyal medya kullanıcısı yasaklara karşı dayanışma mesajları paylaştı.

LGBTİ+ Yasaklarını Geri Çekin Platformu  (Withdraw the LGBTI+ Bans Platform) was created as a reaction to these unjust bans and  online advocates have protested the ban through the hashtag #LGBTIYasaklanamaz (#LGBTICantBeBanned) on November 29 and the hashtag #LGBTİFilmleriYasaklanamaz  (#LGBTIFilmsCantBeBanned) on December 3. Both hashtag campaigns were trending topics in Turkey on Twitter. Many social media users across the world shared solidarity messages with us against the bans.

A part of the statement of the platform is as the following: “We invite the national and international public to make some noise to end this nonsense. We demand decisions that restrict our liberties and take away our life spaces to be overturned immediately! We invite the authorities to bring life back to its normal flow.”

Film Screenings at METU

Aside from the lawsuits filed by Kaos GL and Pink Life associations, many LGBTI and human rights activists have reacted against the ban.

After the ban took effect, METU LGBTI+ Solidarity organized two film screenings for November 22 and November 24, to  the films “Pride” and “Romeos”. University administrators sought to prevent the LGBTI themed films by being screened by shutting down the power.

METU LGBTI+ Solidarity discussed the tensions which surrounded the screenings on both November 22 and November 24 through statements published on social media.

“The film screening planned for November 22 by Nar Women’s Solidarity was interfered with by the METU administration, by shutting down the power. The administration then retreated upon the reactions of the students and the film was screened.”

“On November 24, METI LGBTI+ Solidarity entered one of the physics classrooms in order to show the film “Romeos” which was on the schedule of the banned film screenings, after which METU administration shut down the power of the physics department. This caused GÜNAM (Solar Energy Research Center) to halt its studies, students were stuck in elevators and other students had to study for their midterms elsewhere.  In spite of all pressures and preventions, METU LGBTI+ Solidarity showed the film using a power source and a projector. This was followed by the METU administration sending a private security force of forty to the building, who did not refrain from threatening us with a ‘physical intervention’ “.

Altıok: The Decision is Discriminatory

In her press statement regarding Governorship of Ankara’s ban decision, CHP Vice Chair and İzmir MP Zeynep Altıok  stated that the decision is unlawful, misogynistic, and othering: “What discriminates and others the people is the decision of Governorship of Ankara which is polarizing the society, using diversity as an excuse.”

Ban Decision was Taken to Parliament

CHP Istanbul MP Sezgin Tanrıkulu has taken the governor’s ban decision to the parliament. Tanrıkulu presented a parliamentary question with the demand for a reply from PM Binali Yıldırım. The question asks whether the ban is discriminatory, whether the Governorship has a concrete document that can justify the ban, and whether the Governorship has taken necessary measures against discrimination.

Muiznieks:  Ban Clearly Disregards Turkey’s International Human Rights Obligations

Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muiznieks issued a statement regarding the ban, indicating that it blatantly disregards the international human rights obligations of Turkey, especially the European Human Rights Convention. Muizneieks wrote:  “I call on the Turkish central authorities to ensure that decentralised administrations uphold human rights standards and that this regrettable decision of the Ankara Governor’s Office is reversed immediately”.

Meanwhile, representatives of United Nations, Council of Europe and European Union have contacted the LGBTI associations and received information regarding the incident.

Call for Solidarity from Balkans

ERA LGBTI Equal Rights, founded by the LGBTI organizations of Western Balkans and Turkey, published a statement regarding the LGBTI+ bans in Turkey stating:  “[…] local authorities, have taken yet another concerning step, by banning events like film screenings, exhibitions, forums, panels and meetings by LGBTI+ groups on what could be considered illegal grounds, infringing on fundamental human rights such as freedom of assembly, expression and association. Authorities have also given reasons for banning these events such as “social sensitivities and sensibilities,” “protecting public health and morality” and “protecting other people’s rights and freedoms.”

“We Defend the Cancellation of the Decision”

Council of Europe Conference of INGOs published a statement regarding the indefinite ban against the LGBTI activities declared by Governorship of Ankara: “We call upon all authorities to rescind the ban on events by LGBTI organisations in Ankara and not to slide back into another dark age where people have to hide who they really are. We plead that they annul these decisions which might incite and legitimise aggression against LGBTI persons, who once felt free and proud in Turkey”.

Antep Laughs against the Ban

Antep ZeugMadi LGBTI organized a press conference on December 3 against the Governorship of Ankara’s indefinite ban against LGBTI activities. ZeugMadi condemned the unlawful and discriminatory ban and stated “We were banned in Ankara and we were reborn in Antep”.

Çanakkale LGBTI+: We are on the Streets Despite the Bans, we are cleaning the beaches!

The volunteers of Çanakkale LGBTİ+ Initiative came together at Barış Kordonu on December 2 and cleaned the trash on the beaches. The initiative made an open call saying: “We are on streets despite the ban, we’re cleaning the beaches”. The group did not leave the beach for four hours in spite of the weather.

 

Journo: Gay tourists taken into custody in Turkey and deported without any reason

Two gay tourists coming to Turkey from the United Kingdom were taken into custody upon their arrival at the airport without any justification and were deported.

Source: Burcu Karakas, “Eşcinsel turistler İzmir’de gözaltına alındı, gerekçesiz sınır dışı edildi,” Journo, 20 October 2017, https://journo.com.tr/escinsel-turistler-sinir-disi-edildi

Bilal Sadiq, the British citizen who was sent back to his country, said, “As far as we can tell, the officer who checked our phones did not like what he saw and did not let us in the country because we are gay. We are shocked.” Bilal Sadiq (28) a British citizen of Pakistani origin and Polish citizen Tomasz Pawel Walus (25) came to Izmir on Oct. 14 to visit a friend. A person approached them while they were waiting at the passport control line in Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport. The police officer dressed as a civilian asked them the reason for their visit to Turkey. Bilal Sadiq told Journo that the officer asked him of his origins, told them to get out of the line and wait elsewhere. Said said “We first thought he was asking questions for control purposes. Half an hour later another person in charge came and asked for our phones.”

‘When is Gay Pride Walk organized?’

Sadiq said that the officer read his WhatsApp messages after taking the phone and looking at the photos. “They realized that we are gay. Then he asked for my friend’s phone. He asked him questions too. Then we went to an office.” Sadiq reported that he was also asked if he and his friends were lovers. The young British man said that after he explained they were just friends, he was asked when the LGBTI Pride Walk in Turkey is organized:

“While asking this, they were showing the photos to each other and laughing. As I don’t speak Turkish, I didn’t understand what they were saying. They told us that we can’t enter Turkey and we have to go back to England. I was shocked when I heard this. This wasn’t the first time I came to Turkey but it’s the first time I experienced such a thing. I never had any problems before. They didn’t give any reasons either.”

‘No one gave any reason for the decision to deport’

Sadiq said that his friend Tomasz Pawel Walus asked why they were being deported after taking back the phones but received no reply, and that the officers became aggressive when they wanted a written document. “None of the authorities at the airport gave us a reason. We were where we were taken into custody. I was able to let my friends in Turkey know, they couldn’t believe what happened either” said the British tourist, explaining that the authorities wanted to send them back to their countries on the first flight but when the pilot did not accept them they had to spend the night in custody at the airport. When they were told that they would have to wait until Wednesday, the two friends suggested that they could go to another city besides London, but they were told that this was not possible, and that the procedure must be followed. Later they were told they can go elsewhere if they are willing to pay for themselves. The tourists had to buy a ticket to Munich, paying 2000 liras for a one way tickets and were deported on October 15.

‘Their attitudes changed after they looked at the photos’

They were told that their passport would be given to the pilot and they would be able to get them back after landing, but the airport authorities gave their passports back before they got on the flight. When they arrived Germany they thought they would be received by German authorities but that did not happen. Sadiq said “As far as we can tell, the officer who checked our phones did not like what he saw and did not let us in because we are gay.” Sadiq suggested that the officers changed their attitude after looking at the photos: “They were asking questions politely. Then they changed their attitudes and got rude. I wasn’t expecting this. It has been a terrible experience”.

The gay tourists also stated that they called the British Consulate but the consulate authorities told them they couldn’t do anything. Sadiq said that neither he nor his friend has any priors, that they haven’t filed any complaints about the deportation yet but are thinking of starting legal procedures.