International Mechanisms

International human rights mechanisms (i.e, UN, EU, CoE) for LGBTI rights in Turkey

ILGA-Europe’s #AnnualReview2019 is now out!

Annual Review 2020 report cover.png


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.”

Evrensel: Gender and LGBTIs in Alevism*

Source: Ali Kenanoğlu, “Alevilikte Cinisyet ve LGBTI’ler,” Evrensel, 21 July, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With love…

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

Turkish Intelligence Document: ISIS to Target Kaos GL?

It has been revealed that the Governorship of Ankara is oblivious to the intelligence document suggesting that ISIS plans to target many locations including Kaos GL. The association is awaiting a response from the General Staff of Turkish Armed Forces and the Prime Ministry.

Source: Kaos GL, “Emniyetin haberi yok, Genelkurmay da kendine ivedi!” (“The police is oblivious, the General Staff is self-prioritizing!”) 8 April 2016,, and  KaosGL, “Turkish intelligence document: ISIS targets Kaos GL,” 12 April 2016,

Kaos GL Association contacted the Gülhane Military Medical Academy (GATA) and Ankara District Police Counter-Terror Department as soon as the document was in circulation.

Upon receiving a response from the Counter-Terror Department stating that “such information has not yet reached them,” the association received a confirmation from GATA Ankara over the phone regarding the document being an “internal correspondence,” although the General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces has not officially confirmed it.

Kaos GL Association has also submitted an application to the Governorship of Ankara, the Provincial Police Department, Prime Ministry and General Staff of Turkish Armed Forces after the GATA document labeled “urgent” with the subject heading “action warning” began to circulate on social media.

The lawyers of Kaos GL Association Hayriye Kara and Oya Aydın informed that they have not yet received a written response from the General Staff or the Prime Ministry to their application.

The Governorship is Oblivious, The District Police Lacks the Capacity to Provide Protection!

The internal correspondence document of the General Staff Gülhane Military Medical Academy dated 29 March 2016 and labeled as “urgent” with a subject of “action warning” began to circulate on social media on April 1.

According to the document, Kaos GL Association is among the locations of potential targets in Ankara and Istanbul for “DEAŞ [ISIS — Trans.] terrorist organisation” as referred to by GATA.

The lawyers of the association  informed that they submitted an application to the Governorship of Ankara and requested urgent protection.

From Governorship to Provincial Police, and onto District Police

The lawyers of Kaos GL Association explained their deliberation at the Governorship of Ankara as follows:

“The governorship has simply accepted the petition and told us that they will send it to the related department in the Provincial Police Department of Ankara. We requested them to pursue it themselves given the urgency of the situation. However, the governorship did not send an order for an investigation to verify the context of the document or to provide protection or to investigate the seriousness of the situation. The Governorship has only approved that they received such information, dated and stamped to notify they received it and are directing it. We understand that they laid it at Ankara Provincial Police’s door.”

The lawyers of the Association pointed out that despite their persistent request for security and protection, responsibility of decision making has been attributed to first Governorship to Provincial Police and from them to the District Police.

After the “Çankaya District Police is in charge” approach by the Provincial Police Department, the lawyers inquired “What happens if the District Police could not provide such protection?” to which Provincial Police responded as “then they will write back to the Provincial department again.”

Çankaya District Police: We Do not Have the Capacity

As Provincial Police sent the petition to the District Police of Çankaya, we also went to the District Police Department, the lawyers said.

Çankaya District Police, who appears to be oblivious to the document, told “we can increase the patrol in that area and have the officers check the location regularly but we do not have the capacity to assign a team to secure the area permanently.”

Kaos Cultural Center is Temporarily Closed

The lawyers of the association are awaiting a response to their application inquiring “Whether such document exists or not, if it exists what kind of precautions will be taken” and “If such document does not exist, whether or not the people who released it for circulation will be investigated?”

The lawyers suggested that the intelligence document stating the Association being counted among “possible target” locations “caused unease among staff, Association members, and volunteers.“

Association declared that until the necessary precautions are taken and the information is received on the outcome of the document, Kaos GL Cultural Center will remain closed, works and activities will continue.

Kaos GL, founded in 1994 is pursuing its activities since 2005 as an association registered to Governorship of Ankara Association Department. Kaos GL Association is the first registered association in Turkey that is working in the field of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex rights.


The European Court of Human Rights to announce verdict on Turkish gender reassignment law

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will announce its final judgment on March 10 in the case of a trans man in Turkey who was not granted court permission needed for gender reassignment surgery.

Source: Ömer Akpınar, “AİHM trans geçiş sürecine ilişkin kararını 10 Mart’ta açıklayacak” (“ECtHR to announce verdict on Turkish gender reassignment law”),, 24 February 2015,

The ECtHR will announce its final verdict on Y.Y. v Turkey case regarding Article 40* of the Turkish Civil Code on gender reassignment.

What does Article 40 require?

Article 40 of the Turkish Civil Code stipulates that a court permission must be obtained in order to undergo gender reassignment surgery. According to the article, the permission can only be given if the person is over 18 and unmarried and if the person has obtained official medical board reports to prove that the operation is psychologically needed and that the ability to reproduce is permanently lost.

Proof for being “unable to reproduce” brought a legal deadlock

The applicant who wants to be registered as male and to get permission for gender reassignment surgery applied to a Court of First Instance in 2005. The next year, he got two different psychiatric expert reports in February and April, stating that he must continue his life as a man. However, following a report in May stating that the person still has the ability to reproduce, the court ruled that the applicant does not fulfill the requirements of Article 40.

How can one fulfill Article 40’s requirements if the surgery for losing reproductive ability has not been permitted?

The Supreme Court of Appeals stated in a May 2007 verdict that the decision by the Court of First Instance is correct. It also rejected the applicant’s request for a correction in the ruling in October 2007.

Y.Y. v Turkey

The applicant took the case to the ECtHR in 2008, complaining about the content and the interpretation of the law. In the proceeding which started 2 years later, he underlined that the relevant requirement of the law can only be fulfilled by a surgery, leaving him in an inconclusive situation.

Although it was proven by medical reports that the applicant identifies as a man and his physiology does not fit his gender identity, it was not enough for the court. The applicant claims that his right to privacy, designated in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, has been violated.

“If accepted, the case might lead to an amendment in the law”

The applicant’s lawyer, Ali Nezhet Bozlu, explained the possible outcomes of the case to

The legal impact depends on whether the ECtHR will accept the case and their justifications. If it is accepted, the Committee of the Ministers of the Council of Europe will monitor the implementation of the decision and perhaps mention the case in Turkey’s Progress Reports. This may lead to a discussion to amend the law, however, such amendments take time.

Article 40 of the Turkish Civil Code:

A person who wishes to change their gender may request permission to change their gender by applying in person to the court. However, for the permission to be granted, the applicant must be 18 years old and must be unmarried. The applicant must also be in a transsexual nature and must document the necessity to change their gender for their mental health and that they are permanently deprived of reproductive abilities through an official health committee report obtained from an education and research hospital. Depending on the permission granted, once the gender reassignment surgery fit for the aim and medical methods has been completed and verified by an official health committee report, the court decides to make the necessary changes in the population registry.

Prison time and fine for Conscientious Objector Mehmet Tarhan

The Sivas Military Court sentenced conscientious objector Mehmet Tarhan to 15 months in prison and a 9,000 Turkish Lira fine. The Military Court’s ruling ignores the European Court of Human Rights’ earlier verdict on Tarhan v. Turkey.

Source: “Vicdani retçi Mehmet Tarhan’a hapis ve para cezası!” (“Prison time and fine for conscientious objector Mehmet Tarhan”),, 10 February 2015,

Conscientious objector and LGBTI activist Mehmet Tarhan received a 15-month prison sentence and a 9,000 Turkish lira (~$3,600) fine based on disobedience charges.

The Sivas Military Court’s ruling on the case is in conflict with the earlier European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) verdict from 17 July 2012, which stated that Tarhan’s rights were violated by the Turkish state.

Tarhan spoke to about the court’s decision: “The Sivas Military Court has shown that it does not recognize either the constitution or the European Court of Human Rights. We will take the decision to the Supreme Court of Appeals.”


What happened before?

Tarhan rejected military service and announced his conscientious objection in 2001. In 2005, he was forcibly taken for military service, sued for insubordination in two separate cases, and treated poorly whilst under arrest in a military prison.

In violation of the constitution and the ECtHR, Tarhan was given a physical exam because of his homosexuality.

According to records dated 25 May 2005, Tarhan’s hair and beard were shaved against his will by seven soldiers, who pulled him down onto the ground and got on top of him. Tarhan reported having suffered several bruises and abrasions on his body. He started a 28-day hunger strike the same day.

ECtHR convicted Turkey

Tarhan then applied to the ECtHR to defend his right to conscientious objection and report his maltreatment under arrest. The ECtHR ruled that the European Human Rights Convention was violated in Tarhan’s case and sentenced Turkey to pay 10,000 Euros.

Amnesty International Statement from 18 October 2006- “Turkey: Conscientious objector Mehmet Tarhan sentenced

Deputy PM Bülent Arınç’s Statement on LGBT at the Universal Periodic Review

Bülent Arınç, Deputy Prime Minister responsible for Human Rights, represented Turkey at the Universal Periodic Review on 27 January 2015. The webcast archive of the session can be viewed here.


In response to questions and recommendations on LGBT rights in Turkey, Arınç said,

There is no discriminatory provision against LGBTs in our laws.

The principle that everyone is equal before the law without distinction as to language, race, color, sex, political opinion, philosophical belief, religion, sect and other such grounds is organised by the Constitution’s Article 10. Due to the expression “and other such grounds” in the aforementioned article, types of discriminations are not limited but rather exemplified, and there is no question that other types of discrimination are left outside the scope. That there is no special regulation for LGBTs does not mean that this group’s rights are not legally guaranteed.

On the other hand, pursuant to our Constitution’s Article 90, the international agreements we ratify are [considered] law. The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence -Istanbul Convention-, which we ratified without reservations, includes provisions which state that there can be no discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

In our country, like in all democratic states of law, perpetrators who commit murder and acts of violence against individuals of LGBT and all kinds of hate crimes are identified, the necessary investigations are started in order to bring them to justice, and the process is conducted by legal authorities scrupulously. The claims that the reasoning of unjust provocation constitute a routine in the reduction of penal responsibility do not match with the real situation that is revealed by tangible court decisions.

Translated by LGBTI News Turkey.

İnsan haklarından sorumlu Başbakan Yardımcısı Bülent Arınç’ın 27 Ocak 2015 tarihli Türkiye’nin Evrensel Periyodik İncelemesi’nde LGBT ile ilgili sözleri:

Mevzuatımızda LGBT’lere yönelik ayrımcı bir hüküm bulunmamaktadır.

Dil, ırk, renk, cinsiyet, siyasi düşünce, felsefi inanç, din, mezhep ve benzeri sebeplere ayrım gözetilmeksizin herkesin kanun önünde eşitliği ilkesi anayasanın 10. maddesi ile düzenlenmiştir. Sözkonusu maddede yer alan “ve benzeri sebeplerle” ifadesi sayesinde ayrımcılık türleri sınırlayıcı değil örnekleyici olup, diğer ayrımcılık türlerinin kapsam dışı kalması söz konusu değildir. LGBT’lere yönelik özel bir düzenlemenin olmaması hukuken bu grubun haklarının garanti altına alınmadığı anlamına gelmez.

Diğer tarafta anayasamızın 90. maddesi uyarınca onayladığımız uluslararası anlaşmalar kanun hükmündedir. Çekincesiz olarak taraf olduğumuz Kadına Yönelik Şiddet ve Aile İçi Şiddetin Önlenmesi ve Bunlarla Mücadeleye İlişkin Avrupa Konseyi Sözleşmesi’nde  -İstanbul Sözleşmesi-, cinsel yönelim temelinde ayrımcılık yapılamayacağına ilişkin hükümler de yer almaktadır.

Ülkemizde tüm demokratik hukuk devletlerinde olduğu gibi, LGBT’li bireylere karşı öldürme ve şiddet eylemleri ile her türlü nefret suçlarını işleyen faillerin belirlenerek adalete teslim edilmelerini teminen gerekli tahkikat açılmakta ve süreç adli makamlarca titizlikle yürütülmektedir. Sözkonusu davalarda haksız tahrik gerekçesinin ceza sorumluluğunu azaltan bir rutin teşkil ettiği yönündeki iddialar somut mahkeme kararları ile ortaya çıkan gerçek durumla örtüşmemektedir.

Turkey’s UPR review and Deputy PM Arınç’s LGBT remarks

Source: Ömer Akpınar, “Arınç: LGBT’lerin adlarının anılmaması haklarının olmadığı anlamına gelmez”, (“Arınç: The lack of reference to LGBTs does not mean they do not have rights”),, 27 January 2015,

Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç stated that there is no discriminatory legislation against LGBTs in Turkey’s Universal Periodic Review in Geneva. Arınç stated that the fact that there is no special regulation for LGBTs does not mean that their rights are ignored.

Member states of the United Nations submitted their recommendations in Turkey’s second Universal Periodic Review on 27 January 2015 under the auspices of the Human Rights Council.

Common recommendations were on the freedom of expression and assembly, violence against women, gender equality, and independence of the judiciary. The delegations of Croatia, Germany, and Slovenia submitted recommendations on the recognition of the right to conscientious objection.

11 countries made LGBT recommendations

Recommendations on non-discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity were put forth by 11 states. In the first-cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, Turkey had received only 5 recommendations on this issue.

Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Israel, Norway, and Slovenia’s recommendations included the need for legislation on non-discrimination and hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Belgium, the United States, Czech Republic, Spain, and Switzerland submitted advance written questions. These are non-discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity [Belgium, Czech Republic, Switzerland], training for government employees on equal treatment for LGBT persons [USA], and the current punitive system of the Turkish Armed Forces which considers homosexuality and transsexuality as diseases [Spain].

Deputy PM Arınç: It’s not that there are no LGBT rights

[we will share translation of the LGBT-specific parts of Bülent Arınç’s speech when the webcast archive is uploaded]

Deputy Prime Minister responsible for Human Rights Bülent Arınç stated that they try to “have democratic relations with everyone no matter their identity”. Arınç said, “There are no discriminatory legislation against LGBTs” and that the lack of a special regulation for LGBTs does not mean that their rights are ignored.

Arınç: Istanbul Convention includes sexual orientation

Arınç noted that the Constitution’s Article 90 stipulates that international agreements duly put into force bear the force of law and that the Istanbul Convention includes the term sexual orientation.

Arınç also said that effective investigations on hate crimes against LGBTs are in place and that claims of “unjust provocation” reductions are incorrect.

The UN’s translation mistake: Sexual preference instead of sexual orientation

There were mistakes in the Turkish translation at Turkey’s Universal Periodic Review. The translator used the terms “sexual preference and social identity” instead of “sexual orientation and gender identity” when simultaneously translating the recommendations.

Kaos GL Association in Geneva

Ezgi Koçak from Kaos GL Association observed the session in Geneva and spoke on behalf of LGBTI News Turkey and Kaos GL at a Law Society and Civicus side-event on the freedom of expression in Turkey. Koçak had shared the joint LGBT submission “Human Rights Violations of LGBT Individuals in Turkey” with LGBTI News Turkey’s Zeynep Bilginsoy at the UPR pre-session in December.

Turkey did not implement pledged recommendation in the first-cycle on LGBT

Turkey received recommendations on its human rights record for the second time since the first-cycle in 2010. In the first-cycle, former Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Çiçek had claimed that the prevention of discrimination against LGBTs was under the protection of the Constitution.

In 2010, Turkey had accepted recommendations from Norway, Canada, and the Netherlands to implement non-discrimination laws based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Turkey had also noted the Czech Republic’s recommendation to provide training to public officers on human rights, including sexual orientation and gender identity.

Since its first review, Turkey failed to implement these recommendations on non-discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Even though the Istanbul Convention, which Turkey ratified in November 2011, include the terms sexual orientation and gender identity in its article on non-discrimination, Turkey must bring its domestic laws in line with this convention to fulfill its international obligations.