Law & Politics

Judicial and political environment in Turkey on LGBTI issues

Group that targeted gays in Ankara indicted for Al Qaeda membership

Five suspects who are members of the Young Islamic Defense group are on trial for membership in Al Qaeda after they targeted homosexuals on social media and with posters hanging in the Turkish capital Ankara that said “If you see someone engaged in the dirty business of the tribe of Lot [1], kill the doer and the done both.”

Source: Murat Benli, “Eşcinselleri hedef alanlar ‘El Kaide’den”, Hurriyet, 27 January 2017,

An investigation began after a tip that the ‘Young Islamic Defense’ group targeted homosexuals on social media and hung posters on the streets on 7 July 2015, according to the indictment prepared by prosecutor Velihattin Eldemir.



According to the indictment, this group has supported associations in Ankara that are in contact with groups in war zones organizing aid campaigns for Syria and protests. “It has been determined that [the group] has distributed texts, posters, and brochures in various areas of Ankara and have shared pro-Nusra Front [now Jabhat Fateh al-Sham] posts on social media,” the indictment says.

The group is not an official association and continues its activities via announcements on social media. It has been alleged that the group is connected to Ersin Mirac K who is loyal to pro-Nusra Front and is a ‘radical Salafi’. The indictment says:


“It is known that the people from our country crossing to so-called jihad areas first contact the association Garip-Der in Istanbul, and cross the border illegally from Hatay’s Reyhanli district by paying smugglers. According to open sources, international powers do not consider the Nusra Front a part of the Free Syrian Army and list it as a terror organization.”

[1] Tribe of Lot refers to the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, the twin cities which Prophet Lot was sent to with God’s message and were destroyed by God when the community did not reign in its lust. The trope is often used against LGBT communities in the Muslim world.

Fashion Designer Barbaros Şansal Arrested for Social Media Video

Fashion designer Barbaros Şansal, who was taken into custody following his deportation back to Turkey due to his posts on social media, was arrested by the court he was taken after the prosecutor’s interrogation.

Source: BBC Türkçe, “Modacı Barbaros Şansal tutuklandı” (“Fashion Designer Barbaros Şansal is Arrested”), 3 January 2017,

Şansal’s attorney Efkan Bolaç announced the arrest warrant on his Twitter account.

Barbaros Şansal’s arrest was demanded under the accusation of “Public incitement for hatred and hostility or insult.”

In his statement to the prosecutor regarding his tweet subjected to the accusations, Şansal said “My purpose here was to draw attention to unjust treatment to which people of three different beliefs are subjected. No discriminatory, hateful and spiteful language is used.”

Doğan Haber Ajansı (DHA) [Doğan News Agency –Trans.] reported that fashion designer Şansal gave the following testimony regarding the aforementioned video:

“I had given an interview to a website called Reportare on 19 October 2015. The headline of this interview was “Drown in your s…, Turkey.” I shared these words in the video as a satire against discrimination. This was followed by insults on the phone by hackers. I have shut down all my accounts and communication because of this. I have no means of communication since January 1, 2017. I do not accept the accusations.”

Attack on Barbaros Şansal on the Airstairs

‘We could not contain our nationalistic feelings’

On the other hand, it has been reported that at least eight more people’s statement were taken regarding the attack Barbaros Şansal was subjected to on Monday evening at Istanbul Atatürk airport.

Among the people whose involvement in the attack were confirmed by their employers are three personnels of the ground crew company TGS [Turkish Ground Services — Trans.] who are now subject to an administrative investigation. It has been reported that total of 12 TGS ground crew were interrogated.

According to reports on Doğan News Agency, one of the suspects delivered the following statement “We could not contain our nationalistic feelings. We shouted. We could not do anything due to the police shield.”

Devlet Hava Meydanları İşletmesi (DHMİ) [State Airports Administration –Trans.] announced that an investigation has been started regarding the attack on the apron. DHMİ’s statement included the following expression: “There is no question of negligence and weakness on our General Administration’s part.”

Akıncı: Lynch attempt should make us all think

Meanwhile, the leader of Northern Cyprus Mustafa Akıncı made a statement on the deportation of fashion designer Barbaros Şansal following the video he shared on social media and the consequent attack at the airport.

Akıncı stated that the deportation decision is based on an earlier decision made by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and added that “Even though, it is impossible to approve of Barbaros Şansal’s sensational discourses, the deportation decision turning into a lynching attempt should make us all think deeply.”

Akıncı continued in his written statement as follows:

“This event may not have taken place in our country. However, I watch the attempts to plant the seeds of hatred, spite and lynch culture in our own country and society with a grave worry. We should not give hate, spite and lych culture a chance.

Law is the foundation of protecting, defining, and expanding the borders of freedom of expression. Lynch culture replacing the law is the biggest enemy of polyphonic democratic pluralist community life. What we need is for pluralist democratic constitutional state and community life to become enshrined, advance and improve; not for lynch culture to replace it.”

Editor’s note: Barbaros Şansal is an openly gay fashion designer and a public figure based in İstanbul.


We demand that the government trustee appointed to the Akdeniz Municipality be dismissed and for Yüksel Mutlu to be reinstated

Source: SPoD, “Akdeniz Belediyesi’ne atanan kayyumun kaldırılmasını ve Yüksel Mutlu’nun görevine iade edilmesini talep ediyoruz” (“We demand that the government trustee appointed to the Akdeniz Municipality  be dismissed and for Yüksel Mutlu to be reinstated”), 20 December 2016,


Mersin Akdeniz Municipality Co-Mayor Yüksel Mutlu, who signed SPoD’s LGBTI Friendly Municipalities Protocol during the local elections of 2014 and supported our campaign, was taken into custody on December 12, 2016. It was announced that a trustee was appointed to Akdeniz Municipality.

We want to share our concern for the appointment of a trustee to the municipality and for Yüksel Mutlu’s detention. We have known Mutlu by the support she gave to the LGBTI movement, not only during the election period, but also after she was elected.

Akdeniz Municipality is a model local government with its work with 7 Renk [7 Colours –trans.] LGBTI Association and its services for LGBTIs. In particular, after the establishment of the Equality Unit, we look forward to an increase in Akdeniz Municipality’s services and policies in support of LGBTIs. The detention of its elected government and the appointment of a trustee are against the democratic principles.

As SPoD, we believe that the independence and freedom of the local governments should be protected, and thereby the number of exemplary municipalities that offer solutions to LGBTIs’ problems should be increased. Therefore, we demand that the government trustee appointed to the Akdeniz Municipality  be dismissed and that Yüksel Mutlu be reinstated!



LGBTI Activist Kemal Ordek’s Attacker Convicted

A landmark decision has been issued about the three aggressors who attacked Red Umbrella Sexual Health and Human Rights Association President Kemal Ördek. One of the attackers was sent to prison following the hearing after being charged with qualified sexual assault. 

Source: Çiçek Tahaoğlu, “LGBTİ Aktivistine Cinsel Saldırı Davasında Saldırgan Tutuklandı”, Bianet, 17 November 2016,

Two people who attacked Red Umbrella Sexual Health and Human Rights Association President and LGBTI activist Kemal Ördek have been sentenced to up to 5 years in prison and a judicial fine on charges of robbery, threat and insult. The third attacker has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for qualified sexual assault in addition to the aforementioned crimes and sent to prison.

Evaluating the decision to bianet, attorney Deniz Aksoy said “Because the victim’s identity as a sex worker was taken as a basis, this penalty imposed on the ground of sexual assault will be seen as a precedent.”

What had happened?

LGBTI activist Kemal Ördek was sexually assaulted in their house in Ankara on 5 July 2015. The police allegedly said  “Enough with this Tribe of Lot” and the suspects said “Officer, we’re manly men. You understand us, don’t you? Don’t listen to what this faggot has to say.”

Following the assault Nils Muiznieks, the European Council Human Rights Commissioner made a written statement regarding the incident and called on the authorities to explicitly declare that they would not tolerate hate speech and crimes against LGBTI persons.

Republican People’s Party (CHP) İstanbul MP Mahmut Tanal, CHP Malatya MP Veli Ağbaba and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Istanbul MP Garo Paylan had brought the issue to the Parliament and asked the Minister for Interior Affairs Sebahattin Öztürk about the assault and what had happened afterwards.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Rupert Colville made a statement regarding the assault of Ördek, reminding  Turkey the commitment it has made for LGBTI persons during the Universal Periodic Review and called on the authorities to take measures for the fight against homophobic, transphobic violence and discrimination.

Lawyers Levent Pişkin and Cahit Kırkazak released

Detained LGBTI activist and lawyer Levent Pişkin and lawyer Cahit Kırkazak have been released on conditions of judicial control and restrictions on travelling abroad.

Source: Kaos GL, “Lawyers Levent Pişkin and Cahit Kırkazak released”, Kaos GL, 17 November 2016,

Detained after their meetings with arrested Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, LGBTI activist and Lawyer Levent Pişkin and lawyer Cahit Kırkazak have been released on conditions of judicial review and restrictions on travelling abroad by the Criminal Court of Peace in Bursa Courthouse.

In the scope of the same trial, interrogation of 7 other detainees sent to the court for arrest is continuing.

According to Evrensel’s news, lawyer and HDP Istanbul Provincial Administrator Levent Pişkin was accused with the allegations of “organizing the act to lobby internationally against our country by publishing a note regarding the HDP co-chair Demirtas’ arrest in the German Der Spiegel magazine” during his interrogation by the police.

Levent Pişkin said the following in his statement:

On November 5, as the party (HDP) lawyers, we met with Demirtas and other imprisoned parliamentarians in Edirne, Silivri, and Kandira prisons. On November 6, we organized a news conference for national and international press in HDP’s Istanbul Provincial Headquarters to announce the results of the meetings. After this meeting, international journalists asked questions in English. As the only lawyer who spoke English, I answered their questions.

After the meeting, two people from the German Der Spiegel asked me if I can bring a handwritten note by Demirtas with a message about his condition. I told them that I would not be going to Edirne prison this week but that if there is another friend (who’d go), I could tell them to relay their request to Demirtas.

I told Mr. Cahit that a German magazine asked for a handwritten note from the president (Demirtas) and asked him if he could or could not relay this message to the president and if the president agreed on a handwritten note, whether he could or could not bring that message. That’s the content of the conversation. There is no lobbying activity with any German magazine. The event is purely that I spoke with Mr. Cahit because I was by chance the only person in the provincial building who spoke English.

What happened?

Representing arrested HDP Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş, attorney Levent Pişkin was taken into custody during a house raid in Istanbul at around 5 a.m. on November 14.

Before the detention, allegations took place in media outlets such as Takvim, Sabah, Ulusal Kanal (sourcing state-run Anadolu news agency) that Pişkin and Kırkazak would send Demirtaş’s messages to a magazine  in Germany to be used for propaganda.

A social media action with #LeventPişkinYalnızDeğildir hashtags, meaning #LeventPiskinIsNotAlone was started. Libertarian Lawyers’ Association (Özgürlükçü Hukukçular Derneği) where he’s a member, Center for Truth Justice Memory and Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week Committee made statements about his detention.

His alma mater Boğaziçi University and Solidarity Network with Arrested Students (Tutuklu Öğrencilerle Dayanışma Ağı) published messages of support for him.

His detention was also covered in the international media. The Paris Bar Association granted Pişkin honorary membership.

14 LGBTI Organizations’ Response to the State of Emergency

14 LGBTI organizations issued a joint press release regarding the recent pressures against the press and democratic politics.

Source: “14 LGBTİ Hareketi’nden ohale karşı bildiri” (“14 LGBTI Organizations’ response to the State of Emergency”), Siyasi Haber, 16 November 2016


14 LGBTI organizations from Ankara, Bursa, Çanakkale, Diyarbakır, Giresun, İstanbul, İzmir and Mersin issued a joint press release regarding the pressures against press and democratic politics.

14 LGBTI organizations reacted to the increasing repression towards dissidence, stating “The ongoing interventions to the media outlets, to HDP, DBP and to the whole realm of politics since November 7 to the latest political coup attempt are unacceptable.”

You can see the full text prepared by 14 LGBTI organizations and the list of signatory organizations below:

Repression towards the social dissidence and arrests

With the declaration of state of emergency following  coup attempt on July 15, the government has increased its repression towards the social dissidence and recently arrested 9 writers and administrators from Cumhuriyet daily, co-presidents and deputies of Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) as well as the politicians from Democratic Regions Party (DBP).

Diyarbakır Metropolitan Municipality Co-Mayors Gültan Kışanak and Fırat Anlı were arrested. A trustee was appointed to the municipality.

Cumhuriyet daily’s executive editor Murat Sabuncu, publication supervisor Kadri Gürsel, cartoonist Musa Kart, Cumhuriyet Foundation Board members Önder Çelik, Bülent Utku, Mustafa Kemal Güngör, Güray Öz, Hakan Kara, executive editor for the daily’s literature magazine Turhan Günay are currently imprisoned.

HDP Co-Presidents Figen Yüksekdağ and Selahattin Demirtaş and deputies Gürsel Yıldırım, Ferhat Encü, İdris Baluken, Selma Irmak, Abdullah Zeydan, Leyla Birlik and Nursel Aydoğan were arrested.

Sebahat Tuncel who was waiting in front of Diyarbakır Courthouse with a group of party members, in order to protest the detention of HDP deputies on Friday in Diyarbakır, was battered and detained with 10 other people. DBP Co-President Sebahat Tuncel has been an advocate for LGBTI rights for years, was arrested after the protest.

The State of Emergency cannot be an excuse to suspend human rights

Extended duration of detentions and torture have become prevalent more than ever. In prisons and on streets, police force’s pressure is threatening our lives and our fundamental human rights.  

Freedom of press, that is targeted following the recent decrees through shutting down of newspapers, televisions, magazines and radios, Cumhuriyet newspaper in particular, and democratic politics that is targeted particularly through MPs of HDP and DBP [main opposition parties — trans.] are fundamental human rights. We, the LGBTI organizations whose names are listed below, would like to remind once again that the state of emergency cannot be an excuse to suspend human rights.

With over twenty years of organized struggle, we defended human rights unconditionally. We emphasize that the system, which is trying to assimilate us by destroying all of our ethnic, cultural, religious and sexual differences and hence kill us, should change. Following the recent events, we issue a call for fight once again.

We continue our struggle in spite of the ones trying to wither our colors!

Freedom of press and free politics are irrevocable pillars of democracy.  Antidemocratic and tyrannizing practices, arrests, torture, judicial factors, shutting down of newspapers are as a whole a threat to all of us. Social peace, equality, freedom and justice are our only option. Recently, the practices issued by the government are destroying this option, along with the vision and possibility to coexist, withering all colors of the rainbow and condemning us to a gloomy gray.

We will continue our struggle in spite of the ones trying to wither our colors. Together we will overcome the pressure of the State of Emergency and associated decrees. We, people of all sexual orientations, sexual identities, communities, beliefs, ethnicities and genders  are more populous!

The practices that took place between November 7 and the recent coup-attempt; the interferences to the press, to HDP and DBP and all political sphere, are unacceptable. We demand an immediate end to detentions and arrests!

Signatory organizations in alphabetic order:

Çanakkale LGBTİ İnisiyatifi, Flu Baykuş, Genç LGBTİ+ Derneği, Gökkuşağı Giresun, Hêvî LGBTİ Derneği, İstanbul LGBTİ Dayanışma Derneği, Kaos GL Derneği, Keskesor Amed LGBTİ, Lambdaistanbul LGBTİ Dayanışma Derneği, LGBTİ Aileleri ve Yakınları Grubu (LİSTAG), Mersin 7 Renk LGBTİ, Özgür Renkler LGBTİ Derneği, Pembe Hayat, SPoD.

Turkey’s state-run news agency story on Lawyer Levent Piskin

A magazine in Germany asked for a message to Europe and Germany from the HDP’s Co-President Demirtas through a lawyer who would visit him in prison for the purposes of propaganda.

Source: Uğur Ulu, “Alman dergisi propaganda için Demirtaş’tan mesaj istemiş”, (“German magazine asked for a message from Demirtas for propaganda”), Anadolu Agency, 12 November 2016,

It has been found that a magazine in Germany asked for a note from the HDP’s (Peoples’ Democratic Party) Co-President Selahattin Demirtas for propaganda in Europe and Germany.

According to information gathered by Anadolu Agency reporter, the Bursa Public Prosecutor’s Office ordered the detention of lawyer C.K. who has been tracked for a while in relation to the investigation on terror organization PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party).

C.K., a lawyer in Bursa, was detained by the Provincial Police Headquarters Anti-Terror Unit in the morning on Monday, 7 November.

It has been learned that C.K. was planning to visit the HDP’s Co-president Demirtas in Edirne F Type Prison where he has been imprisoned and that C.K. announced this to some administrators.

It has been recorded that lawyer L.P., who is an administrator in the HDP’s Istanbul district presidency, contacted C.K. upıon finding out that C.K. would visit Demirtas and informed him of the German magazine’s request.

It has been determined that the German magazine requested “a handwritten note by Demirtas, with a message addressing Europe and Germany.” for propaganda purposes.