Law & Politics

Judicial and political environment in Turkey on LGBTI issues

“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.”

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.

 

Pembe Hayat is going to broadcast live every day at 19:00!

Pembe Hayat Association activists are going to broadcast live on various topics every day at 19:00 in order to bring together LGBTI+s who are at home during these Corona-infested days! Today (March 18), in the first broadcast, Derin Akıllı is going to talk about her experiences during the transitioning process!

Source: “Pembe Hayat is going to broadcast live every day at 19:00!” Pembe Hayat, 18th of March, 2020 http://www.pembehayat.org/haberler/detay/2331/pembe-hayat-her-gun-1900rsquoda-canli-yayinda

The activists of the association, who are going to broadcast live every day at 19:00 in order to reach LGBTI+s who are at home in these days of quarantine due to the Coronavirus and to enable LGBTI +s to support each other, are going to chat with Pembe Hayat’s followers to talk about many topics from hilarity to transitioning.

Derin Akıllı, who is going to be live in the first interactive broadcast, is going to talk about her experiences during the transitioning process.

 Do not forget to visit the Instagram account of Pembe Hayat at 19:00 every day!

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”.

March 3rd at Kadıköy: Trans Sex Workers, the City’s Residents and Owners

Kadıköy City Council’s LGBTI+ Assembly met with trans sex workers: “We are complaining about the police to the police. There are so many penalties,which one can you object to?”  

Source: “March 3rd at Kadıköy: Trans Sex Workers, the City’s Residents and Owners” (“Kadıköy’de 3 Mart: Trans Seks İşçileri Kentin Sakini ve Sahibi”), Cem Öztürk, KaosGL, March 4, 2020, https://www.kaosgl.org/haber/kadikoy-de-3-mart-trans-seks-iscileri-kentin-sakini-ve-sahibi

Kadıköy City Council’s LGBTI+ Assembly came together with trans sex workers on March 3, International Sex Workers Day at Kadıköy.  

While taking into consideration the subject’s visbility and freedom of speech, the panel discussed trans sex workers’ rights violations, their demands regarding the city and, as the city’s residents and owners, the ways in which living spaces could be made more safe and free. 

Aiming to ensure that the trans community can effectively participate in local politics, the participants discussed what could be done around common agendas.  

Law of Misdemeanors

The event started with the moderator explaining the structure of Kadıköy City Council LGBTI + Assembly and the work they do. Regarding the violations of rights, the participants stated that even though there is no prohibition on sex work in criminal law, the police still penalize trans women, citing the Law of Misdemeanors, and claim that trans sex workers looking for customers on the street “disturb the environment” and are “complained about”. They stated that this unlawful practice has become a systematic violation of the rights of trans women.

One of the participants said, “I get fined almost every night. There are times when they fine me more than once on the same day. Recently, when doing identity checks, they take criminal action against us without any explanation. The police report our identity information to the police station and take action. We find out about this much later. So much so that without being aware, I had accumulated 15 different fines, which is equivalent to about 2-3 thousand liras. It is not possible for me to pay this. I cannot file a complaint since no petitions have been given. Because I haven’t paid, I keep getting notices sent to my home. Sometimes, just to not get a fine, I refuse to give my identity card. But then, they forcefully take me to the police station.” 

“ Once your identification information is taken, you become blacklisted”

“The number of those who work on the streets has decreased due to police bullying. Many trans women now find customers online. But the police still follow us. That’s why we let each other know who the police are in the online dating applications and only accept customers by reference” added one participant. Another participant said “Even if we are not working and go out after 12 a.m., we still get a fine. One night after returning home from a walk with my boyfriend and dog, I was injured by a police officer in front of my door and broke a bone. The attacker was acquitted at court. Actually, it doesn’t have to be night time. Once I went out to the bakery during the day. A police officer stopped me in front of the bakery. Even though he saw the two loaves of bread in my hand, he still gave me a fine. He knows me because once your identification information is taken, you become blacklisted.” 

“We complain about the police to the police” 

Taking the floor, another participant said, “We call 155 to complain about the police who infringe on our rights. Ironically, we complain about the police to the police. There are so many penalties, which one can you object to? If I object to every single unjust penalty, that would mean I would be spending my life at the courthouse. Which one can I catch up with? I neither have the time nor the energy.”  

Regarding their demands concerning the city, the participants expressed that they were generally happy and comfortable living in Kadıköy. One participant said “I have been living in Kadikoy for almost 20 years. I feel like I’m from Kadikoy. I don’t go to the municipality, so I don’t know about the kinds of work they do.” “The municipality doesn’t recognize trans people. In other districts, municipalities have started employing trans people. Why not in Kadikoy?” asked another participant. 

What can be done? 

Evaluating the meeting, Kadıköy City Council’s LGBTİ+ Assembly representative said “We organized this meeting to engage with trans sexs workers, make them visible, provide space for their voices to be heard, identify their ongoing problems and make our demands a part of the local government’s agenda. We ensured the safety of the event by extending invitations to the participants via closed social media groups. I’m very pleased with the participation. This was a great meeting and actually a great start. We want to establish Kadıköy City Council LGBTI + Assembly’s trans policies with trans subjects. We attach great importance to ensuring that transgender people are not excluded from city agendas, decision-making processes and active participation in local politics.”

The event reporter said “One of the most striking finds for me was: Trans sex workers are not aware of the services provided by LGBTI+ non-governmental organizations such as psychosocial support and legal advising services. This is because they use the experiences and coping methods they have developed over the years to fight against the violations of their rights that they are subjected to. More work needs to be done on how the services offered by LGBTI + non-governmental organizations can be made more accessible for trans sex workers. Another important demand was about the provision of voluntary lawyers who can be reached at the time of the incident during violations experienced at night.”

“The topic of what we can do together at the local level was particularly productive. To fight against violations of rights, a proposal for legal self-defense workshops was brought forth. Despite all the negativity, we have agreed on how valuable it is to continue fighting and organizing. We have seen again how much the cooperation between local government, civil society and urban citizens is missing when it comes to trans sex workers. As the Kadıköy City Council LGBTI + Assembly, we are aware of our responsibility in this area. Because trans sex workers are also the inhabitants and therefore the owners of this city” said the reporter.