Military

Turkish Armed Forces and LGBTI

Constitutional Court Deputy Chair’s final remarks on the verdict of a gay soldier: “It is neither the state’s business nor anyone else’s.”

The Constitutional Court’s verdict found the Martial Penal Code’s ruling of expulsion from the Armed Forces for soldiers having homosexual relations to be in compliance with the Constitution. Constitutional Court Deputy Chair Yıldırım in his disagreement to the ruling attached a comment suggesting that this does not concern anyone: “Are these people less valuable or less dignified than others due to their sexual orientations?”

Source: “Constitutional Court Deputy Chair’s final remarks on the verdict of a gay soldier: ‘It is neither the state’s business nor anyone else’s.’ “ (“AYM Başkanvekili’nden eşcinsel asker kararına şerh: Ne devleti ne de başkalarını ilgilendirir”) , Sputnik, February 20, 2018, http://tr.sputniknews.com/amp/turkiye/201802201032328510-aym-escinsel-asker-serh-/

The detailed ruling of the Constitutional Court (AYM) on the issue was published in the Official Court Gazette. According to the ruling, a public action was filed against a soldier due to his homosexual orientation, with the allegation of ‘engaging in unnatural intimacy’. The Chamber of the 1. Military Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Martial Penal Code’s rule which states: “Soldiers engaging in unnatural intimacy with someone are subject to the sentence of expulsion from Turkish Armed Forces and soldiers are to be stripped of their rank” is against the Constitution and applied to Constitutional Court for the cancellation of the law.

‘ EXPULSION FROM TURKISH ARMED FORCES DOES NOT ACCORD WITH THE SENSE OF JUSTICE’
Deputy Chair Yıldırım’s objection to the verdict, stated that it does not accord with a sense of justice to sentence soldiers who engage in ‘unnatural sexual behaviour’ with expulsion from Turkish Armed Forces, without concrete justifications of these behaviours leading to disruption of the discipline or dishonoring the dignity of the armed forces.

‘DISPROPORTIONATE INTERVENTION IN THE DEMAND FOR RESPECT FOR PRIVACY’

Yıldırım further stressed that the expulsion of someone from their profession based on their sexual activities constitutes a disproportionate intervention in their right to demand respect of privacy. The text also states that it was against the principle of equality to sentence soldiers to expulsion for engaging in actions considered ‘unnatural intimacy’. It was pointed out that people employed in security directorates, the justice system or religious services are not subject to such heavy sentences.

The constitutional Court has carried out the principal examination of the application, rejecting the demand for cancellation of the regulation in question.

‘THE CONSTITUTION CAN LIMIT THE PRIVATE LIFE ON CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES’

The justification of the constitutional court ruling stated that although everyone has right to demand respect for personal and family life according to the Constitution, however there can be limitations to the protection of private life in certain circumstances and that this right is not considered to be absolute.

The text also suggested that fundamental rights and liberties can only be limited by law and based on the circumstances envisioned only by the constitution without infringing on their essences, and that these limitations can not be in discordance with the principle of proportionality and prerequisites for a democratic social order.

‘ IT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE IN ALL SOCIETIES’

The ruling explained that the regulation in question prohibited ‘engagement in unnatural intimacies’. The clause ‘engaging in unnatural intimacies’ being defined as ‘demonstrating unnatural sexual behaviour’ and suggested: “Such sexual behaviours can emerge in a myriad of ways and can be different from person to person or from society to society. As indicated on the Constitutional Court’s verdict dated April 1, 2015, said behaviours are sexual behaviours which have negative impacts on the moral standards of the society and can not be considered natural in all social orders”.

‘TO PROTECT THE DIGNITY AND HONOUR OF THE PROFESSION’
Yet it was also suggested that the principal objective of the penal sanction stipulated on the Martial Penal Code is to protect and to maintain the military discipline, that the sanctions on the soldiers aims to sustain the public order and productive and active work, to establish discipline and to protect the dignity and honour of the profession.

ANNOTATION BY DEPUTY CHAIR: REFERENCE TO ECHR

Constitutional Court Deputy Chair Engin Yıldırım, did not agree with the majority’s view. The Deputy Chair referred to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) verdicts and recommendations as well as international conventions regarding the struggle against gender based discrimination in his opposing vote note.

‘VERDICT CONTRADICTS WITH CONTEMPORARY DEVELOPMENTS’

Yıldırım emphasized that up until recently societies considered sexual relations among same sex individuals to be unnatural sexual behaviours, defined these acts as ‘disease’ or ‘perversion’, subjecting them to penal sanctions and wrote “As the understanding of human rights and social approaches improved, this [view] started to change. The evaluation of homosexual relationships as ‘unnatural intimacies’ contradicts with the contemporary developments in human rights”.

CONCRETE EXAMPLES SHOULD BE GIVEN

Yıldırım stressed that the ECHR came to the conclusion that expulsion from the army solely based on homosexuality or homosexual relations is against the European Convention of Human Rights. Yıldırım also stated that if it is alleged that the employment of homosexuals in armed forces is a risk to military discipline and operational activity then the premises for such suggestion should be put forward with concrete examples.

‘STEREOTYPES and PREJUDICES…’

Yıldırım based his rejection on the below reflections:
“The subjection of the soldier to expulsion from the Turkish Armed Forces due to the regulation in question, is not based on professional inadequacy or a related cause but is based on the person’s behaviours or preferences related to the person’s private life. This, excluding extremely exceptional circumstances, is neither the state’s nor anyone else’s concern. In a democratic system the majority should not ignore the fundamental rights and liberties of LGBTI individuals who are deemed a sexual minority. The regulation in question ignores the dignity of the soldiers with different sexual orientation, in the name of protecting the dignity of the military profession. The regulation in question reflects the stereotypes and deep prejudices regarding the LGBTI individuals which have been calcified in social life systematically throughout the history, resulting in the reproduction of said prejudices. People are valuable solely because they are humans and human dignity is a birthright, it makes the people worthy of respect, of value and of irrevocable rights based on their humanity. Are these people less valuable, less dignified because of their sexual orientations? “

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”), KaosGL.org, 10 February 2015, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=18692

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 KaosGL.org 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.”

mehmettarhan1

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

“I was a commander but when I came out as trans, it was all finished”

Doğa told us of her education and work life for the upcoming “We can’t get enough of trans” book: “I was a commander in the state’s military at age 18. When I came out as trans, all those certificates, praises, badges were zeroed. I think it’s very funny.”

Source: Yıldız Tar, “Komutandım, trans olduğumu söyleyince her şey sıfırlandı,” (“I was a commander but when I came out as trans, it was all finished”), kaosGL.org, 9 December 2014, http://www.kaosgl.com/sayfa.php?id=18192

Doğa from the the Counselling Centre for Transgender People Association (T-Der) answered our questions for the upcoming “We can’t get enough of trans” book.

We are sharing Doğa’s story of family, education, activism, media, the problems facing the trans movement and possible solutions.

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Call to Reject the Motion on Military Action in Syria and Iraq goes to Woman MPs from 38 Women’s Organizations

Contents of this post:
(1) “Call to Reject the Motion on Military Action in Syria and Iraq goes to Woman MPs from 38 Women’s Organizations” (Bianet)
(2) "Presentation on Women's Realities in War" (Women for Peace)

Source: “38 Kadın Örgütünden Kadın Vekillere ‘Tezkereye Hayır’ Çağrısı” (“Call to Reject the Motion on Military Action in Syria and Iraq goes to Woman MPs from 38 Women’s Organizations”), Bianet, 1 October 2014, http://bianet.org/bianet/siyaset/158878-38-kadin-orgutunden-kadin-vekillere-tezkereye-hayir-cagrisi

38 women’s organizations have called upon women MPs to reject the motion on military action in Iraq-Syria and to oppose the proposal to establish either a buffer zone or a security zone in the region.

38 women’s organizations have released a statement addressed at women MPs in Turkey regarding the Iraq-Syria motion:

“We know and have studied on the field, what women experience during war times. As such, we are aware that women should not give way to policies that will fuel wars. Do not accept the motion, oppose the buffer or security zone.”

We Insist On Peace

Source: Bianet

The statement drew attention to the problems that are likely to be encountered during cross-border military interventions. Women’s organizations emphasized that buffer or security zones are only ever initiated in uninhabited geographical locations, and yet, the proposed buffer zone includes Rojava. [Translators’ note: The population of Rojava is variously estimated as being between 2 and 3 million.]

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A gay man’s conscript experience: I would use SPF 50 sunscreen on sunny days

Source: Ayşe Arman, “Bir gay’in askerlik anıları: Güneşli havalarda, 50 faktör güneş kremi sürüyordum”, (“A gay man’s conscript experience: I would use SPF 50 sunscreen in sunny days”), Hürriyet Kelebek, 16 August 2014, http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/kelebek/hayat/27009085.asp

“All men born in Turkey must serve in the military when they reach a certain age. Well, I was born here too and I am a man…”

“I am gay and I have just returned from the military upon the completion of my military service. You have published several stories on the ordeals gay men, homosexuals and trans individuals must go through in order to avoid serving in the military. As for me, I would like to explain to you why I chose to serve and tell you of my experiences during military service. Would you be interested?”

I called him immediately and we met for an interview.

Kaan Arer is an impressive man. He is educated and knowledgeable, frank and sincere and very intelligent as well. He is a mathematician and the winner of a TÜBİTAK (The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey) award.

He requested that we not reveal his face in the photos accompanying this article as he continues to work as a teacher.

Kaan Arer has a blog where writes about homosexuality.

Some of his pieces are quite brave. He has written about an occasion, during his military service, when his boyfriend visited him on a day off. He wrote of how they made love in a café restroom. His description of this event, quite far from being tawdry, is sensitive and elegant.

I wish him all the best in his life as a mathematician and as a writer.

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Lots of guns but no trans!

Source: Helin, “Top Var, Tüfek Var, trans yok!” (“Lots of guns but no trans!”), KaosGL, 15 August 2014 [March-April 2011], http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=17309.

Helin wrote about her “adventure with the military” for KaosGL’s 117th issue (March – April 2011) titled “Militarism.”

My name is Helin; I am a 26 year old transsexual woman. My adventure with the military lasted for about six days. And this process was such a tiring and chafing one… Even now, as I am writing about my experiences, I get goose bumps: I might end up having to re-experience this all over again as I write about it. I was a teacher for 3 years following my BA. I was so anxious about the military that I neither had the power to go to the draft office, nor to get a “pink report.” I didn’t want to get into trouble with these procedures. This year, along with the process of opening up to my family, I found that power in me.

The First Day

Doctor: “Are your breasts real?”

I didn’t know what I was about to live through as I, along with my mother, set out to Cebeci Draft Office; nor did I know that my adventure was going to last so long. The appalling experience had already started in my very first moments as I stepped through the doors of the office. Once our belongings were searched, we were asked for our IDs. I find it very difficult to describe how I felt at that moment. I gave my ID card to the soldier in front of me with much haste and without looking at his face. But this haste couldn’t prevent the chuckles, the whispers, nor the sounds and gestures of disapproval, along with the humiliating looks, to surround us. Both my mother and I had become so tense that I don’t remember how we went from that doorway to the relevant office. Once there, they referred us to Mamak Draft Office, which was located at another floor of the same building. Here, we were surrounded yet again by the gaze of both the officers and the draft candidates who were receiving their conscription. The minutes that would truly wear me out were those when it was our turn to be served. I was asked to get 24 passport-style photos downstairs. Everyone was gazing at me as my photographs were being taken. Some were looking in a manner to harass me because they understood that I was trans, and others because I was a woman. Even though we were inside this office, there were even some who verbally harassed me, as if we were on the streets. I remember how I got hot flashes, how my hands started sweating, and how I wanted to die. Without my mother at my side, I wouldn’t have stayed there for a moment. But I endured. Because in order for me to do as I wanted, I needed that report that would brand me as “ill.” This was a great contradiction for me. I kept trying to explain to my family that I was not ill. And now, with my mother beside me, I was officially petitioning the state to accept that I was ill and to not draft me.

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Reply from Ministry of National Defense to Parliamentary Question by Sebahat Tuncel

Source: İsmet Yılmaz, “Yazılı Soru Önergesinin Cevabı,” “Reply to the Written Parliamentary Question,” 5 July 2012, http://www2.tbmm.gov.tr/d24/7/7-7088sgc.pdf

Republic of Turkey

Ministry of National Defense, Ankara

Date: 05.07.2012

To the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, Speaker’s Office:

About: Document entitled “Parliamentary Question” from the Grand National Assembly with date 21 May 2012 and number A.01.0.KKB.0.10.00.00-67274.

Please find attached in Supplement-A the reply to Istanbul Deputy Sebahat Tuncel’s Parliamentary Question (number 7/7088) addressing the Minister of National Defense.

Kindly submitted for your information,

İsmet Yılmaz

Minister of National Defense

REPLY to WRITTEN PARLIAMENTARY QUESTION (number 7/7088) by ISTANBUL DEPUTY SEBAHAT TUNCEL

1.     There are no current projects towards abolishing mandatory military service or towards recognizing conscientious objection as a legal right.

2.     There are no statistics kept in relation to those who have declared different sexual orientations during medical examinations and requested “Unfit for Military Service” reports in the past years.

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