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Not Your Turkish Delight! A compilation against hate and violence

“Not Your Turkish Delight!” exclaims the title of a compilation of tracks from independent artists of alternative music scene of Turkey. The compilation aims to bring together queer, LGBTI+ and female artists to stand against sexual violence and discrimination. Its revenues will be donated to two shelters “Transevi” in Istanbul and “Yaşamevi” in Urfa.The group of artists who made the compilation happen, plan to continue to show solidarity against the sexism, transphobia, homophobia and misogyny which have intensified in Turkey due to growing impunity of hate crime. The first 300 copies of the compilation have been on sale in live concerts and are now sold out. LGBTI News Turkey interviewed Hatice (Soft Rains of April) and Aybike (Reptilians from Andromeda) to learn more about the creation process as well as future plans. The crew is currently looking for ways to distribute the compilation abroad, to extend the solidarity globally. We are excited to see such creative and efficient ways of mobilizing solidarity against hatred and violence and hope to see sequels to this compilation as well as live performances! If you would like to help the group reach a bigger audience abroad and generate more revenues for donations, please do not hesitate to contact them through their facebook page. You can listen to Felix Drake’s interview with some of the crew members and listen to some of the songs in this episode of “Turkish Delights”, aired on Noods Radio.
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– How was the production process with the artists who supported the album with their tracks? How did you choose the tracks, were there any that were recorded exclusively for this album?

 

Aybike: The band “The Hollow Dolly” was born out of this compilation, Neon Jisatsu published their first songs in this compilation. Jtamul, Bewitched As Dark, Soft Rains Of April, Reptilians From Andromeda and Cansu Turgut’s songs were recorded for this compilation but as the other bands chose their own tracks for the compilation, I can say that they were meant to be in this compilation regardless of when they were written.

Hatice: The entire album was exciting but the tracks made for this album were as exciting as the ones submitted for the compilation. After Aybike got in touch with the musicians, she passed the tracks to me and I made a tracklist based on the tone, flow and the mood. I’m hoping the friends who submitted the songs and the listeners are happy with this order.  It was a very exciting experience for me to take place in this compilation and its construction.

– How did you come up with the idea for this compilation?

Aybike: Most of us know each other or are friends, both the compilers and the artists in the compilation. The idea for a compilation was growing in us for a while, based on the relationship we formed through sharing the negative things that happened to us or that we heard in our common spaces. It came about naturally.

Hatice: As every individual who tries to live and produce in this society, you come to the point of saying “Enough” rather easily, as you get smashed each time you take the road less traveled. The need to do something, the rage bottled up within and the cry for justice somehow directs you to a path. It is imperative that we continue to do what we know best, in order to beat back what we live through and what we witness. What we know best is music… It is our equipment, our shield, our battle axe,  and our healing power too.

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– How do you see the approach towards the issues and identities of women and LGBTI+ individuals in the independent music scene?

Aybike: Although the independent music scene looks like a community of listeners and performers standing aside gender norms, there is of course a gender inequality; because even though people act like they are against it, you can still hear them talk behind you, saying “Is this a girl or a boy?”, “Look at that”, “Tsk tsk tsk”, “I thought this one was gacıvari*”. Their faces, actions and behaviours remind you that all these labels attached to us in young age.

There are those who are indeed sincere about their intention to change gender inequality related problems and there are those who live as if these values [of being anti-discrimination] do not exist and they play the game of political correctness to avoid being mob lynched and looking bad when the women, trans individuals and queers raise their voices around the world. I can say that the discussion of these issues have increased over the last year. Both the bands and the music collectives are trying to do something.

Hatice: Aybike is quite right. For a long while there have been many collectives, initiatives, crews and people trying to be sensitive about these issues in the music sector. However, I still hope you can hear what non-male roadies, sound engineers, field managers and backstage attendants have gone through. Degendering of the sector is crucial, and in my opinion it is getting better too, thanks to the labourers of the music sector and musicians. But it is important to unite and form a sustainable, determined, unmonopolized, evolving and multiplying stance at this point. As it is hard to talk about a literally independent music world, we often witness that people look the other way just because it’s their friend, show nepotism and act like nothing happened or they even blame the victim. We can start changing things by calling things what they are.

–  Due to the current political climate, we often fall into a pit of pessimism. Beautiful collaborations such as this compilation gives us hope. How do you battle against pessimism or how do you transform it?

Aybike: You can struggle against it by not falling for the manipulation that tries to convince you that you are alone and by not being afraid…

Hatice: This is precisely how we battle against it, by standing together. Things haven’t turned sour recently, the state has always been cruel in this country, life has always been hard. The monster has always been there, even if it has taken the guise of deceitful conservatism over the last 15 years. The way to struggle against it is to accept that this is not new nor transient and to continue to be productive. It is not so difficult, it is just an idea, 4-5 people and 20 valuable musicians who will share their music with us and 4 people to burn the CDs in one evening and then onwards to distributing them… 300 CDs were sold out in just 3 months, all of the revenues went straight to the associations. Now we are trying to render this sustainable and continue to work.

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– How did you cover the cost of the album?

Aybike: Hatice, Bikem, Oya, me, Petek and Aydan split the cost among ourselves.

Hatice: We are of course trying to figure out how we can make it financially sustainable for future albums, concerts, panels and projects. None of us have infinite resources, we merely took initiative but for the future it is crucial that we maintain continuity, we don’t want it to remain a one-time thing.

– The revenues will go to Transevi and Yaşamevi, how are the sales going? Can our foreign readers support you? Would you consider selling the album on a digital platform?

Hatice: 300 copies of the first compilation are almost sold out, around 10 copies have left. We are having difficulty with payment from foreign countries due to PayPal** but we are currently looking for a solution. When we come up with a solution, we will immediately make 300 more copies, and plan for a new compilation, merch and new projects which will be accessible abroad.

How is the feedback? Would you consider to do similar projects?

Hatice: The sustainability of this project is crucial. We decided to support Transevi and Yaşamevi for the first 300 copies, we dream of increasing the number of centers we support in the future. Not your Turkish Delight must develop in different genres too, it must grow, evolve, transform and continue. This is our greatest dream.  

What can you tell our readers about being woman, queer or trans in the independent music scene in Turkey?

Hatice: It’s not so different from being a woman, queer or trans in the street, at home, school or workplace. The problems are always similar because the culprit is the same. Patriarchy, homophobia, transphobia and sexism reigns all domains of our life, especially the legal system.  I could say things are bit rougher in the music scene but actually all types of violence is rough. We tried to do this through music as our first step, but of course we also plan to organize panels, workshops and events where we can talk about the discrimination and violence within the music sector.  In every field, we should start with ourselves and accept that there is a problem, and start from the people around us in trying to correct the wrong attitudes, discourses and practices, it is important to have a determined stance and continue producing in such manner. We can think more about “how”.

– Our last question is for you to give some inspiration. Some of our readers might have similar projects in mind, what would you recommend for them?

Hatice: Please realize your projects, it is precious to contribute from different branches. They can get in touch with collectives and crews like us, unfortunately there are not so many options for pinpointing a problem and moving towards a solution. It is more than enough if we can co-create, get in touch with each other and continue our journey together, each starting with one step and continuing without giving up or stopping when faced with barriers. One of our dreams is to establish a network which brings together many projects, therefore we progress by making use of the experiences and directions our friends share with us. I recommend the readers to talk, to question, there are so many people who want to do something, we are always here to support and we would love to.  

 

*Translator’s Note: gacıvari means feminine in lubunca, the queer slang in Turkish.

**Translator’s Note: PayPal does not operate in Turkey as their license was denied by BDDK, the local authority on banking and finance, in 2016.

 

Professor Sues Same-sex Neigbhbours

Foreign couple GS and GH are currently involved in a legal battle with their neighbours, who have filed complaints against them in which they use homophobic language. The couple have been at their residence on Büyükada since Christmas 2016. GS spoke to LGBTI News Turkey about the ongoing situation.

 

LGBTI News: You moved to the island to give your dog more space. How long after you moved in did you begin to have problems with your neighbours?

GS: We found this apartment in May 2016, but we didn’t move in until Christmas because the problems started with the neighbours; when they saw two men were moving in, they started disturbing us. We didn’t understand in the beginning what was happening. There is a law on the island that you are not allowed to renovate or do any construction work during summer, we were not aware of this as the real estate agent had already started the repairs as we had in our contract with the seller. One day, the neighbour came down and shouted that it was her holiday and she didn’t want any noise in the building, we sent the workers home. That evening we bought wine and chocolate as a present and went to their door to apologise, she yelled at us saying that she doesn’t want anyone in the garden looking at her, and slammed the door. We stopped the renovation during summer  2016, and we continued after the season had finished, as we had obtained a permit from KUDEB.

LGBTI News: Is it correct to say the problems began with your dogs? What objections did your neighbours have to them?

GS: The problems were never about the dogs, but I came to this realization after the court case began. We had only one dog, Ginger, when we moved in. During winter 2016/2017 we had a big snow storm, so two dogs came and took shelter in our garden. Both are very old and had lived in the streets of Buyukada for more than 10 years, so we decided to take them in until the storm was over. Their names are Volkan and Dragos. Everyone who lives on Buyukada knows them. Also I have to tell that our garden is not protected by walls, so any animal can come in to the garden easily. Then the inevitable thing happened, we fell in love with those dogs and decided to adopt them with one of our neighbours; we called our vet and we registered them as pets with all the necessary steps such as vaccinations and microchips and got their pet passports. The neighbors came in the beginning of the summer season ( they come to the island only during summers ) and found the perfect opportunity to get rid of us by complaining about our dogsThe dogs were  just an excuse; they objected because we are also foreigners, we live together and also we were members of another religion and if you read their police statements, you will see that they basically complained about us being gay and insulted us, and they hardly mentioned the dogs. So they went and complained about many different things and started many cases, including one to remove the animals from the building, in an attempt to push us out of the building, knowing that we would never leave our dogs.

LGBTI News: The thing that had brought you to our attention is a lawsuit regarding your sexuality. Would you kindly elaborate on your neighbors attitude and actions towards you regarding your sexuality and your partner?

GS: The case is about us offending them with our behavior, they said we are living like husband and wife ( though we never came out to them, so I assume they were looking through our windows) they also said that we are feminine, and people like us should be away from normal families. They even had the courage to use a very offensive word  [the neighbours used the word kırık (literally broken), which is an offensive slang term used to refer to homosexuals], this is all in their police statement, meaning they were talking to a police officer, and they signed this statement. They had the courage to protest every aspect of our private lives in front of police officers.

We live on the garden floor, so when we are home, the neighbor above starts stomping really loud, they stare and take our photos when we sit in the garden, sometimes one of them stands outside our kitchen window and stares at us for a while, when they walk upstairs, past our terrace, they hit the stair rail hard and make threatening grunting noises, they point at us if we come across them in the streets of the island, they leave garbage at our backdoor. How did we end up in a court case? I have no Idea, but I am sure they would do anything, using their positions in society to have us evicted. The complainants have listed their social positions in their petition, in what I believe to be an attempt to divert the attention away from their bad intentions.  I am afraid because the neighbour who gave the statement is a doctor – a professor – so if a gay patient visits him, he may discriminate and refuse to take care of them!

LGBTI News: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

GS: I am asking for support in regards of our court cases, the neighbors are of high status where they educate or treat young adults. Their positions and their ideas need to be known. Could you imagine if a homophobic doctor, for example, refused to treat his gay patient? This is not only about us, today they are targeting us, tomorrow it could be any member of society.

 

GS attended a second court hearing on December 18th 2018 and a third on March 25th 2019. During the second hearing Prof. Galip Zihni Sanus, a key complainant, disputed that he had used the word kırık to describe the couple, and appeared to have altered his statements. The case continues. The fourth hearing is scheduled for 13:30, June 13th 2019  at Adalar Adliyesi, Büyükada, Istanbul.

LISTAG reestablishes itself as an association

LISTAG, Lezbiyen, Gey, Biseksüel, Trans, İnterseks Aileleri ve Yakınları Grubu, (The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex Family and Friends Group) has reestablished itself as an official association in Turkey, registering itself with the Directorate of Associations under the Ministry of Interior.

LISTAG offers family support to the parents and relatives of LGBTI+ individuals in Turkey. With meetings across the country, the organization offers much needed support. Counseling and a support network offered by LISTAG helps parents and family members confront their biases as well as understand and accept their loved ones as they are.

In 2013, LISTAG produced the “My Child” documentary, a film based on interviews with many of the parents involved in the organization. The film shows the incredible ways in which LISTAG has helped empower the parents as well the LGBTI+ individuals themselves through the support network.

In a statement on why LISTAG has decided to take this step the organization explained that:

“We had a yearlong experience being an association between 2015-2016 but when we realized that we did not have the human resources or the mentality to sustain the association, we terminated it. Since then LISTAG has grown bigger across Turkey with new people joining in. There arose the need for a corporate body which brings together LGBTI+ families and friends.  We believe that individuals and names are transitory, what matters is to leave a sustainable structure behind. Our first task will be to improve and strengthen our institutional capacity and human resources. Our aim is to reach more families with LGBTI+ children, to support them and to continue the LGBTI+ rights struggle in Turkey as an alliance.”

Being registered as an association has a variety of legal benefits including allowing the organization to open commercial offices and earn revenues. Registered organizations also have more opportunities to lobby, apply for grants and collaborate with government bodies.  Official recognition also strengthens the visibility of the LGBTI+ movement in Turkey.

How marginal can you get? On discrimination and how METU students stood their ground

Middle East Technical University in Ankara is famous for two things: academic success and a tradition of resistance to political power. Whether it is in reaction to the overnight decisions to bulldoze the forest in the campus or the attempts at changing the stadium’s name  (“Revolution”, as anointed by the legendary revolutionary student leader Deniz Gezmiş and his friends), students have always stood their ground and claimed their space collectively. The tradition remains untarnished, as students’ protests forced the rector to revert his decision to first cancel and then to move the annual spring festival from Revolution Stadium. Despite the rector’s attempts to marginalize LGBTI+ and leftist constituents of the student collectives, the students successfully stood their ground through their solidarity.

As some of our readers might remember, Ankara is still under a blanket ban against all LGBTI related activities, including film screenings and panels – despite the lifting of the state of emergency last year. Although the ban has struck a blow to the public meetings and collective spaces of LGBTI+ people of Ankara, the LGBTI+ student clubs and movement is committed to continuing their social and cultural activities. Such was the case in METU’s Spring Festival, until the rector suddenly decided to cancel the festival, claiming that the students’ demand were financially burdensome, that the students even requested a “tractor” – confusing the DJing software Traktor with the farmer’s favourite, tractors. The rector said the following words, when his decision caused huge uproar:

“First of all, we haven’t cancelled the festival. On the contrary, we have agreed with students from UGT (International Youth Collective) on all matters including the concerts at Revolution Stadium. Yet this group later changed its mind, after having a meeting with LGBT, Marxist, Extreme Leftist, HDP groups [sic]. Their requests cost over a million in total. They even asked for a tractor. We have never had a prohibitory approach as an administration. We are more METU than you. For example I’ve been in METU for 35 years. I know just as well what is what.”

Of course, the rector’s attempts to wag a finger at “good” students being tempted by the evil marginals like “LGBT, Marxist and Extreme Leftist and HDP groups” fell on deaf ears. But once again the official discourse blatantly discriminated against and others the politically active students with the usual tactics: Lumping together all “others” as a united front of villainy, using identity markers and political positions as if they were adjectives to stigmatize the students, reframing the legitimate requests of students to continue their traditional festival as irrational and greedy and as a cherry on the top, claiming to be more METU than “you”. Regardless of the rector’s claims to authenticity, a university is nothing without its students, who have chosen to use the weapon of humour against the misrepresentation of their intentions. The students gathered in front of the Rectorate, carrying a handmade tractor model painted in the colours of the trans flag, garbed in a rainbow flag, a license plate that says “extreme left” and with a hammer and sickle. Indeed this act of creative resistance reverts the power-holders’ attempt at the caricaturized representation of the diversity of the students, by turning the rector’s words into a concrete object shown below.

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Various artists have offered to play for free and supported the students. On April 16th, around a thousand students gathered in protest. On April 17th student collective UGT, in charge of the organization of the festival, had a meeting with the Rector for two hours: The festival is to be celebrated for the 33rd time, at Revolution Stadium on April 24-26. We hope to see the solidarity of students, with all their diversity of ethnicity, political opinion, gender identity and sexual orientation, continue and grow in all campuses around Turkey. Love will win!

*Photos are taken from İnadına Haber.

**This article is based on news from Gazete Duvar and sendika.org.

December 1 World AIDS Day Events in Turkey

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The LGBTI+ Community in Turkey marks World AIDS Day 2018 with engaging activities . Despite the restraining political environment in Turkey, LGBTI+ activism has been growing stronger and one field where it has consolidated its efforts is in raising awareness on testing for HIV and focus on the lives of HIV+ individuals. In this article, we introduce organizations working for HIV awareness and events that will mark the day this year.

 

Pozitifiz (We are Positive) is a non-governmental organization that approaches the HIV issue from a human rights perspective, seeking to increase access to better healthcare for HIV+ individuals and abolish prejudices against them and their families to provide better living conditions. Most of the founders are HIV+ individuals who have been active in the field for many years.

 

Red Ribbon Istanbul is another civil society organization which strives to expand the channels of information for HIV awareness. They aim to “communicate scientifically-grounded HIV-related information to all parts of society, using clear and easy-to-understand language.”  Red Ribbon Istanbul also works to foster collaboration of private sector, civil society and state actors in order to increase opportunities for safe and anonymous testing, diagnosis and treatment.

 

Red Ribbon Istanbul and Pozitifiz joined forces for their #hivcokdegisti campaign, which says “HIV has changed, have we?”. The campaign circulates statements aiming to rid the public sphere from prejudices about HIV+ individuals and HIV+ living, reminding all of us that “HIV is not only a matter for those who live with HIV, but also for everybody else”. You can read their joint statement for World AIDS Day 2018 on this link.

 

This year, Pozitifiz also participated in the meeting for GSK (GlaxoSmithKline)’s World AIDS Day 2018 Campaign , titled “Kendin İçin 1 Aralık” (December 1 For Yourself) which introduces the stories of HIV+ individuals through their own narratives, inviting everyone to share their own support messages with the #dokun (#touch) hashtag, in an effort to overcome the barriers of fear and prejudice. The campaign also urges everyone to get an HIV test and to learn more about AIDS.

 

Hevi LGBTI Association and Boysan’ın Evi (Boysan’s House) marks the day with a panel titled “HIV/AIDS and Isolation on the basis of gender: Women Tell Their Stories”. The panel is to take place on December 2, 17:00-19:00 at Boysan’s House with the participation of panelists Çiğdem Şimşek and Müzeyyen Araç. Hevi LGBTI has also published multilingual pamhplets and is organizing two more panels on December 1, titled “HIV through Letters” and “AIDS in Turkey- Recent Medical Methods and Studies”.

 

Dramaqueer Art Collective which has recently opened its art base in Tarlabaşı will host a talk titled “M.Paniği” (“M. Panic”) on the first known and sensationalized AIDS case in Turkey. Murteza Elgin, a successful vocalist and manager, became the target of a media circus, finding out about his own HIV+ condition through the very news that stigmatized him. Serdar Soydan will introduce M’s story and the struggle against fear and prejudice in this talk.

 

On World AIDS Day 2018 there will also be an exhibition opening at Operation Room at American Hospital, titled “Positive Space”. The exhibition invitation states that it “opens discussions about themes, directly related to HIV/AIDS, such as visibility and stigma, victimhood and guilt, pleasure and disease as well as subjective bodies recording, separating, accepting and rejecting, infecting and spreading in opposition to ideological and medical bodies. Even though the exhibition affirms ‘positivity,’ it reserves the right to see AIDS as a metaphor. The unrepressed HIV does not destroy the cell, it attacks and emaciates it, just like masculine domination or bio-power practices do. “Positive Space” looks for new contamination technologies against these practices.” Read more about it in this link.

 

To make the World AIDS Day more visible, Kaos GL and Pozitifiz Association has published ads on two dailies (Evrensel and Birgün) with Aslı Alpar’s illustrations with the title “End Stigmatization and Discrimination”.

 

Kaos GL’s Social Services Studies Group has published a statement on World AIDS Day 2018 drawing attention to the discrimination HIV+ individuals face. Here is the statement:

 

“We are disappointed to see that discourses on December 1 World AIDS Day solely focus on the increase in the number of individuals living with HIV. We believe that it is not possible to ignore the discrimination that people living with HIV experience in many realms of life. This discrimination not only affects the psychosocial wellbeing of people living with HIV negatively, but also prevents people living with HIV from accessing social services efficiently. People living with HIV have equal rights with everyone else, from the right to healthcare to the right to work, from the right to education to the right to accomodation.

 

As the Kaos GL Social Services Studies Group we fight for the people with HIV’s access to their rights and we will continue our fight. We are conscious of the responsibility and duty that social services experts and other professionals working in the field of psychological healthcare bear.

 

HIV can be controlled. What matters is that hatred, discrimination and pressure against people living with HIV is controlled.

 

Happy December 1 World AIDS Day!”

 

Illustration: Aslı Alpar

 

#mynameisayda

A group of LGBTI+ activists have published a statement regarding the recent attacks on LGBTI+ refugees in Yalova. A social media campaign was launched with the hashtag #mynameisayda. The group has opened a Twitter account called “My name is Ayda” and explained the attacks as the following:

OUR CALL regarding the mob lynches and hatred against LGBTI+ asylum seekers in Yalova and across Turkey:

On May 30 our friend Ayda, a trans woman, was assaulted by the residents of her district in Yalova and she was hospitalized. Ayda left her home county due to transphobia, yet she has become the target of the same transphobic acts and discourses here in Turkey. As we were preparing this text, another friend of ours, a gay asylum seeker, was threatened in the middle of the street with a knife.  

This is not the first attack against LGBTI+ asylum seekers in Yalova, but previous incidents were met with silence. This time we will not remain silent to these rights violations. We will  make our voices heard by the Human Rights Association (İnsan Hakları Derneği) and the United Nations as we seek justice for Ayda as well as for previous cases of violence. We will be using the hashtag #mynameisayda on Sunday (June 3) at 21:00, tagging @UNHumanRights and @UN.

We would like you to join our call by sharing messages publicly with the hashtag.

Together we raise our voices against acts of hatred and violence against our LGBTI friends.

AYDA IS NOT ALONE!

ASYLUM SEEKING LGBTI INDIVIDUALS ARE NOT ALONE!

WITH SOLIDARITY,

 

After the call, the group published an update about the incident, stating that seven of the attackers were detained following the social media campaign. The group wrote: “we would like to thank all of you but our struggle will continue until all LGBTI asylum seekers are safe and our demands are met.”

 

To follow the account and join the campaign, see Mynameisayda

Happy April 26th!

 

This year Lesbian Visibility Day has been celebrated across Turkey with a social media campaign using the hashtag #lezbiyenaçılmagünü (#lesbiancomingoutday). Lesbian individuals are encouraged to shout out to their celebrity crushes in honour of lesbian visibility. A group of lesbians have launched the campaign through a twitter account, asking fellow lesbians not to keep their love to themselves. The hashtag has become a trending topic in Turkey, with love messages to both local and international celebrities. Although there have been discriminatory remarks using hate speech with the same hashtag, this has not stifled the lesbian community’s enthusiasm to celebrate the visibility of their identity.

 
To mark April 26th, KaosGL has published a pamphlet “Don’t Hold Back, Say It: Lesbian”. The publication consists of a glossary of terminology, a brief history of the word “lesbian” and of self-organizing practices of lesbians, a list of frequently asked questions to lesbians, a discussion of stereotypical representations of lesbianism and a summary of the organization’s annual story competition celebrating lesbian love. The Turkish pamphlet can be viewed through this link.