Rights Violations in 2018

Police brutality against trans individuals in Izmir

Last night, in Alsancak, Izmir, police officers forcefully detained 2 trans individuals after telling them “you can’t sit here”.

Source: “Police brutality against trans individuals in Izmir” (“İzmir’de translara polis şiddeti”), Gözde Demirbilek, kaosgl.org, May 9, 2018, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=25777

In Izmir, police continue to siege the Alsancak neighbourhood.  Based on the information given by the neighbourhood residents, around 23:00 law enforcement officials took 2 trans women who were sitting in a bakery on Azra Has Street (Bornova Street) to the police station; forcefully and without justification.

After the police detained these women and took their statements, they were fined and released.

The women contacted Kerem Dikmen, a lawyer from Kaos GL and told him how law enforcement officers have been putting the neighbourhood under siege, and how the police are suffocating the trans individuals living in this area.

De facto Unlawful Detention!

Kerem Dikmen pointed out that the administrative fine has become something arbitrary; he said:

“It’s an exception when the one sentenced to pay fines detained by the police, even though this is not stipulated by the law; the sanctions that are imposed on trans women are not being carried out according to the law. There is no difference in clarity by the law between penalising a car driver’s speeding crimes and a trans individual on the street. Considering that it is not necessary to go to the police station for the fine to be issued, such implementation can turn into actual unlawful detention.”

“The area under siege is where trans individuals live and work. Living and working in the same neighbourhood is natural and therefore incidents like this happen while they are shopping from stores in their own neighbourhood. It is not lawfully applicable to sentence someone to pay fines as long as there is no indicated misdemeanour crime.”

 

“This judge’s conduct is against the law!”

On May 7th, a judge shared a petition for a gender transition lawsuit submitted to his court on his social media accounts and mocked the applicant. Pink Life Association filed a complaint to the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) about the incident.

Source: “This judge’s conduct is against the law!” (“Hakimin Bu Eylemi Suç ve İlkelere Aykırıdır!”), Pembe Hayat, May, 11, 2018, http://www.pembehayat.org/haberler.php?id=1747

On May 10th Emrah Şahin, the lawyer for Pink Life Association, filed a complaint against the judge who published a petition submitted to his court on Instagram and ridiculed the applicant. Şahin states that such conduct of the judge is not only criminal but also goes against the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct, the Law for Judges and Prosecutors as well as the Principles of Ethical Conduct for Public Servants:

“Such social media posts by a judge who should be protecting the principles of equality, impartiality and integrity, not only weakens the faith of our citizens in the impartiality of the justice system but also hurts their dignity and pride. Therefore as Pink Life Association, we filed a complaint to the Council of Judges and Prosecutors about this judge regarding his actions which are not fit with the profession and dignity of of the profession.”

Şahin also suggests that the judge should be investigated and believes that public servants in the judiciary harm LGBTI+ individual’s faith in the Turkish justice system :

“The judiciary system has a crucial importance for the perpetuity of the state, it is required to treat all citizens equally. This requirement is not an ideal or a wish but a rule, warranted by international conventions, our Constitution and regulations alike.  These ugly posts shared on a personal social media account of a member of the judiciary is detrimental to the society as well as to other judges and prosecutors who are loyal to their duties.”

“If this judge is sentenced because of our complaint, it will be a step forward in ensuring that such incidents will not be repeated.”

LGBTI prisoner kept in isolation in type T prison of Erzincan stated that they have reached the level of committing suicide and asked to be transferred, in a letter they wrote

The LGBTI prisoner who has been kept in isolation stated that they have reached the level of committing suicide in a letter they wrote to the Civil Society in the Penal System Foundation (CISST) and asked for help in order to be referred to a prison where more LGBTI prisoners are being held.

Source: Cansu Pişkin, “Tecritte tutulan LGBTİ mahpus: İntiharın eşiğine geldim,” Evrensel, May 8, 2018, https://www.evrensel.net/haber/351991/tecritte-tutulan-lgbti-mahpus-intiharin-esigine-geldim

Even though they are a criminal convict, they have been kept in solitary cells for political prisoners and convicts with aggravated sentences. The LGBTI prisoner wrote in their letter:

“After I came to the type T prison of Erzincan, I stayed in the infirmary room for five days. After that, I was put in a solitary cell where political prisoners and convicts with aggravated sentences are held. I’m only given one hour of leisure time. I’m not a political or aggravated prisoner; I’m a law offender. I don’t have access to the yard, nor do I have a place to hang my washed clothes. The bathroom and the shower are in the same place. I’m washing my dishes in the toilet. I suffer from chronic asthmatic bronchitis. I’m experiencing a violation of human rights. There is no one I can talk to, no other LGBTI prisoner. I’m psychologically drained. I’ve come to the stage of committing suicide.

Refusal to accommodate an LGBTI prisoner

This LGBTI prisoner has been making a request to be transferred to another prison since last year, and all their requests have been left unanswered. They write:

“First, I was supposed to be sent to the type L prison of Balikesir, but since there was no other LGBTI prisoner there my transfer request was not approved. Later came the type L prison of Rize and the type T No. 2 closed prison of Kayseri, respectively. They did not agree to the transfer, answering that they couldn’t accommodate such LGBTI prisoners. Later, two of our LGBTI friends were transferred to No. 2 prison of Kayseri. I was told there were LGBTI prisoners in the prison of Erzincan, which means I was literally tricked.”

The LGBTI prisoner briefly talked about how unjustly they are being treated, and that they had to spend about 2.000 Liras for the transfer procedures. The prisoner indicated they suffer from chronic asthmatic bronchitis and drew attention to the severe violation of human rights that they are experiencing. The prisoner said their family is living in Aydin-Kusadasi and due to the distance and health issues they can’t come visit them; they are asking for help:

“My father has undergone a heart operation; his situation is critical. Same for my mother, they are old. I have a disabled older brother who is in Kayseri. This means that for them it’s very hard to come here. I’m feeling worse psychologically day by day. I’m crammed in a small room. I’m supposed to be kept as an inmate in good conditions for seven years. I don’t want to jeopardise my case. I want to carry out the rest of my punishment where other queers in the same situation as me are being kept. I want assistance in order to be transferred for security reasons.”

Following the prisoner’s letter, CISST (Inmates in Penitentiary System) has taken action and applied for their referral to the authorities.

 

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? “

Kaos GL: Film Ban Determined to be not within the Jurisdiction of Ombudsman!

Ombudsman Institution stated that the ban against Kuirfest film screening is not “within the jurisdiction” of the institution.

Compiled from: “Film ban determined to be not within the jurisdiction of ombudsman!” (“Film yasağı Kamu Denetçiliği’nin görev alanında değilmiş!”), Kaos GL, March 19, 2018, http://kaosgl.org/yazarlar.php?id=4002

“Kuir Kısalar” (“Queer Shorts”) was a film screening, organized in collaboration of KuirFest with Pera and British Council and was scheduled to take place on November 25, 2017. The screening was first postponed to a later date with a notification sent to Pera Museum by the District Governorship. Another notice delivered to Pera Museum on December 29 stated the event was postponed until January 12. The screening was ultimately banned on the premises that “public safety” should be provided. Pink Life Association’s petition to the Ombudsman Institute regarding the ban was rejected on the grounds of “no-investigation.” Pink Life Association’s lawyer Emrah Şahin applied to Ombudsman on January 4 stating the “Kuir Kısalar” screening was banned unlawfully and that the parties were notified of the ban on the last day, which violated the legal right to appeal. Şahin stated that freedom of speech as well as “good administration principles” were violated.

District Governorship Demanded Dismissal

The defense statement of Beyoğlu District Governorship indicated that “Kuir Kısalar” might be targeted by terrorist organizations and that this situation could lead to a civil war. The District Governorship stated that it does not aim to other LGBTI+ individuals or to limit rights and liberties, instead the rejection was intended to prevent crime and to protect the public order.

The District Governorship did not state any reason for why the event was cancelled on the last day and opposes any review of this decision.

No Investigation Decision from Ombudsman Institute

Upon receiving the Beyoğlu District Governorship’s defense, Ombudsman Institute rejected the application for an inspection of the ban decision on the premises that the incident is not within the “assigned mandate” of the institution.

A “Careless and Sloppy Decision”

Lawyer Emrah Şahin stated his views on the decision of Ombudsman Institute to reject the application. Şahin reported the reasons the District Governorship has are same as the decision to ban Pride Walk. Thus, the issue has been handled in a sloppy manner. Ombudsman’s statement that the issue is “not within their jurisdiction” is self-contradictory.

Şahin said: “As you know we applied to Ombudsman Institute following the last day ban against our event which was scheduled to take place at Pera by Beyoğlu District Governorship. As the ban was issued on the day before the event, the Association was deprived of the right to appeal the decision since there was not enough time. Therefore, the association has suffered irrevocable harm and Beyoğlu District Governorship violated the “good administration principles” as well as interfered with the right to access justice, freedom of speech, the right to assembly, to art and property rights. Based on these reasons, we petitioned Ombudsman for further information and the Governorship of Istanbul based its decision on memos from Ministry of Interior and the Security Directorate which stated: “the walk planned by LGBTI members could potentially be targeted by terrorist organizations, given the increase in the threats of terrorist acts against our country.

Neither the dates or numbers of these memos were indicated. The banned event is not a ‘walk.’ Indeed, it is a film screening! The memos on which the decision is built were obviously memos written about ‘Pride Walk’, yet Ombudsman Institute found these responses to be adequate. The administration does not clarify why the ban was issued on the last day either. The Ombudsman Institution did not comment on this practice, which is blatantly against the “good administration principles.” Instead, Ombudsman determined there would be “no investigation” after first suggesting our application for review is “within the domain of legislation” only to retract by stating that it is “not within their jurisdiction”, leading our association to pursue further legal avenues.

“As a law practitioner, my confidence in Ombudsman Institute is lost after this decision. Such careless and sloppy decision making on such an important matter perhaps stems from the institute’s hesitation in making an advisory ruling on this issue.” –Pink Life

A Lesson on ‘Discrimination’ for the Constitutional Court

The Turkish Constitutional Court faces internal dissent on its verdict that banning a gay religion teacher from teaching was not discriminatory.

Source: Nurcan Gökdemir, “AYM’ye ‘ayrımcılık’ dersi”, Birgün, 8 March 2018, https://www.birgun.net/haber-detay/aym-ye-ayrimcilik-dersi-207237.html

The Constitutional Court has recently rejected the appeal of a soldier, who was expunged from the Turkish Armed Forces. The reason given by the court for the decision was that “homosexuality is detrimental to the honor of military service”. Now, the Court has ruled that there was no discrimination against a Religious Culture and Moral Values teacher, who was fired for the same reasons.

The court ruling states “It is natural for persons, who want to work educating young children, to be subjected to certain restrictions to which other people are not subjected.” Deputy Chair Engin Yıldırım and member Muharrem Topal did not support the ruling. In his statement for voting against [the ruling] Yıldırım stated that discrimination based on sexual orientation is prohibited in international agreements and stipulations, which Turkey has agreed to uphold. The statement of dissenting vote, which emphasizes the fact that the Constitutional Court’s ruling is unconstitutional, included these points as the rationale:

“The Constitution states that the State does not have an official sexual orientation and the State must be equal and impartial to all genders, sexual identities, gender identities, and sexual orientations.”

“Discrimination against sexual orientation is an acceptance of the idea that some lives are less deserving of respect and dignity, and therefore lead to hindering LGBTI+ [people’s] participation in social life with equal opportunity and dignity.”

“One of the foundational duties of the state is to protect human dignity and refrain from policies, practices, and judicial regulations that will damage the dignity of people who constitute a particular community”

#BeAVoiceForDiren

Friends of imprisoned LGBTI activist Diren Coşkun have started a campaign to support Diren who has started a death fast against the rights violations she has been enduring in a Turkish prison. The campaign urges supporters to sign a petition and to write e-letters, which will then be taken to Diren.

Diren was arrested on Aug. 14, 2017 with the allegation of “propaganda for an illegal organization.”

Diren is a trans woman and has been put in isolation after she rejected to stay in the male ward of the prison. Demanding an end to her solitary confinement and access to trans-specific healthcare, Diren started the death fast on Jan. 25.

Kıvılcım Arat from Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association announced her own death fast on Feb. 6 in solidarity with Coşkun. (Read Arat’s account of life in prison for trans inmates on here.)

To support Diren, please sign the petition or join the social media campaign by sharing your messages of solidarity these hashtags:

#SeiEineStimmeFürDiren

#DireneSesVer

#BeAVoiceForDiren

#WeesEenStemVoorDiren #SoyesUneVoixPourDiren

#TransRights