Turkey’s Elections

LGBTI Political Participation & Representation

LGBTIs are not alone in this struggle

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The LGBTI Rights Pledge, which the Social Policies, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Studies Association (SPoD) has opened for signatures by candidates running for parliament membership on the June 7 general elections, has received 40 signatures. Candidates such as Şafak Pavey, Musa Çam, and Deva Özenen declared that LGBTIs are not alone in this struggle.

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Barış Sulu: “I chose the HDP, because LGBTIs have been in the HDP since the beginning”

The HDP’s [Peoples’ Democratic Party] parliamentary candidate Barış Sulu: “I chose the HDP, because LGBTIs have been in the HDP since the beginning. It’s not a newly added group to the party.”

Source: Ali Kemal Akan, “HDP’yi seçtim çünkü LGBTI’liler baştan beri varlar” (“I chose the HDP, because LGBTIs have been in the HDP since the beginning”), Anadolu Agency, 25 May 2015, http://www.aa.com.tr/tr/rss/516349–hdp-yi-sectim-cunku-lgbtililer-bastan-beri-varlar

Barış Sulu, the HDP’s LGBTI candidate for Eskişehir, remarked, “I chose the HDP, because LGBTI individuals have been in the HDP since the beginning. It’s not a newly added group to the party.”

In an interview with the Anadolu Agency [Turkey’s semi-official news agency], Sulu noted that he has been working on LGBTI rights, and has been involved in LGBTI associations since 1998.

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Sulu said that he discussed the candidacy with his boyfriend and family when the HDP offered to nominate him. “I’m open to my family. I’m not in the closet. I received the greatest support from my family and my boyfriend as the process moved along. I spoke with my friends from the HDP; I consulted them a lot.”

Nominated by the HDP as the sixth parliamentary candidate for the Eskişehir province, Sulu remarked that he’s not new to politics.

“I’ve been working on LGBTI issues for the last 17 years. I believe that I start doing politics automatically the moment I say ‘I’m here.’ I started my political life the moment I said ‘I’m gay, I live in this country, and I’m not going anywhere. I start my struggle right here.’”

Sulu noted that his candidacy will pave the way for more LGBTI candidacies in future elections even if he is not elected this term: “In four years, elections will turn into something completely different. There may be more than just one gay man; there may be a lesbian candidate, a trans candidate. Things can be completely different in four years from now.”

Sulu reiterated the fact that he’s been in the HDP since the time when the organization was known as the HDK: “I chose the HDP, because LGBTI individuals have been in the HDP since the beginning. It’s not a newly added group. During the HDK phase, Ertuğrul Kürkçü would say “We’re here, you’re welcome here” in 22 languages in his speeches, because 22 different languages are spoken in this country. LGBTIs were present in that process. All these different identities were already together. They have been in the process since the very beginning.”

Noting that CHP has also intensified its LGBTI work, Sulu said, “I’ve been to the Parliament often, because I’ve been involved in LGBTI activism for years. I’ve participated in meetings to express our issues. CHP places a lot of parliamentary questions about LGBTIs and so does the HDP. Unfortunately, there aren’t any other parties that produce knowledge about LGBTIs, support them, or acknowledge that LGBTIs are being discriminated against.”

Sulu commented that he had incorrectly expected the CHP to nominate an LGBTI candidate for the upcoming elections, though Anadolu Party nominated one in Izmir.

Sulu was informed about his candidacy through a phone call that he received from the HDP headquarters. “Demirtaş is already talking about the rights of LGBTI individuals. He asserted, ‘If this is a risk, then we’re taking that risk.’ The HDP has an LGBTI committee, just like a women’s committee and a youth committee. It’s in a state of dialogue. We have an election manifesto, a section of which reads ‘We’re the rainbow.’ This is a pamphlet that has been distributed to all provinces for all the party members to read and learn from.”

Sulu notes that 85 percent of Turkey’s population does not want to see an LGBTI candidate: “I have been in Diyarbakır several times. There’s a different atmosphere there. The perception of LGBTIs doesn’t change wherever you go. Maybe the current process will soften that perception. It will help people understand more. We’re being killed despite our right to live. That’s what we’re talking about. We say, we can’t receive an education, we’re kicked out of schools, we experience bullying. We experience a whole other set of issues at hospitals. We can’t find work. People are forced to do different kinds of work. They are pushed to the margins of society. We’re trying to talk about these issues and I believe that our voice is heard here and there.”

Star News: “Vile propaganda from the HDP’s homosexual candidate”

Translator’s Note: As Turkey’s June 7 general elections approach, there is an increasing use of LGBTI by the governing Justice and Development Party representatives and pro-government media to criticize the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party. We have provided a verbatim translation of an article on openly gay candidate for parliament Barış Sulu, which appeared in pro-government media. Note that the word “faggot” has been reclaimed by LGBTIs in Turkey and is not considered an insult as exemplified by activist Levent Pişkin’s case and subsequent statements by LGBTI associations.

Source: Star, “HDP’li eşcinsel adaydan rezil propaganda!”, “Vile propaganda from the HDP’s homosexual candidate”, Star, 22 May 2015, http://haber.star.com.tr/politika/hdpnin-escinsel-adayindan-rezil-propaganda/haber-1030697

The HDP’s [Peoples’ Democratic Party], which claims to be Turkey’s party, candidate for parliament from Eskişehir, Barış Sulu, who is an LGBTI member is drawing a big reaction due to his election propaganda with swear words. Sulu questions the morality of people who are uncomfortable with two men kissing.

The HDP, which is trying to create the image of being a party of Turkey to cross the 10 percent threshold, has promised to recognize and create social policies for LGBTIs which represents lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. As a reflection of this promise, it put forth LGBTI member Barış Sulu as a candidate for parliament from Eskişehir in the 6th rank. Once his candidacy was declared, HDP’s candidate for parliament Barış Sulu started writing messages on Twitter that begin with “I am a f****t” to make a propaganda for the widening of LGBTIs rather than the HDP. Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan has criticized the HDP’s LGBTI attitude, which is no longer a life choice of Barış Sulu but rather a propaganda that imposes on everyone to accept [LGBTI].

Time for Propaganda with Swear Words

The HDP’s homosexual candidate for parliament Barış Sulu was presented to Turkey with a Hürriyet newspaper interview titled “A woman, a man and a gay marriage” and he is after a homosexuality propaganda on Twitter. Instead of asking for votes for the HDP, Sulu makes the propaganda “Recognize our sexual orientation” and wants people to react normally to men kissing. He approaches homosexuality using the swear word f*g and does not abstain from insulting all homosexuals. While doing this, Barış Sulu also uses religious elements in his propaganda.

Gathering votes with the call to prayer lie

Barış Sulu wrote a Twitter message saying “If two men kissing bothers you more than two men killing each other, then you need to urgently question your moral understanding” and then hunted for votes by taking refuge in religious elements by saying “Call to prayer and prayer delayed by 50 minutes because Erdoğan was speaking”. In another message he insults all homosexuals by saying “I know very well that I am a f****t, please rise from the primary school level and be more creative, know yourself, relax and come out”.

Is this how to become a party of Turkey?

Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan has also reacted against the HDP’s homosexuality propaganda through Barış Sulu. Akdoğan reminded that “the HDP claims to “become a party of Turkey” and said, “How can a party that says (I will become a party of Turkey) have a terror organization in its substitutes? One municipal leader gets up and says, “there was a pontic genocide and Turkey massacred 350 thousand people”. So you will become a party of Turkey by talking about the Armenian genocide, the pontic genocide and insult your own country? They put forth homosexual candidates and are defending homosexual marriage. Will the HDP become a party of Turkey by defending this?”

SPoD LGBTI on IDAHOT: Of course we are in politics!

Social Policies, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Studies Association (SPoD LGBTI) organized a cocktail with the call “Of course we are in politics” for the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on 17 May. Politicians, lawyers, psychologists, and academics joined the cocktail and emphasized LGBTI rights.

Social Policies, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Studies Association (SPoD LGBTI) organized a cocktail with the call “Of course we are in politics” for the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on 17 May. The Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) Istanbul co-spokesperson Ayşe Erdem, the HDP’s Istanbul 2nd District Candidate and LGBTI Rights Pledge signatory Gülsüm Ağaoğlu, the Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) Istanbul 2nd District Candidate and LGBTI Rights Pledge signatory Gül Yüksel as well as representatives from LGBTI organizations, SPoD’s volunteer lawyers, psychologists, health-care workers, and academics joined the cocktail.

In the opening remarks, SPoD’s President of the Board Volkan Yılmaz informed the guests on the association’s work and called on them to support LGBTI associations. SPoD’s Political Representation Coordinator Sezen Yalçın said the eradication of homophobia and transphobia requires a long-term struggle. Yalçın emphasized the importance of LGBTI participation in politics and informed guests about the In School, at Work, at the Parliament election campaign with the idea that “We are used to politics, politics and politicians should get used to us”. Yalçın said 33 candidates for parliament have signed the LGBTI Rights Pledge ahead of the 7 June general elections and that the signatories are increasing daily.

Beşiktaş Municipality Mayorial Advisor and SPoD’s Board Member Sedef Çakmak reminded guests that very few parliamentarians were reached in the mid 2000s when LGBTI associations faced the threat of closure. She emphasized the increase in number of LGBTI rights supporters in many levels of politics and how important this win is.

Istanbul 2nd District Independent Candidate Batuhan Aydagül signed the LGBTI Rights Pledge and said he will take the problems of youth facing discrimination in education due to sexual orientation and gender identity to the parliament.

For your inquiries regarding the news and interviews:

MEHTAP DOĞAN
Media Partner Communication Consultancy
Media Director
mehtapdogan@mpiletisim.com

LGBTI NEWS TURKEY is the official translation source for SPoD LGBTI’s “In school, at work, in the parliament: LGBTIs are everywhere!” campaign, which is endorsed by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC).

33 MP candidates signed the LGBTI Rights Pledge

A number of candidates running for parliament membership from various cities such as Malatya and Edirne have signed the LGBTI Rights Pledge. The human rights organization SPoD LGBTI had formulated the open pledge and asked candidates to publicly sign it. By signing the aforementioned pledge, the candidates promised to defend LGBTI rights in the parliament.

33 MP candidates signed the LGBTI Rights Pledge

The LGBTI Rights Pledge was made public for MP candidates’ signatures prior to the general elections of June 7 by the Social Policy, Gender Identity, and Sexual Orientation Studies Association (SPoD LGBTI) and has thus far received the signatures of 33 candidates. The pledge was proposed as part of the LGBTIs in the Parliament campaign, whose aim was to increase the visibility of human rights violations suffered by LGBTI individuals and to create a society where no individual faces oppression due to their identities. Women from the HDP [Peoples’ Democratic Party] were the first candidates to sign the pledge as they  declared “We are the rainbow.” Recently, new signatures were added to the pledge.

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Representatives from SPoD LGBTI were in Ankara on April 28-29 to present the LGBTI Rights Pledge to politicians. Selina Doğan, the CHP’s [Republican People’s Party] first rank candidate from the second district of Istanbul, signed the pledge in addition to Zelal Deniz Demir, the HDP candidate from Ankara, Aylin Nazlıaka, the CHP candidate from Ankara, and Selin Sayek, the CHP first rank candidate from Izmir’s second district.

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After the HDP, CHP candidates also sign the LGBTI Rights Pledge

Istanbul 2nd district candidates Melda Onur, Enis Berberoğlu, İnan Güney, and Gül Yüksel visited SPoD LGBTI before the June 7 general elections. The Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidates signed the LGBTI Rights Pledge after the women candidates of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), who declared “We are the Rainbow.”

SPoD LGBTI representatives, who have started the “LGBTI in the Parliament” campaign for the active inclusion of LGBTIs in decision- and policy-making processes and who drafted the LGBTI Rights Pledge, asked candidates for parliament to advocate for LGBTI rights in the Parliament.

Melda Onur emphasized the importance of the presence of LGBTIs in the Parliament with their open identities and said, “We have worked to bring LGBTI issues to the Parliament. We will continue to do so after the elections.” Enis Berberoğlu stated that they will work to get more CHP candidates to sign the Pledge and said, “The CHP’s 2015 Election Manifesto declared that it will work against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. As you know the manifesto includes the sentence that we will work against all discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity through legislation and sanctions. This is a fundamental human rights issue.”

In the coming days, candidates from other cities and parties are expected to sign the LGBTI Rights Pledge.

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The HDP Istanbul candidates sign the LGBTI Rights Pledge

SPoD LGBTI is circulating an LGBTI Rights Pledge, part of the “LGBTI in the Parliament” campaign, for signatures in the run-up to the June 7th parliamentary elections in Turkey. The first signatories to the Pledge are HDP’s women candidates who proclaimed “We are the Rainbow.”

In the run-up to the parliamentary elections to be held on June 7th, the Istanbul based LGBTI advocacy group SPoD (Social Policies, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Studies Association) is circulating the LGBTI Rights Pledge to be signed by parliamentary candidates. Representatives of SPoD LGBTI drafted the LGBTI Rights Pledge as part of their “LGBTI in the Parliament” campaign. The campaign was started in February in order to demand the active inclusion of LGBTI individuals in decision and policy making processes. SPoD representatives visited the HDP [People’s Democracy Party], whose female candidates for Istanbul signed the Pledge. The candidates had previously included a section in their election manifesto called “We are the Rainbow.”

Are you ready to defend LGBTI rights?

The participants of the meeting, which was held in the HDP Istanbul Province Building, included Istanbul 2nd District parliamentary candidates Filiz Kerestecioğlu, Gülsüm Ağaoğlu, İnciser Alptekin, Elif Sırlıoğlu, Istanbul 3rd District parliamentary candidates Hülya İmak and Elif Bulut as well as  representatives from SPoD.

SPoD LGBTI Political Representation Field Coordinator Sezen Yalçın underlined the importance of the section “We are the Rainbow” in the HDP’s election manifesto for the LGBTI and asked the parliamentary candidates: “Are you ready to defend the LGBTI rights?” Lawyer Filiz Kerestecioğlu, the HDP candidate from the 2nd District, read out loud the LGBTI Rights Pledge and said: “We became candidates in order to carry the voices of the street and their struggles into the parliament.”

Gülsüm Ağaoğlu described the HDP election manifesto as a poem of human rights rather than a mere promise, and stated that, as a party open to all the colors of the rainbow, it is their goal to implement the demands outlined in the Pledge. Imak said, “When ‘we’ are in the parliament, you will be there as well. We are not your representatives, but are the voices of all those who have been victimized.” Bulut, Alptekin and Sırlıoğlu signed the Pledge and added that it is their wish to see a political environment where everyone can coexists while enjoying their rights and their identities without the need for such a pledge.

SPoD’s eyes are on the parliamentary representatives

SPoD LGBTI calls on the parliamentary candidates to embrace a political position that guarantees the LGBTI rights and freedoms and will share with the public the names of  parliamentary candidates who sign the pledge. If the candidates get elected in the upcoming parliamentary election, SPoD will hold them accountable to their pledge through monitoring their work in the new legislative period.

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We ask MP Candidates: Will you defend LGBTI rights in the Parliament?

As the parliamentary elections in Turkey approach, The Istanbul-based LGBTI advocacy group, Social Policies, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Studies Association (SPoD) has called on candidates, political parties, and party leaders to work towards the active inclusion of LGBTIs in decision- and policy-making mechanisms. SPoD has prepared an “LGBTI Rights Pledge,” the full text of which is presented below, and has circulated it to be signed by all parliamentary candidates.

SPoD LGBTI  calls on candidates to follow a political approach that guarantees LGBTI rights and freedoms, stating:

Recently, we have witnessed that the politicians have began assuming responsibility to promote LGBTI rights and freedoms. This is mainly due to the efforts by LGBTI rights movements, working  for LGBTIs to have equal citizenship status and fighting oppressive and discriminatory policies and practices against LGBTI persons in Turkey. We know that the number of politicians who are defending LGBTI rights is insufficient and that political parties ought to display a much more effective stance for LGBTI rights, especially when we take into account the alarmingly high prevalence of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

As SPoD LGBTI, we have invited parliamentary candidates, political parties, and party leaders to work together on policies to support LGBTI rights, in accordance with our campaign, “LGBTI in the Parliament.” We submit the following “LGBTI Rights Pledge” to be signed by all parliamentary candidates in the upcoming parliamentary elections in Turkey. Through this pledge, we call on all candidates to present a political approach that guarantees LGBTI rights and freedoms. We declare that we will continue to monitor the performance of the candidates who sign the LGBTI Rights Pledge, if elected to the new parliament.

The Pledge that the candidates are asked to sign is as follows:

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Pro-Kurdish and minority rights HDP pledges to eliminate discrimination against LGBTIs

The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) announced its election manifesto which places a strong emphasis on anti-discrimination protections and social policies for LGBTI people.

Kaos GL, “Pro-Kurdish HDP pledges LGBTI equality”, 21 April 2015, http://kaosgl.org/page.php?id=19240

Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Co-Chairs Figen Yuksekdag and Selahattin Demirtas announced their manifesto today for the June 7 elections.

The party, which has to pass the 10% election threshold to be in the Parliament, made pledges on social rights, union rights and freedoms, conscientious objection, women’s rights, youth, the Kurdish issue and the resolution process, judicial reform and democracy.

The manifesto also explains the HDP’s LGBTI politics under the section “LGBTIs’ equal, free and proud right to life” as follows:

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Turkish popular opposition promises to fight anti-LGBT discrimination

The Turkish main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) announced its manifesto for the June 7 elections, promising to fight discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Kaos GL, “Turkish main opposition promises to fight anti-LGBT discrimination”, 20 April 2015, http://kaosgl.org/page.php?id=19225

The CHP announced yesterday its election manifesto titled “a Turkey to live in” [PDF, in Turkish] where it stated:

“We will decisively fight all kinds of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity via legislations and law enforcement.”

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Gay and trans candidates to run for parliament seat in Turkey’s general elections

Political parties in Turkey announced their candidate lists for the upcoming parliamentary election. The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party nominated 3 LGBTI activists as candidates, albeit from lower positions. A trans activist was also nominated as a candidate for the newly founded Anatolia Party.

Source: “Gay and trans candidates to run for Turkish general elections”, kaosGL.org, 8 April 2015,  http://kaosgl.org/page.php?id=19141

Political parties in Turkey submitted their lists of candidates to the Supreme Election Board (YSK) on April 7 as the country prepares for the June 7 general elections. Only 4 LGBTI activists were nominated as candidates for the 550-seat parliament and they are at lower positions on the lists, which postpones the hopes for the first openly LGBTI member of parliament in Turkey until the 2019 elections.

Barış Sulu, an openly gay Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) candidate, was nominated from Eskisehir in the last position. For Sulu, having LGBTI candidates itself is more valuable than their position on the list. However, he said that he wished there were more LGBTI candidates.

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Barış Sulu carrying a banner which reads: “LGBT rights is a whole that cannot be divided!”

In a KaosGL.org interview last month, Sulu approached the ongoing Kurdish resolution process from the LGBTI perspective and said: “Peace must also be made with the LGBTIs in the resolution process.”

The HDP, which has to pass the 10 percent electoral threshold, also nominated two feminist and LGBTI activists -Özlem Sen from Mersin in the 4th position and Gülistan Aydoğdu from Ankara in the 12th position- as candidates.

Deva Özenen, a Christian trans woman in Izmir, was nominated as a candidate by the Anatolia Party which was founded by Emine Ülker Tarhan who resigned from the main opposition Republican People’s Party last year.

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Deva Ozenen (left) and Emine Ulker Tarhan (right)

“I am an ‘other’ both as a trans and as a Christian. By nominating me as a candidate, the Anatolia Party showed that they are not canvassing,” Ozenen told KaosGL.org.

Ozenen also underlined that Kemalism is not an elitist ideology but it embraces all oppressed groups including sexual minorities.

Opposition CHP Leader Kılıçdaroğlu Responds to Questions on LGBTI Equality

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader, sent supportive messages with regards to marriage equality in Ekşi Sözlük [a Turkish online collaborative ‘wikitionary,’ similar to an informal Wikipedia] yesterday night. Kılıçdaroğlu had claimed that “society is not yet ready for a homosexual leader” two years earlier [in December 2013], addressing the same community.

Source: Ömer Akpınar, “Kılıçdaroğlu’ndan eşcinsel evlilik yorumu: Herkesin hayatına kimse karışamaz”, (“Kilicdaroglu comments on homosexual marriage: Nobody can interfere with everybody’s life”), KaosGL.org, 13 April 2015, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=19175

CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu responded to questions on the Ekşi Sözlük website, under a[n AMA] thread that was posted yesterday night, titled “Hello I am CHP general president Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.”

The following question was directed to Kılıçdaroğlu “What do you promise to LGBTI individuals?”

Upon Kılıçdaroğlu’s failure to display a consistent attitude regarding LGBTI equality, the following question was asked:

“During your election campaign, will you be able to grab the microphone and say ‘I promise an egalitarian citizenship and constitutional protections for LGBTI [lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex] individuals’? What are your personal thoughts on LGBTI marriage equality?”

CHP leader, referring to a viral video[1], replied “nobody can interfere with everybody’s life :)”

“CHP leader should have given a serious answer”

Even though Kılıçdaroğlu’s response was applauded generally by the website’s contributors, a writer by the screenname jish cha directed the following criticism towards Kılıçdaroğlu:

“This Q&A session might be funny for most of us, but for some people living in this country this is a serious question/problem. Joking is okay and fun but I think that he should have given a serious answer.”

CHP members are working for LGBTI equality

Despite Kılıçdaroğlu’s failure in proactively discussing LGBTI rights, CHP members have proposed numerous bills and parliamentary questions on the issue.

In the past week, CHP has proposed a Social Integration and Social Inclusion Bill of Law which also includes LGBTIs. The party had also proposed a Labour Law for LGBTI individuals in February.

Earlier in January, Faruk Çelik, Minister of Labour and Social Security, in response to CHP member Mahmut Tanal’s parliamentary question, had expressed on behalf of the ministry that they did not support LGBTI individuals’ participation in the workforce.

Two years earlier Kılıçdaroğlu had said “society is not ready”

Kılıçdaroğlu had answered the question “Would you nominate a homosexual candidate in the local elections?” by saying “society is not yet ready for a homosexual mayor” in a meeting held in December 2013 with 20 Ekşi Sözlük writers.

Despite this prior response, Kılıçdaroğlu had come together with representatives from the Platform for LGBT Political Representation and Participation. In the 2014 local elections, Sedef Çakmak and Çelik Özdemir from Istanbul, and Öykü Evren Özen from Bursa had been nominated to run for membership for the respective local parliaments, however they have not won the elections. Sedef Çakmak has later been elected in March 2015 as member of the local parliament of Beşiktaş, becoming the first openly lesbian parliament member of the Municipality of Beşiktaş and of any local parliament in Turkey at large.

Trans activist Niler Albayrak, who was a candidate for nomination in preparation for the 2015 general elections, subsequently failed to be nominated by CHP.

The main opposition party does not have any openly gay candidates running for the 2015 general elections.


[1] The viral video referred to by Kılıçdaroğlu is an excerpt from a street interview on the abolition of the headscarf ban, whereby a young man supports the abolition of the ban claiming that nobody can interfere with everybody’s life. The video can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHjyEKkcySs

THE CANDIDATES ARE SELECTED, NOW IT’S TIME FOR SELECTING THE COURSE OF POLITICS!

As general elections approach,  SPoD LGBTI representatives who have started the “LGBTI in Parliament” campaign for the active participation of LGBTIs in decision and policy making, have published a declaration inviting MP candidates, political parties and party leaders  to work together. Knocking on the doors of political parties one by one and demanding support for the participation of LGBTIs in politics, SPoD LGBTI representatives have announced that they will be following the candidate selection processes closely.

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LGBTI rights is not a matter of right or left; it’s about human rights!

The bell rings and LGBTIs meet at the “Politics School” for political participation. School participants share their thoughts with KaosGL.org…

Source: Yıldız Tar, “LGBTİ hakları sağ sol meselesi değil, insan haklarıdır!” (“LGBTI rights is not a matter of right or left; it’s about human rights!”), Kaos GL, 3 March 2015, http://www.kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=18870

SPoD LGBTI (Social Policy, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Studies Association) is running a campaign entitled “LGBTIs in the Parliament” which includes the “Politics School” that is currently active in Istanbul.

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Lesbian Municipal Assembly Member Sedef Çakmak and Mayor Murat Hazinedar on LGBTI Rights and Politics

Sedef Çakmak (33) is the first municipal assembly member in Turkey who has disclosed her lesbian identity. She graduated from Galatasaray University, Faculty of Sociology. She worked at Lambda Istanbul (LGBTI Solidarity Association) and she took part in the establishment of SPoD (Social Policy, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Studies Association). Following the local elections in 2014, she started to act as consultant for the Mayor of Beşiktaş, Murat Hazinedar, and last Monday she was elected as a municipal assembly member. We discussed her battle for LGBTI individuals’ rights in Turkish politics with Sedef Çakmak and Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) LGBTI expansion with Murat Hazinedar.

Source: Elvan Yarma, “Türkiye’de LGBTİ hakları değil, kadın hakları geriliyor” (“It is the women’s rights that regress in Turkey, not LGBTI rights”), Hurriyet, 10 March 2015, http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/28414054.asp?

When did you realise that you are lesbian?

Coming out to myself happened when I joined Lambda Istanbul in 2004. I was studying sociology and I joined in with a sociological curiosity concerning gay and trans individuals’ way of living. Then, I started thinking about this and I discovered myself.

Could you tell your family when you realised it?

Of course not! But, I told my family that I had been in an association defending gay and trans individuals’ rights since 2004. At first they had a hard time accepting it. Following the moment a member of the parliament from CHP mentioned LGBTI rights, my mother had an enlightening experience. Since then, she has openly supported me.

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What kind of difficulties have you experienced as a lesbian? More precisely, have you experienced any difficulties?

I could not find a job for 6 years. It was stated in my CV that I worked at Lambda Istanbul. They said “Oh, well, we will call you at a later time”. One day, I revised and censored my CV. They reverted back instantly by saying “You are the exact person that we are looking for”. When I told them in the interview that I was lesbian, again the same response: “We will call you”.

Given that a politician does not feel the necessity to say “I am heterosexual” when he/she enters politics, why do you feel the need to disclose that you are lesbian?

Just as politicians state their Alevi, female or other oppressed identities, it is the same for being an LGBTI individual. However, as there are people who hide their gender identities in politics, we do not consider it strange when a politician says that they are Alevi but we are baffled when they say they are gay.

Will we be able to see others disclose that they are LGBTI individuals in other municipalities in Turkey?

There are already others. We have friends who are candidates for nomination for parliament. We have a friend, Boysan [Yakar], who is openly gay and works as an advisor to the mayor of the Şişli Municipality.

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