LGBTI activist Bulut Öncü lost his life in a traffic accident

LGBTI activist Bulut Öncü, who worked in the field of sexual health, lost his life in a traffic accident. Condolences to all of us.

Source: “Bulut Öncü trafik kazasında yaşamını kaybetti”, kaosgl.org, 20 February 2017, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=23098

LGBTI activist Bulut Öncü lost his life in a traffic accident this morning. Öncü was in a taxi in Istanbul when the accident happened.

His funeral will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 21 in his hometown of Konya.

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He worked in the Community Volunteers Foundation, Y-Peer Turkey and UNFPA

Öncü was a volunteer reporter at KaosGL.org between 2010-2013. He also worked at the Community Volunteers Foundation, Y-Peer Turkey and the UN Population Fund. Öncü was working as an International Consultancy Expert (ICE) from Belgium as part of Sivil Düşün EU Program.

Öncü worked and volunteered in different fields of civil society but was known for his work in the field of sexual health.

Öncü was also a 3H Movement member.

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He was going to run in Runatolia

If the traffic accident hadn’t torn Bulut Öncü from his loved ones, he would have run in Antalya Runatolia Marathon on March 5 for Y-Peer Turkey:

I need your help to solve an important problem!

We are facing a problem that concerns us all: there is no sexual health education for different age groups in Turkey’s education system and Turkey has the youngest population in Europe! Only one in 10 youths have the right information regarding HIV and AIDS in Turkey and nine out of 10 youths do not know when they are fertile with the risk of pregnancy…

But there are youths who work day and night to solve this problem! I will run 10 kilometers on March 5, 2017 in Antalya Runatolia Marathon for Y-Peer Turkey, an association that opens the path for youth to gain life skills by increasing their knowledge on sexual and reproductive health.

My goal is to collect 7,200 TL through donations in order to fund sexual and reproductive health education for 36 youths. If I succeed, 36 youths will get the right information about sexual and reproductive health. Moreover, this will take place through peer education models and informal education techniques. These youths who will be educated in various topics including rights, growing up as a teen and development, birth control, sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS, risky behaviors and condom use, will share what they learn with their peers and the benefit of correct information will be multiplied.

It is our responsibility to support the visibility of youth’s messages, to be in solidarity with them and to realize the dream of a world where all youth can reach sexual health education. I wish for you to join this dream and wait for your support.

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Condolences!

As Kaos GL, we are experiencing the pain of losing our volunteer reporter, friend and comrade Bulut Öncü. We give our condolences to all his friends and loved ones. Rest in peace.

 

 

Film: Hatewalk

Director Serkan Çiftçi focuses on LGBTI individuals’ struggle through the story of trans woman Deniz who lives in Mersin. The director says, “maybe hate does not end in these lands but neither does humanity and it won’t die.”

Screen Shot 2017-02-19 at 10.00.34.pngSource: Murat Emir Eren, XOXO The Mag, Gacı Gibi* (“Hatewalk”), http://www.xoxothemag.net/post/10385/serkan-ciftci-gaci-gibi

Hatewalk, a documentary on trans woman Deniz who experienced a horrible hate crime and LGBTI individuals’ struggle for rights in the southern city of Mersin, will be screened at the 16th !f Istanbul Independent Film Festival. We spoke to the film’s director Serkan Çiftçi about the film and the filming process.

How did you meet Deniz and the other trans individuals in the film? How did you shape Hatewalk?

Deniz is a sex worker who was subjected to a hate crime and barely made it out alive. The incident was widely known at that time in Mersin. Ece and Berfin (Esmeray) share a flat with Deniz, they are trans sex workers and activists, members of the Mersin 7 Colors Association. We set up an appointment with Ece and Berfin at the hairdresser you see in the film. We had a chat there. They were very casual. They were willing to be the subjects of the film. I guess we grew on each other that day.

But I should say, we went through many tests at the association until we got that appointment. There are many films on LGBTI [people] that are yet to be completed. It didn’t seem likely to them that a non-LGBTI person can represent them and make a decent enough film. First we convinced the young folks at the association. Then Yağmur Arıcan, the chair and Figen. We had quite the trial. But eventually we got along. Maybe that was the reason why they acted so casually at the hairdresser’s that day.

Anyway we made it into the house. At first Deniz didn’t take to the idea. After a few visits she got used to us. They were three people. We were also three people. We built a mutual trust. And I guess we also managed to become friends too. It was very interesting to be with trans sex workers during Deniz’s treatment. This is an LGBTI association that is a pioneer in the region and their struggle that overflows to the streets is remarkable. The conditions allowed us to follow two stories at once. We initiated the shoot with this idea. Imagining that Deniz would be walking without her crutches in 2014 Istanbul Pride Walk, we planned a shoot for a period of there and a half to four months and started working.

Hatewalk is full of ‘talking heads’ and interviews; it’s not an informative documentary neither does it prompt us into a certain perspective, it is a documentary that rather follows certain ‘testimonies’. Did you go for such a style when you started the project? Or did it follow a path of its own? How much of your vision could you realize?

When I started shooting the film, I didn’t know what we’d encounter or what kind of story would emerge but I was certain of its style. It was a matter I didn’t take lightly. One thing I didn’t want to see in the film was a talking head. I wasn’t [planning] to film an interview. I wanted something like a fiction film, one scene after another… Working within the conventions of classical narrative, with a time that flows chronologically, aiming for a continuity… I will use this phrase, because I think it brings a smile: the wish to be ‘a fly on the wall’ and capture the audience – the feeling was there before the film.

Hatewalk really challenged me. Even when you have a script and a mise-en-scene, the film never turns out to be what you imagined. When you consider the field we were in, it was like we were in an away game. But the sincere friendships we built formed this style. Berfin’s help made our progress easier. We planned two strong finales, it would be self-explanatory if I say we couldn’t shoot either. We’re talking about an amateur, low budget production, without funding. Although I couldn’t shoot it the way I wanted, I’m happy with the outcome.

There is an increase in the number of films in the LGBTI Films category as well as LGBTI film festivals and this is great. But some of these films put LGBTI individuals and negative, painful events side by side. While this creates emotion, it also constantly creates a negative perception and runs the danger of agitation. Hatewalk, however, does not give much credit to this side and instead chooses to explain these negativities in a rather positive way. Was this a decision when you were starting out the film? Are there projects you were inspired by?

The fact that Deniz experienced an event with major injuries that could have ended her life gives her great grief. I was deeply affected by her continued joy despite it all. All the other characters are joyous, funny, sincere people. I laughed a lot with them and can say I had a good time. I think people shouldn’t lose their joy. Let it not be misunderstood when I say we laughed and had fun. There were times when I lost my breath, could not speak a word, and when I was torn to pieces. When we consider the harshness of their life, positivity is part of their nature.

This is precious to me because I wanted to show what the characters live through, their emotions and pain without exaggeration. Agitation is a very easy path when telling such stories but it’s not a path I want to take. What opened my path was their joy. The energy at the association was high. They are young people who have hopes, who dream, who plan and have fun. Their positivity was my guide when trying to understand their sensitivities and create balance in the stories.

The positive ways you mention were founded on this. The decision to focus on the total struggle for their bodies, desires, and freedoms rather than darkness was a principled one. These decisions determined the storytelling language of the film.

What was the most difficult subject for you and the trans women in the film during the shoots?

I’m not sure what was difficult for them but many subjects were difficult for me. The house was a house where guests kept coming. It was like a public space for LGBTIs. We would be 15 people in that small living room sometimes and many did not want to appear in the film. Laços [1] would come and go. There was also a fourth person in the house who did not want to be in the film. We had major challenges when setting up the cameras. Filming outside was even more difficult. You can’t imagine how much we were cursed at. We had to combat many difficulties. We managed to overcome the technical problems during the edit.

The scene where Deniz visits her family is probably one of the most moving events in the film. What did you experience there? Were you affected by her family’s treatment of Deniz?

In that scene, Deniz talks about her mother’s death and says, “I started primary school and two days later, my mother died.” I was deeply affected by the way she spoke about such a tragic event, in a simple tone. I thought there must be so much pain accumulated in there that she forgot to rebel against such an unfortunate event. She lost her family when she was very young.

In that village, that house, she was raised by her older sister. She’s like an angel and maybe the remedy of such a calamity. She’s such a woman that she raised two generations by herself, a mother whose hands are to be kissed. The children there are the second generation. Deniz and the rest are the first. She probably fed 30 people that day. May God give her a long life, I’m sure she’ll raise the next generation as well. I’m also sure that she’d teach humanity to us all. Deniz is from that house, the uncle of the kids. How can we not be moved by how she treats Ece and Berfin? Especially when we are after trying to understand and explain the violence and hate people produce without knowing each other…

Maybe hate does not end in these lands but neither does humanity and it won’t die. When we look at the solidarity in the film, the doctors and nurses, we understand how holy love is. The phrase “hate is overcome by love” belongs to one of the characters in the film. It’s no coincidence that we focus on the positive.

What else would you like to add about the project, anything you think could have been better?

I would have liked to include Laços [1], gacıs [2] who have been their neighbors and friends, men who have been lubunya [3] friendly. We filmed them, but could not include because we could not acquire permission to do so. I could have included lubun vocabulary more perhaps. Also, in certain scenes, we could not overcome problems about sound. I wish it could have been better. Actually, there were two characters I wanted to include in the movie. Ömrüm ve Figen. Both of them rejected being main characters in the movie. After we finished filming, first Figen, then shortly after Ömrüm departed from this world. We could not have prevented Ömrüm’s departure perhaps but things could have been different for Figen. This remains as a blow to my heart. I doubt it will heal. I dedicate Gacı Gibi to them. I hope the movie will reach the audience and be appreciated. More importantly, I hope the movie, at the least, manages to beat out the transphobia that is responsible for the cruelty they are exposed to every second in their merciless life.

[1] Laço- Adult top, gay or straight, between the ages of 20 and 30
[2] Gacı- Woman.
*The literal translation of the title “Gacı Gibi” is  “Like Women.”
[3] Lubunya- Effeminate bottom

 

A neighborhood organization: Mahallede LGBTI (LGBTI in the hood)

Mahallede LGBTI, is a neighborhood* organization that works with apartment residents, neighborhood muhtars and shopkeepers for the LGBTIs to exist in their living spaces as they are. We talked about organizing in the neighborhood and Mahallede LGBTI’s activities with its representative Ada Ayşe İmamoğlu.

Source: “Bir mahalle örgütlenmesi: Mahallede LGBTİ” (“A neighborhood organization: Mahallede LGBTI (LGBTI in the hood),” Sivil Sayfalar, 31 Ocak 2017, http://www.sivilsayfalar.org/bir-mahalle-orgutlenmesi-mahallede-lgbti/

– What is the motivation behind Mahallede LGBTI?
Mahallede LGBTI started with the dream of building an LGBTI life in the neighborhood, of being a part of the local governance, of communicating with the LGBTI individuals who lead a life in their own corner of the neighborhoods. In fact, Mahallede LGBTI is a movement for visibility which is based on neighborhood organization. We face many difficulties in our living spaces on a daily basis. I have been a part of many stories of violence in my personal life. I have personally experienced this violence, based on the excuse of my outfit, based on my profile as a woman. But at some point you tell yourself, I will resist with my own way of being. Then your existence becomes political and you directly get involved in a struggle against the social norms.  You start daring to say “none of your business” when it comes to your weight, your clothes, your gestures and your lovers. A feminist friend of mine once wrote about this, for instance Zeliş was a symbol of courage for our lives. She wouldn’t wear a bra in her white shirt and walk around proudly in Taksim like that. Boysan would wear such beautiful costumes in pride walks that he would teach people how to be happy and brave as they are. As Ada I miss them, yes, but they also help me keep going. We are a big family, sometimes some of us get tired and others come to the fore, those who rest catch up later. This is how we came to bear our rainbow flags with endless confidence in Gezi. Our battle grows for all the friends we lost. Struggling against the social pressure against LGBTIs is one of our basic tasks. We particularly struggle against the social pressure in the neighborhoods that intrudes into our houses, our private spaces.

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Ada Ayşe İmamoğlu – Mahallede LGBTİ

– What are the activities that this visibility movement carry out?
Our gay friends have been going through cases of violence, like the youngsters of the neighborhood cornering them and harassing them, or house raids. In our times when the hate speech has become an instrument of the system, we have friends who committed suicide because of the social pressure or family violence, or hate murders. We had friends whose landlords came knocking at their door in the middle of the night, saying “this house should be empty in the morning”.  Precisely because of this, we are working on a legal aid pamphlet. This pamphlet will be a reference for the LGBTIs’ right to accommodation. We have also prepared “LGBTI Friendly Building”, “LGBTI Friendly Place” labels with the support from Sivil Düşün. We put these labels on places and buildings around Beşiktaş, Kadıköy and Taksim. We will continue our work to exist as who we are in our living spaces without any compromising our appearance or our preferences. We want to choose pilot neighborhoods and make apartment visits. We aim to create a foundation for communication, by bringing the apartment managers and LGBTIs together in these visits.

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– Mahallede LGBTI introduces a local organization model. With whom does this organization get in touch with?

We need to understand each other and talk; talk with each other, our neighbors, local shopkeepers and ourselves. The neighborhood organization includes a collaboration with many groups such as apartment residents, apartment managers**, muhtars***, shopkeepers and local governances.

–   What kind of a relationship exist currently between the LGBTI individuals and local governance? At what does the local governance structure you are modelling with local administrators and muhtars aim?
Thanks to the great efforts of SpoD, there have been mayors who signed LGBTI-friendly municipality protocol on last election round [in March 2014]. Şişli is incredibly active in this aspect. The biggest trouble for lesbians is ob-gyn examinations. Our dear Aligül, who we lost in the last few years, went through such processes that still affects us. For instance, we still have friends who are yet to take the smear test, there are many lesbian friends who went through traumatic experiences. Şişli Municipality has set up a special, free of charge ob-gyn expert for lesbian and bisexual women. Think about it, local governments are constantly improving themselves thanks to the homosexuals that participate in their administration.

My personal dream is to apply that to the muhtar offices. Many friends including me are getting ready for muhtar elections. The first stop for the Mahallede LGBTI project is becoming muhtars who are responsible for the street, the ‘hood, the neighbor, the park and even the dogs and cats that live in the neighborhood. There will be LGBTI muhtars and they will destroy the othering language that the system devised. I start off with the principle “let’s keep our yards clean first”, I believe that one day the whole country will be a flower garden. When we build a union upon not the fear of the different but upon understanding, authoritarianism would be smashed and on it a forest will grow.

– Among the latest outcomes of Mahallede LGBTI is a short film. What’s the story of this film?
We shot the film “Being an LGBTI in the hood” in one of my friends’, who I’ve known for a long time, houses. My friend and I decided to make a film, just when I was struggling with coming up with words to express myself. “Being an LGBTI in the hood” tells our tiny resistance which says “I have the guts to step out onto my balcony”.

– Where has the film been screened? What will come of it next?
Our four-minute film, which we shot with Sivil Düşün EU Programme’s support, was shown at the Pink Life Queer Fest on 12-19 January in Ankara and we received an incredible reaction. The film will greet the audience at Queer Fest Istanbul as well. After that, I aim to talk to more friends and shoot a feature film together, a film that will allow us to tell more of our problems.

–  You followed a diverse method by not showing the faces in the film. There are those that define this as queering the cinematic language. How do you explain your attitude?
We generally look at people’s physical appearance before knowing that person while we are talking with each other. I’d like to take a stand against that and want to produce ideas in contrast. Because you ought to wonder about, ask questions to and feel that person before being interested in his/her appearance. I wanted to tell the story with little details that things like the magnets on the fridge, instead of how that person looks like. We looked for what the alternative opposing the dominant narrative can be and we wanted you to be a part of the narrator’s story while he hosts you in his house.

–  Mahallede LGBTI is a visibility movement in its own, what does it say about the visibility of LGBTI in the media?
The stories of violence that LGBTI communities endure are not stressed as much as other news of violence. Yet when you highlight and distinguish women as “university student”, “working woman”, you feed the violence and approve it. We, as the Mahallede LGBTI crew, want to have the same impact in each news about women. It was very enlightening for me to participate in News Workshop with Women Focused Institutions together with women focused institutions and media platforms and to think about civil society media. It opened new paths of learning and gathering information, more importantly of asking questions. I started asking the right questions at the right time and receiving the right answers. One of the most important issues in our crew was the news of violence and archival searches. A group of people which are exposed to violence and discrimination the most, does not have a news archive! This workshop has given me the opportunity to tidy up this mess within ourselves and to present the news in a way that creates the most impact.

This interview was prepared and published within the scope of Civil Society Media Media Workshop with Women Focused Institutions, a collaboration between Sivil Sayfalar, Reçel Blog, Kadın Adayları Destekleme ve Eğitme Derneği (Support and Education for Female Candidates Association), Swedish Consulate General.

Translator’s Notes:
*Mahalle (neighborhood) is the smallest administrative unit in Turkish local governance, but it is also a semi-public social setting. Historically, mahalles have been defined by ethnic, religious and class homogeneity, and sometimes in cases of chain migration, mahalles have been made up of people from the same hometown. This homogeneity meant that primary relationships and fictive kinships dominate the mahalle space, people looking out for each other but also guarding the boundaries of said homogeneity. Although such homogeneity can not always be found anymore in the context of metropolitan cities, mahalles are still settings where being different can be a problem.
** Apartment managers are residents who are elected by the rest of the residents to manage the paperwork and maintenance related efforts. The manager is an unpaid post, but it is mandatory to have one, therefore it is an official title in local bureaucracy.
*** Muhtar is the elected administrator that is responsible for the neighborhood, also for the villages. They are often elder people who have been a long time resident, who is educated and knows most of the residents.

 

Volunteering to Secure LGBTQI+ Rights in Turkey and Beyond

In a social environment defined by the absence of equal rights, downright discrimination and repressive cultural norms, representation is all the more crucial for LGBTQI+ individuals. The LGBTQI+ movement is growing stronger in Turkey. From the academic production of knowledge to representation in political arena, from demanding an end to ethnic discrimination to calling for new laws regarding sex workers, the LGBTQI+ movement is indeed active in all aspects of daily life. Its strength lies in its power to revert stereotypical imagery back to its beholder, most particularly through methods of creative resistance. This is exactly why we, LGBTI News Turkey, come together as an active group of volunteers to translate news on LGBTQI+ life in Turkey into English.

eringobro-via-flickr-cc-by-nc-2-0-768x512While working for political representation in municipalities, at the National Assembly and all levels of governance, the LGBTQI+ movement mobilises its efforts to produce its own cultural representations and images against the discursive and symbolic violence, two aspects of heteronormativity and sexism ever so sinister and so deeply engraved in our lives.

eringobro-via-flickr-cc-by-nc-2-0-768x512As LGBTI News Turkey, we try our best to spread the word and put these images of self-construction into circulation, to help  the ceaseless work done by LGBTQI+ civil society organisations (CSOs) of Turkey. For LGBTQI+ CSOs, it takes a relentless effort to maintain continuity in the face of an increasingly authoritarian government, and legal controversies regarding the freedom of speech and right to assembly.  We believe that “increasing the visibility of LGBTQI+ individuals” is more than a catch phrase for CSO work: it is a matter of life and death for many of our fellow LGBTQI+ community members. It is about reclaiming the right to live as we are, without any compromise. It is about rejecting to remain in the margins of a life not worth living. As one of the popular protest chants says, “Get used to it, we’re not going anywhere!”

We support these efforts by translating and archiving sources on LGBTQI+ life and rights violations in Turkey. By doing so, we create the necessary resources for international CSOs and international human rights bodies to report on Turkey. Files on rights violations help us document and report these cases at the United Nations, Council of Europe, and elsewhere with LGBTQI+ CSOs.

We believe that such efforts must be heard in other parts of the world. Because the LGBTQI+ community stretches beyond national boundaries. Because our experience might teach others and inspire them to act. Because we can only grow if we share. Because we cannot expect others to write about our lives. Because, for most of us, each day is a struggle and by sharing in each others’ struggles we can be empowered.

LGBTQI+ movements in different countries have similar experiences and go through similar processes to what we are facing in Turkey. Therefore it is very important for us – and other activists across the globe – to follow each others’ experiences in order to weave a network of support and solidarity. We believe that our translation work contributes to building a stronger bond, and ensuring an open dialogue with activists abroad. There is indeed interest towards what is going on in Turkey with regards to the LGBTQI+ movement and our blog renders the news accessible, by focusing solely on LGBTQI+ related news and by producing accurate and updated content. In 2016, we had 15 thousand readers from USA visiting our blog, and this traffic was due to The Advocate referring to our translations. The fact that we have become a steady and reliable source of information keeps us motivated. We believe that being knowledgeable about the history of LGBTQI+ resistance in other countries as well as in Turkey, and following the current developments, are essential for building a strong and true LGBTQI+ media.

Aside from publishing news articles on our blog, we give translation support for the annual Istanbul Pride Walk and related workshops, events and any written material. International visibility is vital in these organisations, especially at times of protest bans, police violence, and prosecution. As the mainstream media turns a blind eye to LGBTQI+ related events, if not openly showing them as targets, LGBTQI+ media outlets have an enormous workload on their shoulders and it is our responsibility to help in any way we can. As members of the rainbow nation, the task to strengthen global solidarity falls on our shoulders, and opening new channels of communication through translation is the least we can do.

Zeynep Serinkaya is an academic and volunteer at LGBTI News Turkey. This post was written for Disrupt & Innovate, a project by the International Civil Society Centre.

LGBTI activists meet for equality in municipalities

LGBTI activists from six cities met within the scope of SPoD’s Municipal Equality Index project, and discussed LGBTI politics in local administration.

Source: Umut Güven, “LGBTİ aktivistleri belediyelerde eşitlik için buluştu,” kaosGL.org, 23 January 2017, http://www.kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=22885

The activist stakeholders’ meeting within the scope of SPoD’s Municipal Equality Index project took place on Jan. 21 in Istanbul.

LGBTI organizations from six different cities met to discuss current municipal policies and goals.

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Aim: Create visibility for municipal work

The project aims to make visible the work of LGBTI-friendly municipalities through the index, and encourage municipalities to be LGBTI-friendly in the long term. The advisory committee for the project met in December 2016.

The meeting began with a presentation by SPoD’s Academic Coordinator Neyir Zerey on the NGO’s activities in political representation and LGBTIs’ demands in Turkey.

The meeting continued with activists sharing experiences on relations with local administrations and the project they’d like establish.

Open Society Foundation’s Program Coordinator Didem Tekeli said the foundation is open to applications on realizing such local projects and may offer grants.

“Education within municipalities is a must”

The meeting ended with a discussion on index criteria for the project.

Besiktas Municipality Assembly Member Sedef Çakmak emphasized the importance of education within the municipal institution and said:

“Some municipalities may be hesitant to work on the LGBTI field. It would be incorrect to label this hesitancy as homophobia or transphobia. In order to combat this attitude that is rooted in a lack of information, education within the municipal institution is crucial.”

SPoD activists met with municipality employees the following day.

 

Municipal Equality Index is in Turkey for More LGBTI Friendly Municipalities

SPoD LGBTI transfers Municipal Equality Index Project to Turkey. The index serves as a roadmap for municipal services to include LGBTIs.

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Source: Çiçek Tahaoğlu “Daha Fazla LGBTİ Dostu Belediye İçin Belediye Eşitlik Endeksi Projesi Türkiye’de” (“Municipal Equality Index is in Turkey for More LGBTI Friendly Municipalities”)  Bianet, 27 January 2017 http://bianet.org/bianet/lgbti/183068-daha-fazla-lgbti-dostu-belediye-icin-belediye-esitlik-endeksi-projesi-turkiye-de

Sosyal Politikalar Cinsiyet Kimliği ve Cinsel Yönelim Çalışmaları Derneği (SPoD) [Trans. Social Policies, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Studies Association] transfers Municipal Equality Index project to Turkey.

SPoD, which builds a bridge between local governments and LGBTI activists, aims to highlight the practices performed by LGBTI friendly municipalities by using this index and encourage LGBTI friendly practices across Turkey in the long run.

Municipal Equality Index, (MEI), which has been in practice in the US for five years, is now spread across 506 cities. The index evaluates the extent to which the municipalities include LGBTIs in the law, policies and practices.  Anti-discrimination laws, the assessment of the municipality as an employer, the level of inclusion of services, the law enforcers and of course the public stances of the mayors regarding equality are points of evaluation. Scores are given based on the criteria defined under these headings. Every year a report card is given according to their level of compliance with these criteria and those which get high scores are rewarded.

In the meeting of the partners of the project the criteria of Municipality Equality Index Project planned to be applied in Turkey were discussed, with the participation of Ankara Çankaya Municipality, Bursa Nilüfer Municipality, Çanakkale Municipality, Eskişehir Metropolitan Municipality, İstanbul Şişli Municipality, İstanbul Kadıköy Municipality, İstanbul Beylikdüzü Municipality, İstanbul Beşiktaş Municipality, İzmir Karabağlar Municipality and Mersin Akdeniz Municipality.

5 Municipalities that Signed LGBTI Friendly Municipality Protocol

Since it was founded, SPoD has been conducting studies for the local governments to include LGBTIs. The association had prepared the LGBTI Friendly Municipality Protocol before the local elections of March 30, 2014 and the protocol was signed by 40 mayor candidates from BDP, CHP, DSP, HDP and TKP. Currently there are five municipalities which have signed the protocol: CHP’s Istanbul Kadıköy, Beşiktaş, Şişli Municipalities and Bursa Nilufer Municipality, DBP’s Mersin Akdeniz Municipality. (Akdeniz Municipality was appointed a trustee on December 18 and its Equality Unit and all its activities were halted.)

“Equality Index is a road map”

SPoD project coordinator Neyir Zerey says that Municipality Equality Index Project can be considered as a continuation of the protocol prepared before the local election and she adds:

“ The number of municipalities which are active on LGBTI related issues is actually more than five. Aside from that, there are municipalities that would like to do something about the issue but has not carried out any activities yet and does not know how to proceed.

“ The evaluation criteria on the index is a road map, an action plan. After that the argument ‘We want to do something but do not know how’ will cease to be.”

What are the potential criteria?

The work on Municipality Equality Criteria continues, currently the criteria are listed under four main headings:

Under the heading “Institutionalization of awareness” there are over ten criteria such as trainings inside and outside the institution, the inclusion of the terms of gender and sexual orientation in the strategic plans, the preparation of the budgets with regards to LGBTI needs, the acceptance of the anti-discrimination rules by the companies that are employed by the municipalities, and establishing Equality Units.

Criteria such as relations with LGBTI community and associations, support for special days and commemorations are listed under “LGBTI Presence in Participatory Municipality”.

Under the heading “LGBTI Awareness in Services”, there are articles on the facilitation of the LGBTIs’ access to services.

The last title is “Public visibility, reputation and esteem”. These are criteria such as sharing messages to increase the recognition and visibility of the LGBTIs and using billboards and others outdoors screens for gender equality.

Rainbow Cities Network

İstanbul Beşiktaş Belediyesi ve İstanbul Şişli Belediyesi. There are currently two municipalities which are members of the network: İstanbul Beşiktaş Municipality and Istanbul Şişli Municipality.

Gizem Aykanat from Equality Unit of Beylikdüzü Municipality:

Equality Unit was recently established in our municipality. Right now we are working more on women’s issues. We directed our attention on these issues in our action plan and as “disadvantaged groups” in our regulations. Surely there is a concern about getting reactions, we have already experienced problems with our partners and our own employees while talking about male-female relationships and had some obstacles.  We listened to Nilüfer Municipality’s experiences in the meeting, and they told us that they went to the schools, and that they have received both positive and negative reactions on  the work they did with LGBTIs. This motivated us. From now on we will focus more on LGBTI issues and try to work with the articles in the index.

Çankaya Municipality Women and Family Services Director Asiye Ülkü Karaalioğlu:

We scheduled activities regarding the LGBTIs in our municipality’s Local Equality Action Plan. But we are a new directorate. This meeting has been very productive on communication and planning what we can do by looking at what is happening at other municipalities. Each criteria is a task on its own. Now we know what we need to do. This has been a road map for us. I think it’s practical, though we might need to spend some time with higher administrations. If we give them  training first, maybe our task will be easier.

Ali Sevilen from Equality Unit of Bursa Nilüfer Municipality:

Equality Units are not very active in Turkey unfortunately.  We are trying our best to be active together with Şişli, Beşiktaş, and Mersin Akdeniz Municipalities.  We believe that working only on gender  equality is futile, and we don’t think it’s possible without the LGBTI work.  The LGBTI movement is actually a milestone for gender  equality, the vegan-vegetarian movements, anti-discrimination and the anti-violence struggle. The Index Project is very valuable. The equality work in municipalities should become a policy so that these activities can continue even when the administration changes.

Group that targeted gays in Ankara indicted for Al Qaeda membership

Five suspects who are members of the Young Islamic Defense group are on trial for membership in Al Qaeda after they targeted homosexuals on social media and with posters hanging in the Turkish capital Ankara that said “If you see someone engaged in the dirty business of the tribe of Lot [1], kill the doer and the done both.”

Source: Murat Benli, “Eşcinselleri hedef alanlar ‘El Kaide’den”, Hurriyet, 27 January 2017, http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/escinselleri-hedef-alanlar-el-kaideden-40348739

An investigation began after a tip that the ‘Young Islamic Defense’ group targeted homosexuals on social media and hung posters on the streets on 7 July 2015, according to the indictment prepared by prosecutor Velihattin Eldemir.

gencislamimudafaa

PRO-NUSRA FRONT

According to the indictment, this group has supported associations in Ankara that are in contact with groups in war zones organizing aid campaigns for Syria and protests. “It has been determined that [the group] has distributed texts, posters, and brochures in various areas of Ankara and have shared pro-Nusra Front [now Jabhat Fateh al-Sham] posts on social media,” the indictment says.

The group is not an official association and continues its activities via announcements on social media. It has been alleged that the group is connected to Ersin Mirac K who is loyal to pro-Nusra Front and is a ‘radical Salafi’. The indictment says:

‘FIRST CONTACT IS GARIP-DER’

“It is known that the people from our country crossing to so-called jihad areas first contact the association Garip-Der in Istanbul, and cross the border illegally from Hatay’s Reyhanli district by paying smugglers. According to open sources, international powers do not consider the Nusra Front a part of the Free Syrian Army and list it as a terror organization.”

[1] Tribe of Lot refers to the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, the twin cities which Prophet Lot was sent to with God’s message and were destroyed by God when the community did not reign in its lust. The trope is often used against LGBT communities in the Muslim world.