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.
Source: Yildiz Tar, “Linç ve saldırılardan Meclis’e: LGBTİ aday adayları” (“From Lynching and Attacks to the Parliament: LGBTI candidates for nomination”), Kaos GL, 4 March 2015, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=18882
Beşiktaş Municipality Mayor’s Advisor Sedef Çakmak has risen from the substitute position of assembly member to the position of assembly member. Çakmak is the first person to be elected to public office with her open LGBTI identity in Turkey. Çakmak received her mandate on 2 March 2015.
Sedef Çakmak, who ran in the 2014 local elections for membership to the Republican People Party’s Beşiktaş Municipal Assembly with her open lesbian identity and who was elected as an assembly member substitute, has risen to the post of assembly member. Çakmak has been actively working in the Beşiktaş Municipality since the elections and has been an advisır to the mayor on policies and services for LGBTIs.
Sedef Çakmak is a graduate of Galatasaray University with a BA in Sociology. She has been a part of the LGBTI rights movement for the past 10 years and has served as Board President in the Social Policies, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Studies Association (SPoD LGBTI) between 2011 and 2013. Çakmak is the first and only LGBTI individual to be elected in Turkey. Çakmak received her mandate today. After the announcement of her membership in the Municipal Assembly, Çakmak explained the post’s importance: “Coming to such a position without having to hide your identity has, without doubt, an empowering effect in a country where people have to hide their identity from their closest for fear of oppression, violence, and exclusion and where LGBTIs face threats, blackmail, mobbing, and termination of employment once their identities are revealed. Policies and services in local administration for LGBTIs within the borders of the Beşiktaş Municipality will serve as an important starting point for developing democracy from the local for all social groups in Turkey.”
LGBTIs are everywhere!
As the general elections approach, SPoD LGBTI has started their “In school, at work, in the parliament: LGBTIs are everywhere!” campaign to encourage other LGBTIs to be active in politics. SPoD LGBTI’s Politics School started on Saturday, 28 February in Istanbul. The Politics School aims to empower LGBTIs in the political arena and make the LGBTI rights movement more visible in the 2015 general elections. The School will continue until 4 March.
In the 2014 local elections, 5 participants of the Politics School ran for different parties’ municipal assemblies with their open gay and trans identities. SPoD’s LGBTI-Friendly Municipality Protocol, to remind local administrations their responsibilities for LGBTI rights, was signed by 40 mayoral candidates from HDP, BDP, CHP, TKP, and DSP. Among the signatories were 5 metropolitan municipality mayoral candidates. Since the elections, SPoD has been monitoring developments in Istanbul, Izmir, Mersin, Adana, and Diyarbakır.
For news and interview requests:
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Hasanpaşa Mahallesi Alibey Sokak Çınar Apt No:2 Kat 2 Daire 9 Kadıköy/İSTANBUL
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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).
Trans activist Niler Albayrak submitted her pre-candidacy for the CHP for the 2015 general elections. During our interview, Albayrak said: “I became a member of the Human Rights Association for Istanbul in 1987. My struggle started back in those days. I really wanted to fight for the oppressed, the othered, and especially LGBTIs.”
Source: Ömer Akpınar, “CHP’den trans aday adayı: Haklarımızı sonuna kadar almak için bu yarıştayım” (“Trans pre-candidate for nomination from the CHP: I am in this race to get our rights once and for all”), Kaos GL, 24 February 2015, http://www.kaosgl.com/sayfa.php?id=18826
Albayrak became a pre-candidate for nomination with the Republican People’s Party (CHP) from Istanbul 3. District for the 2015 general elections. She explains her reasons for nomination as: “I am especially familiar with the fact that trans sex workers are subjected to discrimination immensely. Hence I decided that the best place to fight against this was the parliament.”
“We established a great communication with the CHP Secretary General”
Though Albayrak was a candidate for the HDP Avcılar Municipality Assembly Candidate from March 30, 2014 [local elections], she was not elected because the party did not pass the 10 percent election threshold. Albayrak, who decided to try her luck with the CHP, recounted the party’s approach towards her and her meeting with Gürsel Tekin, the CHP’s Secretary General:
“We established a great communication during our meeting with Gürsel Tekin. Our talks progressed well. CHP parliamentarians such as Veli Ağbaba, Gürsel Tekin, Binnaz Toprak, Aylin Nazlıaka, and others are now declaring that LGBTIs should be represented in the parliament. But of course this is a personal thing. The CHP’s perspective in the 25th term seems to have improved in comparison to the previous terms. That is the impression I get.”
“Just because a parliamentarian is trans does not mean they will defend only trans rights!”
However, there are negative comments regarding her nomination:
“Reader feedback does include commentary against trans or gay parliament members. However, I think they have not yet learned what it means to be human. That is because they cannot understand that a trans parliamentarian will not focus solely on trans rights, or that a woman parliamentarian will not focus solely on women’s rights, or that a heterosexual parliamentarian will not focus solely on heterosexual rights.”
“I am not the first; I am the third trans candidate for nomination”
Albayrak, who started visiting LGBTI organizations and came by Kaos GL, said “We have to go to the associations, ask for help, and become members. Associations should always be in our lives, since they are official institutions.” Albayrak also corrected recent reports that she was the first trans candidate
“Years ago, Demet Demir became one, then Öykü Özen. I am the third candidate for nomination.”
“LGBTI candidates should be nominated for a suitable line-up to enter parliament”
Albayrak believes that she has a good chance of winning due to the increased visibility of LGBTIs and especially trans women following the March 30  local elections. And, of course, she underlines party support:
“LGBTI candidates should be nominated [by their party] for a suitable line-up that can enter parliament.”
“‘What was once a dream is now a reality’ means hatred for LGBTIs”
Albayrak criticized the AKP [Turkey’s ruling party], reminding us of President Erdoğan’s statement that “homosexuals too should be provided with legal security within the framework of their rights and freedoms”:
“AKP’s slogan of ‘what was once a dream is now a reality’ became discrimination, hatred, violence, and suicides for LGBTIs.”
“Hopefully we will succeed this time”
Albayrak is waiting for everyone’s support to have an open trans parliamentarian in the parliament:
“LGBTIs are an extremely oppressed and othered group in the Republic of Turkey. I hope we will succeed this time. I anticipate that the associations, all our colleagues, and heterosexual friends too will support us a lot. We will wait and see.”
 For more information, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Rights_Association_%28Turkey%29 or http://en.ihd.org.tr/.
 In 2002, during a TV interview with Abbas Güçlü, Erdoğan stated: “Homosexuals too should be provided with legal security within the framework of their rights and freedoms. We do not think that some of the treatment they are subjected to on some TV channels is humane.” In 2013, Kaos GL initiated a campaign on social media to remind Erdoğan of his own statements. Source: Kaos GL, “17 Mayıs’ta Başbakan Erdoğan’a LGBT’leri Hatırlat!” (“On May 17, remind Prime Minister Erdoğan of LGBTIs”), 16 May 2013, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=14179 (Turkish)
The Atasehir Municipality in Istanbul responded to a viral tweet about the license plate of a municipality police vehicle with a popular pride slogan. The municipality told kaosGL.org that they are ready to give all sorts of support for LGBT people.
Source: Ömer Akpınar “Istanbul municipality responded to “GAY” license plate tweet: So what if we are gay?” Kaosgl.org, February 17 2015, http://kaosgl.org/page.php?id=18767
The Atasehir Municipality in Istanbul, which belongs to the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), responded to a tweet about the “34 GAY 94” license plate of a municipality police vehicle without falling into the trap of homophobia.
“Not a problem for us”
ErkekTarafi (@ErosEmorotti) tweeted “Most probably the police deliberately handed this plate to the #Atasehir Municipality”, which received the following comment by the municipality:
“Even if so, they should’ve known that it does not constitute any problem for us… So what if we are gay? :)”
“So what if we are gay?”, this popular slogan of the Istanbul Pride, was followed by an inclusive message by the Mayor of Atasehir, Battal Ilgezdi: “As a municipality, we are rightfully proud to provide services to our citizens without any discrimination.”
“We are proud of the LGBT struggle”
The Atasehir Municipality made the following statement to kaosGL.org, showing their enthusiasm to give support to the LGBT struggle:
“We think that LGBT people have made a tremendous impact on democracy, human rights and the understanding of freedom in this country with their rightful struggle and we are proud of them. The LGBT movement is important not only within itself but it is also meaningful and applicable for each and every individual in society. Although we did not have a specific project [for LGBT people] so far, we are ready to give all sorts of support.”
In November, Besiktas and Sisli municipalities in Istanbul stood up against transphobia on the Trans Day of Remembrance, putting up billboards with LGBTI activists holding banners that read “just to spite hate, long live life”. The Besiktas Municipality has also begun offering free healthcare to a trans shelter.
Sedef Çakmak, advisor to the mayor of Beşiktaş, and Boysan Yakar, advisor to the mayor of Şişli, are the first openly gay people to advance to these positions. Yakar made news when he was physically assaulted at the municipal building: “No one can kick us, LGBTI individuals, out of the municipality at this point.”
Source: Aydil Durgun, “Bu saatten sonra kimse bizi belediyeden atamaz” (“No one can kick us out of the municipality at this point”). Milliyet.com.tr, 17 January 2015, http://www.milliyet.com.tr/-bu-saatten-sonra-kimse-bizi/pazar/haberdetay/18.01.2015/2000113/default.htm
Sedef Çakmak and Boysan Yakar have been involved in the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex) struggle for years. I crossed paths with them for the first time before the Pride March in 2013. In the same year, I met with Boysan again; this time through the LGBTI Political Representation and Participation Platform that they launched before the local elections. In the elections, they had already started seeing the benefits of the platform. Boysan was a candidate for nomination as a city councilor for the district of Şişli, and Sedef, for Beşiktaş. Boysan made it to the reserve list and Sedef seemed to have made it all the way to the council, but it fell through, and she currently remains as the first reserve candidate. Throughout this lengthy process, Hayri İnönü, the mayor of Şişli, and Murat Hazinedar, the mayor of Beşiktaş, must have been so pleased with their work that they appointed them as their advisors.
Boysan and Sedef now hold the highest public office held by openly gay individuals in Turkey. This is a big achievement in a country like Turkey, and as they emphasize strongly, it is the result of a long fight for which they made big sacrifices.
I met with Boysan and Sedef to discuss what they have been doing since they assumed office. Boysan also talked for the first time about the physical assault he experienced at the municipal building.
It is clear why you would like to be in the political arena. But why did municipal governments and parties want to reach out to the LGBTI movement? Why now and not before?
Sedef Çakmak: Honestly, I believe that it has to do with our determination. We had been thinking genuinely that our party had to adopt LGBTI politics. To speak about CHP in particular, there have been a number of MPs in the recent past who advocated for LGBTI rights. They have paved the way for us. The party was able to think positively about LGBTI candidates thanks to the LGBTI discussions they introduced into the party’s agenda.
Boysan Yakar: There is something that both of us experienced. After our membership to the party went through, they told us about the displeasure of not having had dealt with this subject before.
Sedef Ç.: They said, “We should have come to you, not you to us.”
Boysan Y.: This is how politics works in Turkey: if you’re not there, your rights are not there either.
Mahmut Tanal, MP from the Republican People’s Party (CHP), held a press conference for Trans Day of Remembrance on November 20th to commemorate the victims of transphobic hate crimes.
Buse Kılıckaya and Selin Berghan from Pink Life Association and Melahat Deniz and Murat Koylu from Kaos GL Association participated in the press conference organized by Tanal for Trans Day of Remembrance, commemorating trans people who have been victims of hate crimes.