Istanbul Pride Week

Lesbian and Bisexual Feminists: We do not hide, We are not ashamed

On 15 July, Lesbian and Bisexual Feminists gathered to protest the police attack on the Pride March, said “Neither AKP nor men will be able to prevent our love between women or our going out to the streets to shout for our freedom.”

Source: “Lezbiyen Biseksüel Feministler: Saklanmıyoruz, Utanmıyoruz”, (“Lesbian and Bisexual Feminists: We do not hide, We are not ashamed”), bianet, 15 July 2015, http://bianet.org/bianet/lgbti/166052-lezbiyen-biseksuel-feministler-saklanmiyoruz-utanmiyoruz utm_content=buffer32896&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

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Lesbian and Bisexual Feminists were gathered on 15 July in front of the Kadıköy Pier to protest the police attack on the Pride Parade.

Women pointed out that hate speech against LGBTIs are being disseminated with religious excuses and stated that this behavior imprisons women in the male dominated family, love and sexuality.

At the press release read before the march from the Pier to the Bull Statue, they said that the reason for the attack LGBTI activist Kemal Ördek was exposed to is the AKP government which targets LGBTIs.

The following statements appear in the press release:

“We have something feminist to say to the ones who want to narrow our lives, force women to stay in their houses and LGBTIs in ghettos by using ideas of public moral and decency!”

“We refuse to be imprisoned in male dominated sexuality. Neither the AKP government who prevented the Pride Parade using Ramadan as an excuse nor men will be able to prevent our love between women or our going out to the streets and shouting for our freedom.”

“We will be in Taksim next year for the Pride Parade, as [it] has been for 13 years. We will win, love will win.”

AKP Election Brochure Used 2014 Gay Pride during Ramadan as Example of Tolerance

In the wake of the 2015 General Elections, the Justice and Development Party [AKP or AK Party], Turkey’s ruling party, had issued an election brochure, claiming that the party line is one of tolerance of differences. The brochure had cited the peaceful 2014 Pride Parade as evidence: “Turkey is a country that can hold a Gay Pride on Istiklal Avenue even in the middle of the month of Ramadan. The increased visibility of conservative people does not carry the meaning that there is an intervention to people’s life styles.”

[Left-hand leaflet] People who are not from the AK Party [AKP- Justice and Development Party] and who are not conservative think there is an intervention to their life styles. Do you think you intervene in the life styles of people different than you? [Right-hand leaflet] AK Party has been in power for 13 years. It has solved the problems of the conservative segment, which brought it [the party] to power, only in the last 4 years after it even had to pull through the dangers of party closure. Turkey is a country that can hold a Gay Pride on Istiklal Avenue in the middle of the month of Ramadan. The increased visibility of conservative people does not carry the meaning that there is an intervention to people's life styles. Yes, now there is visibility of more people in head scarves and people who can practice their religion more comfortably because they were under pressure before. AK Party has never had and will never have the intention to intervene in anybody's life style. In the period of 13 years, there has only been a fight for the equality of wronged segments.

AKP’s 2015 General Elections Brochure.

[Left-hand leaflet]

“People who are not from the AK Party and who are not conservative believe that their life styles are being interfered with. Do you think you interfere in the life styles of people who are different than you?”

[Right-hand leaflet]

“AK Party has been in power for 13 years. Within the very first 4 years of its existence, it was able to solve the problems of the conservative segment, which brought [the party] to power, despite having to fight against threats of party closure.

“Turkey is a country that can hold a Gay Pride on Istiklal Avenue even in the middle of the month of Ramadan. The increased visibility of conservative people does not carry the meaning that there is an intervention against people’s life styles.

“Yes, now there is visibility of more people in head scarves and people who can practice their religion more comfortably because they were under pressure before.

“AK Party has never had and will never have the intention to interfere with anyone’s life style. In the period of 13 years, there has only been a fight for the equality of wronged segments.”

It is indeed true that LGBTI Pride Parades took place without incident for 12 years. The number of participants increased each year and the 2014 Pride Parade was attended by an estimated 90.000 people. However, the 13th LGBTI Pride Parade on 28 June 2015 was blocked by the governor and police used tear gas, water cannons, and plastic bullets to disperse the participants. The violence on Pride Parade came after weeks of homophobic statements by leading Justice and Development Party representatives and pro-government, conservative media.

Screenshot of a video where an armed police vehicle, TOMA, hits an LGBTI activist during the 2015 Pride Parade directly and with full force using a pressurized water cannon. Consequences can be deadly.

Screenshot from a video where an armed police vehicle, TOMA, is shown to hit an LGBTI activist during the 2015 Pride Parade directly and with full force using a pressurized water cannon. The cannon is powerful enough to permanently injure and even kill its targets. Source, with Full Video: Funda Eryiğit

Cyber-attack against Kaos GL on Pride Day

Tar: “That the cyber attack was deployed simultaneously with the [police] intervention to the Pride is of great significance. That a cyber attack is deployed while LGBTIs who exclaimed ‘homosexuals will not remain silent’ on the streets were assaulted with tear gas means that there is a [coordinated] effort to silence LGBTIs.”

Source: Çiçek Tahaoğlu, “Onur Gününde KaosGL’ye Siber Saldırı” (“Cyberattack against Kaos GL on Pride Day”), bianet, 29 June 2015, http://www.bianet.org/bianet/lgbti/165656-onur-gununde-kaosgl-ye-siber-saldiri

Kaos GL was inaccessible for hours on 28 June due to a DDoS attack while police assaults continued on Istiklal Street.

Kaos GL’s editor Yıldız Tar spoke to bianet and, drawing attention to the simultaneous attacks on the streets by the police and cyber attacks online, expressed that the attack against LGBTIs’ news website is a planned assault on the freedom of speech and the right to be informed:

Yesterday, our Kaos GL website was targeted at the very moment police assaults began against the Pride Parade. The attack continued for a long time, preventing access to the website. At first we thought this to be a technical problem but out communications uncovered this to be an attack.

That the cyber attack was deployed simultaneously with the [police] intervention to the Pride is of great significance. That a cyber attack is deployed while LGBTIs who exclaimed ‘homosexuals will not remain silent’ on the streets were assaulted with tear gas means that there is a [coordinated] effort to silence LGBTIs.

Our website was unable to recover until late last night. This prevented us from communicating rights violations. We experienced violence on the streets as well as intervention with our right to speech.

We do not know who the assailants were, but we witnessed tweets pointing Kaos GL as a target and claiming ‘this is how we silence you’ Naturally, we have documented each of these instances.

We believe that this was a concerted attack. They tried to silence us and failed. Just as the rainbow flag was flying over everywhere yesterday, Kaos GL too continues its broadcast.

What is a DDoS attack?

DDoS (Distributed Denial-of-Service) is an attack where a server receives considerable amounts of requests by many computers simultaneously to the point of inoperability. It does not [necessarily] mean that the server in question was breached.

Municipalities in Rainbows for Istanbul Pride Week

Municipalities covered their social media accounts in rainbows during LGBTI Pride Week. With the legalization of gay marriage in all states in the US, rainbow shares on social media rose.

Source: Hakan Özkan, “Belediyeler gökkuşağına boyandı,” (“Municipalities in Rainbows,”) KaosGL.org, 29 June 2015, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=19728

For the first time ever, Turkey’s municipalities- all of them from the Republican People’s Party- provided services for the pride parade. Çankaya municipality provided a bus to transport pride parade participants from Ankara to Istanbul. Beşkitaş municipality provided the 60 meter rainbow flag for pride parade. Şişli municipality covered production and printing costs for brochures and posters.

Beşiktaş Municipality Hosted a Pride Week Reception

Beşiktaş Municipality organized a reception for LGBTI pride week on Saturday, 27 June. Mayor Murat Hazinedar supported [and spoke at] the reception, which was organized by Beşiktaş Municipal Assembly member and LGBTI activist Sedef Çakmak.

Rainbows on Social Media

Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 20.31.54Nilüfer Municipality [in Bursa], “For the love of rainbow! Long live the equality of colors!”

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Kadıköy Municipality [in Istanbul] shared a photograph of a rainbow shot from the municipality and wrote “The rainbow will never leave Kadıköy.”

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Şişli Municipality [in Istanbul] shared a Şişli rainbow map and tweeted “We always love Şişli with all its colors, we all exist together!” while mentioning Lambdaistanbul. Şişli municipality also hosted the Genetically Modified Tomato Awards.

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On 27 June, Odunpazarı Municipality [in Eskişehir] tweeted “Love is to organize #LoveWins”. A twitter user called emrahdal replied to the tweet by saying “my municipality cannot be the only one to support this kind of Love that is disgusting!!!” Odunpazarı Municipality replied by saying, “Are you homophobic by birth or did it happen later? Get well. We can help with treatment.”

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Tepebaşı Municipality [in Eskişehir] tweetedLove will always win”

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Maltepe Municipality [in Istanbul] tweeted “Let go of homophobia, let’s look at the sky”

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Edremit Municipality [in Balıkesir] tweeted “nobody can interfere with everybody’s life” referring to CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu’s responses on Ekşi Sözlük prior to the elections.

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Ataşehir Municipality [in Istanbul] tweeted “We carry our logo with the rainbow emphasis throughout the 23rd Pride Week” and mentioned KaosGL and Lambdaistanbul.

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Aydın Metropolitan Municipality [in Western Turkey] tweeted “Each color is beautiful. None of them can ask the other ‘why are you different?’… It shouldn’t ask :)” and emphasized individual freedoms.

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Silivri Municipality [in Istanbul] emphasized the importance of unity by sharing both Ramadan and Pride Parade events and tweeting “Today is a beautiful day 🙂 It’s beautiful to live in Silivri”.

Homophobic attack in Istanbul: “Faggots, nonbelievers can’t come in here”

Three young gay men were attacked by homophobic insult “faggots, nonbelievers can’t come in here” in Istanbul. Police came late to scene of crime and prolonged process of testimony. The hospital delayed treatment on the excuse that ‘we don’t have tomography’.

Source: Yıldız Tar, “Homophobic attack in Istanbul: “Faggots, nonbelievers can’t come in here”,” KaosGL.org, 3 July 2015, http://kaosgl.org/page.php?id=19770

Just days after police attacks on Pride March and hate campaigns organized via social media, three young gay men were attacked at night in Istanbul on June 30.

Forum AVM security officers did not help the young people, who were attacked in Bayrampasa Forum, either.

Attackers ran away as police arrived late to the scene of the crime.

“We are not going to let you in Bayrampasa, you faggots!”

M.Ö, one of the attacked gay men, told the moments of the attack to KaosGL.org:

“We went to Bayrampasa Forum AVM, while passing a wall someone suddenly said ‘what are you looking at’. We were looking at our phones at that moment; I turned my back to look at my friends and escape from there but he suddenly jumped on us. That one screamed and two friends of his pounded us, they were also insulting us by saying that ‘we are not going to let you in Bayrampasa, you faggots!’, ‘we are going to kill and bury you in here’ and ‘faggots, nonbelievers can’t come in here.’

“Police came late, attackers ran away”

Indicating that the security in the mall only watched the attacks, M.Ö said police came late to the scene of the crime:

“It almost took one hour for the police to come. We went to the Bayrampasa police station, they did not take care of us for such a long time. They made us wait for hours recklessly without even taking our statements. While they should have taken us to the hospital for a battery report, they told us to do it ourselves. After Lawyer Rozerin Seda Kip’s talked to them on the phone, they took our statements but they did not want to file it as a hate attack. They tried to gloss over the event but at the end we were able to convey everything objectively.”

“It is directly related to the attacks on Pride March”

M.Ö indicated that the attacks are related to being shown as target and the hate campaigns that started before and after Pride March:

“It is directly related to the Pride March, insults against us are all because of it. Insults are parallel to the hate organized via social media. It is a place we went to before but we did not encounter any attacks like this before.”

Lawyer Kip: The recklessness of the police and the hospital is more disappointing

Lawyer Rozerin Seda Kip criticized the police by saying that they did not fulfill their duty because of their “reckless behaviors” and homophobic discrimination.

“The recklessness of the police and the hospital is more disappointing actually. Police took the victims to the station but did not take their statements for hours. I was able to talk to the officers after persisting for a long time and arguing with them. I told them that they should take their statements and take the victims to the hospital, otherwise; as the police, they will be responsible for the assault.”

“After nearly one hour, one of the victims called me and told me that they were still waiting for their statements to be taken and so, I told them that they should wait for the statements and reminded the police that it’s the police’s duty to go the hospital together to get report on the beating.”

Lawyer Kip summarized the discrimination at the hospital:

“First the victims went to the Bayrampasa State Hospital as wounded victims, the hospital tried to gloss over the event especially after the Pride March. Then the victims are sent back with an excuse that they don’t have tomography equipment. On the other side, the police did not want to take them to another hospital even though it’s their responsibility. These are serious violations and homophobic discrimination.”

Deputy Prime Minister Arınç criticizes Istanbul Pride: “They get completely naked in broad daylight”

Source: DHA video, “Bülent Arınç: “Güpegündüz çırılçıplak hale gelip…”,” (“Bülent Arınç: “They get completely naked in broad daylight”,”) CNNTurk, 2 July 2015, http://www.cnnturk.com/video/turkiye/bulent-arinc-gupegunduz-cirilciplak-hale-gelip

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Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç answered journalists’ questions at the AK Party (AKP) Mardin Headquarters.

Arınç said,

Unfortunately, I am ashamed to say this in a place where our lady sisters are present but some people turn this into honor, meaning people in different sexual orientations. These things are not liked in our belief, our traditions, our customs and mores, and our society’s structure.

But it is extremely saddening that they get completely naked in broad daylight, challenging and having fun in the middle of Istanbul, and unfortunately, parliamentarians from the CHP and HDP supporting them.

I know that there are women and men parliamentarians, 5-10 parliamentarians from the CHP, who joined that march and who supported it. I submit this to our nation’s discretion. If our nation likes this and applauds it, it can continue to follow them. If our nation sees these as wrong, criticizes it, and beyond criticizing, says what comes to their mind, do the necessary thing at the ballot box.

LGBTI News Turkey Note: Please also see Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç’s statements on LGBT at the United Nations on 27 January 2015.

There is no discriminatory provision against LGBTs in our laws.

The principle that everyone is equal before the law without distinction as to language, race, color, sex, political opinion, philosophical belief, religion, sect and other such grounds is organised by the Constitution’s Article 10. Due to the expression “and other such grounds” in the aforementioned article, types of discriminations are not limited but rather exemplified, and there is no question that other types of discrimination are left outside the scope. That there is no special regulation for LGBTs does not mean that this group’s rights are not legally guaranteed.

On the other hand, pursuant to our Constitution’s Article 90, the international agreements we ratify are [considered] law. The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence -Istanbul Convention-, which we ratified without reservations, includes provisions which state that there can be no discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

In our country, like in all democratic states of law, perpetrators who commit murder and acts of violence against individuals of LGBT and all kinds of hate crimes are identified, the necessary investigations are started in order to bring them to justice, and the process is conducted by legal authorities scrupulously. The claims that the reasoning of unjust provocation constitute a routine in the reduction of penal responsibility do not match with the real situation that is revealed by tangible court decisions.

Turkey’s LGBTI File Criminal Complaints for Attacks Against Istanbul Pride- Hear Them Out!

Turkey LGBTI

“We are here today to make a complaint against the Governor of Istanbul, Minister of Interior Affairs, General Chief of the Police in Istanbul and Istanbul police who attacked the protestors at the gay pride on 28th of June”, says lawyer and LGBTI rights advocate Yasemin Öz. Behind her looms the giant complex of the Caglayan Justice Palace. Though LGBTI activists doubt that the perpetrators of the violence against Istanbul Pride will be brought to justice, they vow to use every legal mechanism at their disposal.

Pride is a special day for Turkey’s LGBTI, who regularly face discrimination in all aspects of social life, if they are not already victims of hate crimes. University student and drag queer Madır Öktiş says, “Pride is the day I can express my pride with almost a hundred thousand people like me and it’s the only day I can, you know, I can feel that solidarity, that strong”.

Madır was getting ready to join the parade when they heard that police attacked pride-goers. They wore a pom pom hat and a hundred per cent gorgeous t-shit and “A police officer told me that I could not walk in with that outfit”.

Until this year, twelve Istanbul Pride Parades passed without incident. LGBTI activist and academic Volkan Yilmaz says, “I wasn’t expecting any attacks on Sunday because even after Gezi protests we could make the march happen so after the attacks, actually, I was a bit surprised and I started to think about why it happened now and it turned out to be that it’s about Ramadan month”.

Last year’s Pride also coincided with the month of Ramadan when an estimated ninety thousand people marched without police interference. But this year, there was a significant rise in the visibility of the LGBTI rights movement and a corollary increase in hate speech from both public officials and conservative media.

Veteran activist Şevval Kılıç says, “this is a big step, that we are threatening the system, we are a movement, a big huge movement, and of course some people are afraid of this, some people are afraid of changing, going forward”.

Volkan thinks the attacks may have happened “because of media provocations and the new governor of Istanbul is a bit more conservative than the other guy and this happened this year”.

At least 78 people were wounded in the police intervention against Pride. One person is in risk of losing an eye. The Governor stated that proportionate force was used against the demonstrators after they refused to disperse.

Boysan Yakar, a prominent LGBTI activist and advisor to Sisli Municipality Mayor, was among the wounded and filed a criminal complaint for battery charges. He says, “I was beaten by the police while I was trying to stop the violence of power at the very first beginning of the pride parade and at that moment we had the support of the MPs from two different parties, HDP and CHP, and when we were trying to stop the violence, police attacked many activists”.

Şevval takes issue with the Governor’s statement of proportionality. She says, “they just directly attacked us with plastic bullets, you know, there are thousands of ways that you can dismiss the crowd but they choose to attack us with plastic bullets”.

So far, 4 LGBTI associations and 68 individuals filed criminal complaints. They are filing criminal charges (PDF-Turkish) against Interior Minister Sebahattin Öztürk, Istanbul Governor Vasıp Şahin, Istanbul Police Chief Selami Altınok, and police officers involved in the attacks for the following crimes:

  • Offenses of Bodily Harm (Turkish Penal Code (TCK) Articles 86-87)
  • Torture (TCK Articles 94-95)
  • Torment (TCK Article 96)
  • Ill-treatment
  • Violence (TCK Article 108)
  • Exceeding the Limits of Authorization for Use of Force (TCK Article 256)
  • Misconduct in Office (TCK Article 257)
  • Executing Illegal Mandatory Provision and Order of the Supervisor (TCK Article 24)
  • Restriction of freedom of belief, conception, conviction (TCK Article 115)
  • Restriction of Right to Meetings and Demonstration Marches (Law No: 2911)
  • Offenses against Freedom (TCK Article 109)

As one of the seven lawyers submitting the complaints, Yasemin Öz says, “I’m not hopeful about the Turkish state’s courts, especially when it comes to the ministers, police chiefs, and governors but we are hopeful about the constitutional court or otherwise the European Court of Human Rights”

But despite the lack of trust in the Turkish judicial system, Volkan Yılmaz says, “We have to do it to push the legal process a bit further”.

There was global outcry against the banning of Istanbul Pride and the violence that ensued. Boysan appreciates the global support and says, “It’s great to see that thousands of people are protesting right now throughout the country, from Korea, from Japan till the United Kingdom and United States as well and this is not only happening in the level of citizens. This is happening in the very high levels as well. Government to government it’s happening right now. It’s so important. And it’s great to see such solidarity throughout the universe”.

Yasemin calls for continued support for LGBTI in Turkey and the world. “We want the world to know that our basic right to free assembly has been violated by our own state so as the LGBT people and their friends, we have to unite where there is a violence against LGBT people because no state volunteers to protect LGBT rights. Many states in the world criminalize homosexuality and transsexuality”.

Tired but determined, Boysan says, “We are here, we exist, and they have to get over it”. This is how everyone, gathered in front of the Caglayan Justice Palace to seek justice, feels. They chant, “Gays will not be silent, they will not be silent, will not be silent”.

Zeynep Bilginsoy/ LGBTI News Turkey