LGBT rights in Turkey

Despite the Governorate’s Ban, Izmir Holds Pride March

Standing up to Izmir Governorate’s ban, people who stand against homophobia and transphobia marched from Kıbrıs Sehitleri to Kordon in Izmir, protesting the ban.

Source: Yıldız Tar, “Valilik yasağına inat İzmir’de Onur Yürüyüşü”, 4 June 2016, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=21800

izmironuryuruyusu16_3

The Izmir Governor’s decision to ban Izmir Pride March on the grounds that it “received intelligence that there may be propaganda for terrorist organization” was protested. [Organized over social media] anti-homophobia and transphobia crowds met at 19:00 at Alsancak Kıbrıs Sehitleri Avenue to Kordon seaside.

izmironuryuruyusu16_1

Police set up barricades against the anti-homophobia and transphobia crowds holding rainbow flags. Police announced “disperse” and the crowd shouted “homophobic state, we’ll topple you of course”. After a short wait, the marchers headed the opposite direction towards Kordon seaside.

izmironuryuruyusu16_7

More than one hundred people marched and chanted “Love, love, freedom; keep hate far”, “Tayyip run run run, the fags are coming”, “Don’t be silent, shout, there are gays”. They screamed against homophobia and transphobia. They condemned the homophobic ban of the Izmir Governorate.

izmironuryuruyusu16_2

During the march, there was a sit-in at the shore. Izmir residents were invited to the press conference to be held on 6 June at 11:00 in Konak City Council to condemn the ban on Izmir Pride.

izmironuryuruyusu16_4

The demonstration to protest the Governorate’s ban using “terror” as its basis found support from businesses around Alsancak and people in the area.

My Pride Story: We carry flowers in our mouths!

We carry flowers in our mouths. Flowers that you will never be able to wither.

Orkoninya’s Pride Story

I had the chance to join the pride march on June 2015 for the first time in my life. Everything was planned weeks before the march and we departed Ankara with my boyfriend at the time and two other friends.

I remember shouting suddenly while listening to Bandista’s  “Aşk Şarkısı (Love Song) in the car:

“Look at that, a rainbow!” A giant, colorful parabola was greeting us. After seeing so many rainbows on our way, we realized that love was on our side, this day was our day.

cicekgokkusagi

The night we arrived in Istanbul, my excitement did not let me sleep. As thousands of people, we were going to shout, unite and paint Istiklal Avenue into the colors of the rainbow that we are. But the next day I could smell the tension in the air as we arrived on Istiklal Avenue. Hundreds of police officers were mocking us on every corner, turning their despising stares on us. Once more, it did not take them too long to target us with their barrels, filled with plastic hate. We ran away from TOMAs* spraying hatred and homophobia on us, some of our friends got hit, people were rushing about, covered in blood. We took refuge in a shop, the shutters were drawn and we started to wait. As everyone started to cough out the pepper spray, I remembered the gas chambers. We waited, we waited, we waited… I was struggling with a disease called panic attack back then. I was panting for breath, my eyes started to black out and I sat on the floor, coughing. I did not have the power to go on anyway. We went back home…

I had great dreams of this march, but it didn’t happen. I was happy anyway. There were so many of me there that day, they all filled me with hope. And the rainbow I mentioned, gave us such a salute that I realized our colors were plastic bullet-proof. As Mabel Matiz says in a song, we carry flowers in our mouths, and these are flowers that you can never wither away. We shall open our mouths for you to see, try to take a whiff. You will feel love. Love…
*Intervention Vehicle to Social Events is the infamous water cannon vehicle used by the Turkish police.

Click here for the original Turkish version of this story on our project partner KaosGL.org.

Stories grow as we share. If you want to tell your Pride story, send your maximum 500 word story to web@kaosgl.org and we’ll publish it in Turkish and English on Kaos GL and LGBTI News Turkey. Don’t forget to add your name or pseudonym!

 

 

To Amnesty International: Hate is not a Choice, it’s a Crime

Source: Tuna Erdem, “Nefret tercih değil suç olsun/bana haklarımı ver sevgin senin olsun #kaplumbağaları bizim meselelere karıştırmayın, almayın ve satmayın,” “Hate should not be a choice but a crime / give me back my rights and you can have your love do not involve #turtles in our issues, do not buy and sell them,” 20 April 2016, http://sloganbozan.blogspot.com.tr/2016/04/nefret-tercih-degil-suc-olsunbana.html?spref=fb&m=1

The slogan I will undo shows up at the end of Amnesty International’s video “Gay Turtle.” As I pick the slogan to pieces, I will occasionally write about the video as well but it is not the video but rather the slogan that defines the scope of this text:

 
loveislove

First, let’s begin with the slogan “hate is a choice.”

There is a crime called “hate crime.” Indeed, before this slogan appears in the video, the statement “in the last 5 years, hundreds of hate crimes due to homophobia and transphobia have been committed” indicates, albeit in an ambiguous fashion, that there is a crime called “hate crime.” Since 2014, hate crime has been included in the Turkish Penal Code and the work of LGBTI organizations have a significant role in its inclusion. However, in spite of this achievement, “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” are not included within the scope of the hate crime law and at the moment hate is not a crime when directed at LGBTIs. In other words, the Turkish Penal Code has left it to individuals to choose to hate gay and trans individuals, just as this slogan suggests.

However, not only many countries do not give its citizens the right to choose to hate but also LGBTIs in Turkey have been arguing that hate is a crime and should be seen as a crime, and they continue to work for this a fact that Amnesty International cannot possibly be unaware of. From the perspective that posits hate to be seen as a crime, this slogan sounds exactly like what the statements “rape is a choice,” “murder is a choice”  sound like. Indeed, this slogan appears right after a sentence that gives hate crime statistics, therefore connecting the hate directly to the crime on its own, amplifying said tone. Just as saying “murder is a choice, do not choose to murder, change your choices” would be taking things lightly, the same goes for hate. If you write down the number of people killed by hate-motivated murders and then immediately say “hate is a choice,” you are basically saying “hate-motivated murder is a choice.” Briefly, a preferable slogan at most could be:

Hate is not a choice, it’s a crime.

On the other hand, hate is not a choice because there is no alternative to hate in the system, especially towards gay and trans individuals. The heteronormative order is the name of the order that does not give the choice or the right to choose anything other than hate. So much so that gays themselves hardly find a path other than hating themselves. Hating homosexuals is something that is inculcated from birth, taught, imposed. To say “there is a heteronormative order” is exactly this: People are constantly brainwashed in a systematic way, using every possible tool of the sovereign culture. The family, education and training curriculum, peer victimization and pressure teach and forcibly impose hate; hate is engraved in memory. Hate is constantly channelled on TV, in advertisements, in films, in media.

This is precisely why the target audience of the video can only be those who will rightfully feel proud to have made the right choice and carry the avarice of superiority. I do not think the target audience includes gays who have begun combatting the hate within or who continue to combat the hate within the nearest people to them. Rather, the video caters to those who believe that not remaining “ignorant” is fully a “choice,” who are blind to the fact that education is a privilege in the world, and who see the world wearing blinkers and say “noooo waaaaay.” In fact, if anyone could escape the sovereign culture’s education and be “ignorant,” hate would not be this widespread.

In the best-case scenario, the video invites the audience to belittle and to ridicule homophobes. (And of course, also to take pity on the cute turtle and to get all emotional through empathy.) Indeed, there are self-assured trolls in social media, who ask why this video is being taken so seriously, when it should have been laughed at. Such approaches pass over the fact that ridicule and belittling are the very tools of homophobia and it does not register that belittling homophobes belittles homophobia, a phenomenon with dire consequences. I would not step inside a pet shop (in my opinion, pet shops are another phenomena that should be considered a crime) but if I were told that the turtle I “chose” was gay, I would think that the clerk noticed that I’m gay and was saying this ridiculous thing to mock me, and I would storm out. So, you can add me to your so-called “social experiment,” as a homophobe to be ridiculed.

All in all, presenting systematic problems as individual choices can only warrant the continuity of the system that lies beneath. Mistaking the teachings of the hegemonic culture for “ignorance,” is flaring up the flames of the hegemon. Briefly: hate is not an individual choice, but the enforcement of the system. To belittle others’ hate in order to ignore the hate that lies within you, is a way of hate itself.  You cannot struggle by hating. The issue should not be to replace one type of hate for another.

Then there is this: The slogan “hate is a choice” is there to evoke another slogan. The most famous slogan of the LGBTI movement is “orientation, not choice.” So the slogan says, “homosexuality is not a choice, but it is a choice to hate homosexuals.” So it says, “you are born gay and you cannot change it, but hate is not congenital so just change it.” I can’t get enough of undoing the slogan “orientation, not choice” but I’m leaving that for another post, to give it the undoing it deserves. Without going deeper into my position on the matter, which is even more narrow-minded than the “even if it were a choice” position, I will point to a relevant aspect. There is no doubt that it is the belief that “if it is a choice, it can be changed easily” which brought the word “choice” to the point of becoming a signifier of homophobia. One feels like saying, I wish that change was so easy to have in life. Yet those who adopted the slogan “hate is a choice” obviously think that the problem goes away once you understand that it is a choice. You would think that knowing there can be change warrants change. That’s why a prominent organization could not come up with a better choice than to state the obvious, did not think it should introduce a proposal on the matter of “how to change hate.” Oh, actually they do, our video says “love instead of hating,” which brings us back to the first sentence of the slogan:

“Love comes from the heart”

Seriously, what does that even mean? Does it mean you love if you have a heart? Does it mean love is automatic like breathing? Does it mean love is natural and if you do not strain yourself, you will love anyway? You do not need the brain, the mind, consciousness, work; the heart produces love by itself? Does it mean that every living thing with a heart loves anyway? It’s up to you to decide how you want to understand it. Epic words about love is plentiful, just add on to them. Love is unconditional, let love win, etc. But the love the video presents is not unconditional. The turtles who are sold in the slave market, who are contained in a cell, are at best given love according to their cuteness. The price of love is to not be free, to be treated like property, to live and die for someone else’s enjoyment. If that’s the love, then hate could indeed be chosen.

Let’s agree on this: no one has to love gays. Gays do not expect love either. Gays are demanding their rights and that is why they say hate crime. But when you first say love comes from the heart and then say hate is a choice, you present hate as purely an emotion. If you are looking for a word outside of the terminology of rights and law, then gays are expecting respect, not love. Respect is not a choice, for example, in the face of laws and court decisions, no one has the right to say “I do not respect this.”

But there is also a difference between “love comes from the heart” and the sentence presented as the English version of the slogan. “Love is love” would be correctly translated into Turkish as “romantic love is romantic love” [literally “aşk aşktır” –Trans.]. That sentence is the slogan for gay rights, especially marriage equality. The slogan would mean “love is not gay or straight, love is love” and it would be about what remains in your head as it is tautological. And again we come upon a slogan that I cannot get enough of undoing. Though homosexuality can allow us to realize the many different kinds of love in the slogan “love is love,” the slogan instead becomes evidence for the transformation of romantic love into a single, unitary state. One language, one flag, one nation, one homeland, one love.

Sure there is also this: Do not see homosexuality as a sexual issue because love is love! Because sex is bad and it can only be cleansed with an epic love. Because it is unacceptable to defend sex without love but do not be scared, gays, who are in a position to notice the difference, will pretend that there is no sex without love, just like you. I want to say: No way! No, sex is not an evil that will be extolled with love, in need of taming with marriage, or otherwise lead to destruction. And gays do not have to go voluntarily into the prison of “no sex without love” just because they do not want you to hate them.

But the same sentence in Turkish does not say romantic love but love like endearment and therefore gets stuck early on before even getting to the issue. The Turkish version turns out not to be about the romantic love that gays feel for each other but about the love, the endearment felt towards gays: Let’s love animals, let’s love gays, let’s love our beautiful Turkish, let’s love our flag, let’s love our homeland.

Do not love me and do not hate me. I do not even know you, why should we have an emotional relationship? Can I not be your pet or a harmful creature? May I not be yours and only be mine and be independent? If possible, give the right to life to a difference that has nothing to do with you. Let’s create a respectful distance between ourselves and keep that distance.

Your love is as aggressive as your hate. Your stance against homophobia is as hurtful as homophobes.  

Now slowly release the turtle you are holding back into wild and leave before you make me love you too much.

Transphobic Murder in Çorlu

In Çorlu, offender F.T. stabbed and killed Aleda, a trans sex worker with whom he engaged in a fight. F.T. admitted the murder in the cab he took.

Source: “Çorlu’da Transfobik Nefret Cinayeti” (“Transphobic Murder in Çorlu”), Pembe Hayat, 20 March 2016, http://pembehayat.org/haberler.php?id=1032#.Vu7WLKVvJdk

The transphobic murderer and Aleda started fighting in Aleda’s home for mysterious reasons. Subsequently, he stabbed Aleda and fled the crime scene. He then took a cab, with his clothes covered in blood, and told the driver he killed someone. The driver called the cops as soon as he dropped off F.T. Police found Aleda’s dead body at the address provided by the driver. Aleda’s body was taken to Çorlu State Hospital morgue for autopsy.

Security forces found the murderer F.T. in his home and detained him approximately an hour after the incident. F.T. was taken to  Çorlu Police Station, officials announced that investigation continues.

Transphobic Murder in Istanbul

 

Trans woman Buse lost her life as a result of a hate crime in her home in Istanbul’s Bakırköy district. The district attorney’s examinations of Buse’s home are still underway. Camera footage will be inspected to verify the identity of the attacker.

Source: “İstanbul’da transfobik nefret cinayeti” (“Transphobic Murder in Istanbul”), Kaos GL, 4 March 2016, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=21241

buseistanbul

A trans woman named Buse was found dead in her home in Istanbul’s Bakırköy district.

Buse’s friends, who had not been able to get in touch with her, went to the house Buse lived in. When the door would not open, they had a locksmith open it and saw that Buse had died as a result of a transphobic hate crime. The friends then informed the police of the situation.

The body of Buse, who was killed with a sharp object, showed signs of battery all over her. It is estimated that the hate crime occurred two days before her body was discovered. No information about the attacker has been obtained yet.

The district attorney’s investigation of the home is still ongoing. It is thought that the attacker was a young man. Camera footage will be examined to find the murderer.

Another transphobic hate crime was experienced in Istanbul in recent weeks. Asya Özgür, who had previously been a candidate in the local elections (2014) for municipal council membership, was attacked in Fındıkzade, where she had worked the previous night. Özgür’s condition is improving.

 

Inquiry into Policemen who Attacked the Pride Parade was not Permitted!

 

The Governorship of Istanbul has not permitted a legal inquiry to be initiated against the police who attacked the Pride Parade, injuring many people and detaining journalists.

Source: “Onur Yürüyüşü’ne Saldıran Polislere Soruşturma İzni Çıkmadı!” (“Inquiry into Policemen who Attacked the Pride Parade was not Permitted!”) KaosGL.org, 25 November 2015, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=20603

Following the police attack of LGBTI organizations’ 2015 Pride Parade, the official complaint for trial of the officials of the General Directorate of Riot Police was finalized. The Governorship of Istanbul has not permitted inquiry into the policemen who attacked the parade.

The Governorship, stating that the Pride Parade had been “banned”, defended that the police attack that occurred throughout the day was “within the legal limits”. It further argued that there was not “any information, document, or video recording in relation to misconduct of the policemen”, despite the evidence submitted by LGBTI organizations and images shown in the media.

LGBTI organizations had filed an official complaint

LGBTI organizations had filed an official complaint, with regard to the police attack of the Pride Parade, concerning the Minister of Interior Affairs Sebahattin Ozturk, Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin, and Istanbul Police Chief Selami Altınok, who executed the unlawful order.

Kaos GL, Lambdaistanbul, SPoD LGBTI, and Red Umbrella requested that the responsible parties be tried based on the following crimes: wounding with intent, torture, persecution, mistreatment, coercion, transgression of right to use force, misconduct, issuance of unlawful order and execution thereof, prevention of exercise of freedom of speech, prevention of exercise of freedom of association and right to hold meetings and demonstration marches, and restriction of liberty.

What happened at the Pride Parade?

The police attacked the Istanbul LGBTI Pride Parade with tear gas, water cannon, and plastic bullets. The protesters were detained, the journalists were assaulted. Yıldız Tar, KaosGL.org’s Editor, and Cicek Tahaoglu, Bianet’s Women and LGBTI News Editor, were among the detained and battered journalists.

Members of the Parliament from HDP and CHP stood hand in hand in opposition to the police. The rainbow flag flew in all of Beyoglu’s streets despite the police attack that went on throughout the day. The Governorship of Istanbul stated that the police “interfered” with the Pride Parade due to the possibility of “provocation”, even though there was no trouble of any kind until the police attack.

Following the Istanbul LGBTI Pride Parade, as the Governorship claimed there were “no injured people”, it was discovered that many were injured after being subject to police brutality. Among the injured was Sinan Onder Duman. Duman was injured in his right eye due to the targeted shot of a plastic bullet by the police.

Even though the Governorship alleged that no one suffered any injury, LGBTI activists were attacked by unidentified assailants in civilian dress, in Tophane. One person’s nose and another’s hipbone were broken.

The AKP’s LGBTI history from 2001-2015

From “their rights must be legally protected” to the prevention of inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in the constitution and to directly targeting LGBTI through references to “the tribe of Lot”… Here is the LGBTI history of the AKP from 2001-2015.

Source: 2001’den 2015’e AKP’nin LGBTI tarihi (“The AKP”s LGBTI history from 2001-2015”), Kaos GL, 2 September 2015, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=20109

akplgbtmanset

We summarize the timeline that began in 2001 prior to the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) tenure with the view that “legal protections are warranted for gay rights and freedoms.” This view gave way to the approach in the context of constitutional reform debates that said regarding homosexuality: “it is not this century’s problem” and finally we saw homosexuality denounced as immorality.  

The Justice and Development Party was founded on 14 August 2001 as a socially conservative Turkish political party. The AKP government followed moderate politics during the first period of their tenure and alleged to pursue a democratic and rights based approach regarding the LGBTI. In response to a question on a television program by Abbas Güçlü, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan replied, “Gays must have legal protections in terms of their rights and freedoms.”

2004: It is unnecessary to add sexual orientation!

The term sexual orientation which was included in the draft of the Turkish Penal Code through the efforts of LGBTI and feminist organizations was removed by the AKP government. The AKP government ended the prospect of preventing discrimination against LGBTI individuals. Cemil Çiçek, Justice Minister at the time, explained the rationale behind removing the term ‘sexual orientation’ from the draft of the Turkish Penal Code presented to the Parliament: “It is unnecessary to add sexual orientation because gender already covers it.”

2006: Wrong sexual preference!

Targeting a Republican People’s Party (CHP) MP Dengir Mir Fırat, an AKP MP at the time, said:

He  talks as though he has the wrong sexual preference.

2007: Constitutional debates

Burhan Kuzu, Head of the Constitution Commission at the Turkish General Assembly and AKP MP said on 20 October 2007:

There is no such ruling [article banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation] in scientists’ texts. I have not received their letters yet; they will be considered when they are received. But at this point I do not expect the parliament to agree to it. It is presented as freedom, but there is yet no ground for this in Turkey. It does not appear to the kind of demand that would be approved by the Committee and the General Council. It is early for Turkey. The parliament cannot undertake a regulation without societal approval. Moreover no European constitution has it. Once we have the EU constitution we can see what to do.

Dengir Mir Mehmet Fırat, AKP MP, said on 20 October 2007: 

It is difficult for the constitution of 21st century; perhaps it would work for the 22nd century constitution. We have included in the draft what we call the third generation rights such as environmental rights. But this would be a fourth generation right. We have not considered such freedoms, and I doubt they would be accepted. There is no EU Constitution. Neither is there a consensus in Europe on this issue. Society will have to have a longer debate on this.

2008: “An AKP member who makes pledges to Dönmes [1]

Columnist Serdar Arsever from the Yeni Akit newspaper published an op-ed about the participation of Zafer Üskül [AKP MP] in a conference organized by Kaos GL in 2008 titled, “International Anti-homophobia Meeting.” In this op-ed, the author described Üskül as “an AKP MP who makes pledges to dönmes” and added:

He participates in the sexual perverts’ meeting! Excuse me…he appears in the meeting of f..ts (sic)!…And that was not enough…He proceeds up to the dais and points to the administration [AKP government] as “the guarantee that they would not be discriminated on the basis of their sexual preferences.’

In response to the concern expressed about the spread of the freedom to wear headscarves to high schools, AKP MP Burhan Kuzu stated:

We have received intense demands from homosexuals about equality and the right to marry as well. Are we going to give these rights because they want them? The public is not ready for this.

(28 January 2008, http://www.milliyet.com.tr/2008/01/28/siyaset/asiy.html)

(more…)