LGBTI Activism in Turkey

Kaos GL: 5 LGBTI activists arrested for different reasons in April

5 LGBTI activists from Diyarbakır, Istanbul, and Izmir who carried out the “No” campaign against the constitutional change that was voted upon on April 16 and who protested the questionable outcome of the referendum were arrested for different reasons.

Source: “Nisan ayında 5 LGBTİ aktivisti farklı gerekçelerle tutuklandı” (“5 LGBTI activists arrested for different reasons in April”), Kaos GL, 25 April 2017, http://www.kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=23611

The referendum on constitutional changes has been voted upon but human rights violations have not stopped. Detentions and arrests directed at those who carried out the “No” campaign throughout the referendum period and pressure towards those who have brought attention to the possibility of a questionable outcome in the referendum and taken to the streets are ongoing.

LGBTI activists are also among those protesting the referendum results and the Supreme Electoral Council’s decision to count unsealed ballots as valid. Some were detained upon taking to the streets to draw attention to the irregularities of the referendum.

Istanbul: Two arrests on allegations of insulting the president

LGBTI activist Çağla was detained at a “No” demonstration organized on the evening of April 18 in Istanbul’s Beşiktaş district. On April 22, she was arrested. Attorney Rozerin Seda Kip from SPoD LGBTI visited Çağla in prison. She reported what Çağla experienced to KaosGL.org as follows:

“She was arrested while the demonstration was still going on with the justification of insulting the president. She was the only person taken out of the group. There is no evidence to show that she carried out the crime of defamation in the police reports or file. While she was detained, an additional detention period was requested as part of the state of emergency. Ultimately she was arrested. We will object to this decision.”

Additionally, LGBTI+ [community] member and activist Nakka, who carried out the “No” campaign in Istanbul before the referendum, was detained with an accusation of insulting the president and was later arrested.

Izmir: Detention and arrest following referendum protest

Two LGBTI activists who joined a protest in Izmir following the referendum were also arrested with the allegation of insulting the president. Red Ocean LGBTI and Positive Resistance (Kızıl Okyanus LGBTİ ve Pozitif Direniş) member Asya Gökalp and an activist friend from Positive Resistance were detained in a dawn operation following the demonstration. Both were arrested.

Diyarbakır: Detention and arrest before the referendum

LGBTI activist Loren was arrested on April 13, being among those detained on April 4 in an operation directed at members of the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (Ezilenlerin Sosyalist Partisi, ESP) who carried out the “No” campaign in Diyarbakır.

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.

We Dispersed on Every Street for the 14th Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride March

On Sunday, 26 June we “dispersed” everywhere on Istiklal Avenue against the Istanbul Governor’s Office’s ban on 19 June Trans Pride March and Istanbul LGBT+ Pride March and press statement. Our press statement was read on numerous streets, our rainbow flag hung on buildings, the streets undulating. Among those who read our press statement was also Terry Reintke, Member of European Parliament.

From time to time, the police intervened on our friends dispersed around various corners of Istiklal Avenue with tear gas and detained 29 people. All of our friends who were detained have been released.

You can watch the press statement read throughout the day here.

Our Press Statement:

Make noise, shout, and scream wherever you are, wherever you are organized! #wedisperse #dağılıyoruz

The reason why we are reading this press statement today is because the 14th Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride March has been banned.

Pride Marches are among the biggest, multi-voiced, and mass demonstrations that this country has witnessed. In our marches, we stand up to this dark time that is our share in world history, with our love and desire. We hold those who seize our labor accountable, we take our destiny into our hands, we dream our own future. We defend peace instead of war, courage instead of fear, and all who are oppressed. We show that a different world, sexuality, body, and life is possible. Those who banned our march used “society’s sensitivities” as an excuse. But what’s being guarded is not society’s but the government’s sensitivities. Society is none other than us. What’s being banned is our attempt to voice our longing to exist as proud people of this world, our demands, peace, justice, and equality. Banning our march is an unsuccessful attempt to silence our voices.

Unsuccessful because the pride of our existence grows with every oppression. We proudly own all the insults they throw at us to hurt us. We are expanding our limited spaces with solidarity. We are leading a revolution on every street we walk, on every work day, every house, every love and every act of lovemaking. We are killed and reborn in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Antep, Diyarbakir, Mexico, Bangladesh, and Orlando. We will always exist, shout out our existence, and always be proud of our existence.

We are not marching today but we just started marching [forwards]. The sound of our slogans is in our ears, the colors of the rainbow are with us, the scent of freedom is in our noses. We are on this path to demand more than tolerance and permits. We are continually strengthening our resistance everywhere to demand that our personal, political, and social rights are guaranteed; that sexual orientation and gender identity are included in the constitution; and that the reality of the LGBTI+ movement as a political participant is recognized.

We are dispersing, we are stronger, bigger, and louder. They are right to be afraid of us because we are uniting, growing, and marching.

 

Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Committee Statement: We are Dispersing!

Last year, police attacked Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride March and this year, the Istanbul Governor’s Office has banned it in its 14th year. Trans Pride March, realized in safety in 2015, was stopped by the police after the ban this year.

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Due to these developments, as the 24th LGBTI+ Pride Week Committee, we submitted an application to the Istanbul Governor’s Office to hold a press statement on 26 June at 17:00 in Tünel Square. However, we received the response that it was “not approved”. The Governor’s Office has chosen to violate the “Law on Meetings and Demonstration Marches” guaranteed by the Constitution as a democratic right instead of protecting us against the threats that it has put forth as grounds for the ban.

We are announcing, with sadness, that we will not be able to hold the 14th Pride March. But our confidence in ourselves, our horizon, and our dreams are much bigger than a march, Istiklal Avenue, this city, and this country.  Our fight for existence goes beyond yesterday, today, and the future because we were here, we are here, and we will be here.

Our popular Pride Marches, held for 12 years with great joy, are a space where we celebrate our existence, our persistence to live a proud life, and our exponentially growing organized movement. They influence not only LGBTI+ individuals’ lives but everyone. Pride March allows humanity to dream: If this world were different, what kind of people would we be? What would we wear, desire, do, say? What would the streets of this city look like? If we organized with love, what could tear us apart from each other? If we held our bodies, work, and future in our own hands, what would happen? The ban on Pride March is an effort not only to stop us from leading dignified lives but also to stop us from dreaming of this world.

Police forces have told the people attempting to read a press statement during Trans Pride March to voice their legal and political demands: “Please disperse and allow life to go back to its normal course”. We are obeying this call: On Sunday, 26 June we will disperse to every single corner of Istiklal Avenue, we are reuniting with each other on every street and avenue in Beyoğlu. Instead of living a life that is imposed on, a life that normalizes violence, oppression, and denial; we are living the life we chose, the life in which we exist with pride and honor and we are “Letting life go back to its ‘normal’ course” by:

DISPERSING, DISPERSING, DISPERSING

Source: https://www.facebook.com/prideistanbul/posts/928571397270474

Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Committee Files Criminal Complaint Against Hate Speech Groups and Applies to Overturn Governor’s Ban on Pride March

Dear Members of the Press,

On June 20, at Çağlayan Courthouse at 11:00, we filed a criminal complaint against groups such as Muslim Anatolian Youth, Alperen Hearths Foundation, Tembihname, Özgür-Der, and the Greater Union Party (BBP) for their hate speech and threatening statements that targeted us. Since we do not have a legal personality as the Pride Week Committee, we filed the complaint as individual members of the committee and the Lambdaistanbul Association.

Lawyer and activist Levent Pişkin spoke on behalf of the Pride Week Committee and stated:

“We think that prosecutors, especially press prosecutors, should start an investigation on the matter on its own initiative as there is more than one type of crime. The declarations include offenses such as targeting LGBTI+s, instigating crime, discrimination, instigating the public to rage and animosity, insult and obstruction of democratic rights. The governorate’s ban against the march, using these threats as an excuse, is not only against European Court of Human Rights jurisprudence and international conventions but also national laws and the the constitution. We will file the criminal complaint and follow up. We will continue our struggle and stand up for our rights against those who target the LGBTI+s, deem them deserving of death and instigate hate.

Against the decision of the governorate, we will open a lawsuit today (June 20) at the Administrative Court with an urgent request demanding a stay in the execution of the decision of banning next week’s march. We hope that there will be a verdict to stop the execution without further ado. There are similar cases in ECtHR cases regarding Georgia and Russia. There were also threats by certain faith groups against the LGBTI+, governorate bans against marches in these cases, and police attacks against LGBTI+s, which we have also attached these cases on our complaint.”

Anyone who wishes to can sign the complaint and submit it to the prosecutor’s offices.

Last week, Istanbul LGBTI Association and Human Rights Association filed another criminal complaint against these groups.

You can find the criminal complaint below.

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33 MP candidates signed the LGBTI Rights Pledge

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

33 MP candidates signed the LGBTI Rights Pledge

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

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

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LGBTI organizations assessed 2014 for the Rainbow

Representatives from LGBTI associations assessed 2014 for the movement against homophobia and transphobia.

Source: “LGBTI örgütleri gökkuşağının 2014’ünü değerlendirdi”, (“LGBTI organizations assessed 2014 for the Rainbow”), Kaos GL, January 20, 2015, http://www.kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=18531 

Representatives from LGBTI organizations [from various cities in Turkey] assessed the year 2014 for LGBTI people at an Advisory Committee meeting organized by the Pink Life Association for “The Rainbow Coalition Against Discrimination,” a project run jointly by Kaos GL and Pink Life.

“LGBTI movement spread locally in 2014”

Evren Çakmak, Kaos GL: It is easy to define 2014 as the post-Gezi year. 2014 is a very important year for the LGBTI movement. We have seen developments on all topics and fields we have been working on. 13 new LGBTI initiatives have begun. Geographically, the movement has spread to the local levels. Various communication channels have been established among local organizations. The energy that was formed last year seems to be tilting towards institutionalization in the second half of 2014, in the summer and beyond.

Tuna Şahin, Mersin 7Renk [Mersin 7 Colors]: 2014 was a year that the LGBTI movement gained strength in the local context of Mersin province. There were positive ramifications of the work on local governance. The violence and discrimination faced by trans women since 1992 was invisible. In 2014 we succeeded in making visible the transphobic violence we face. The visibility of attacks and police violence against members of our association, and of gang formation in our community has deterred gang formation today. For our friends working in the Yenişehir region, the visibility of violence has prevented more violence. Cops are not as violent as they used to be. Fines and penalties levied as a result of Misdemeanor Law have almost come to an end. The work we have been doing with the Platform Against Discrimination in the local context of Mersin has strengthened our ties to civil society. It helped us build ties to the women’s movement and the human rights movement. We are able to act in unison with the Mersin Platform Against Discrimination which consists of 26 NGOs. Our connection to the Rainbow Coalition Against Coalition also has positive ramifications in Mersin.

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LGBTI News Turkey looking for new volunteers for translation project

Source: Ömer Akpınar, “LGBTI News Turkey looking for new volunteers for translation project”, kaosGL.org, 15 January 2015, http://kaosgl.org/page.php?id=18506

LGBTI News Turkey is a group that first started after the Gezi Park Protests to tell the world about LGBTI issues in Turkey. The group is looking for new volunteers to help their translation work develop. Some of the volunteers of LGBTI News Turkey told kaosGL.org the story behind LGBTI News Turkey and their goals.

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LGBTI News Turkey is a group that first started after the Gezi Protests to tell the world about what’s happening to LGBTI in Turkey. Can you tell us what you have done since August 2013? What do you remember the most?

Zeynep: I think many people felt the need and urgency to do something during and after the protests to be an active member and citizen of this country. Our project was part of this impetus and the thought was to put all this information out there. We first organized around Lambdaistanbul. But I don’t think we are confined to the Gezi movement but are part of the larger global LGBTI and human rights movement. Since August 2013, we translated more than 340 sources and reached more than 50.000 readers from 159 countries. This means that all these people all over the world know something about LGBTI rights in Turkey.

zeynep

Zeynep

Elizabeth: For me there are two sets of work that remain prominent; the case of Ekogenç in Van and freedom of association, because their aims tie so much with my personal politics, and overshadowing this are the deaths. So many of our community have effectively been disappeared because of how society has treated them. Those that remain clearest are the suicides; there is much sorrow and privilege in presenting someone’s life to the world, to clearly show their final message to those they left behind is vitally important, my heart breaks every time yet, to honour, them it is worth it.

Artis: I joined the team recently and I don’t know the full history of this work. For now, I have translated a few articles but what affected me the most was an interview with a trans inmate. What hurts me the most as a gay man or despite the fact that I am a gay man is the situation of trans individuals in Turkey.

Artis

Artis

Translating LGBTI news into English has found a great use in international reporting. Can you talk about the UPR process and other reporting processes you are involved in? How does documenting and sharing what we live provide opportunities for rights advocacy? 

Elizabeth: I have long been a believer that it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. There are times when it feels as if this is all we are doing, and they are incredibly frustrating. Then, every now and then, people see that light. This is why we shout in the darkness, so that people will hear. If we don’t do this work we will never find allies; it is only through spreading the truth that anyone will know what we face here. Hopefully the truth will make people angry enough to question society, to put pressure on national and international bodies to discuss queer issues and LGBTI rights.

elizabeth

Elizabeth

Zeynep: Translating sources into English has the immediate effect of being useful to global LGBTI and human rights advocacy. Our sources are used for the documentation of rights violations by several organizations including ILGA and IGLHRC. For me, the most stimulating part has been using our sources for the human rights mechanisms in the United Nations. With Kaos GL, we co-authored the LGBTI submission for the Universal Periodic Review and went to the UN in Geneva to lobby diplomats from Turkey and other countries to create an open dialogue on LGBTI rights in Turkey. The strength of the LGBTI movement, its information production and our translations made this possible. I’m really proud of our work. 

Can you talk about the need for new volunteers? What kind of people are you looking for? What do you aim to do?

Artis: There is so much to do in this field. I like translating for LGBTI News Turkey because I am interested in Turkey, the Turkish language, and LGBTI rights. I think for someone to undertake this volunteer work, they should be interested in LGBTI rights, Turkey, and translating. 

Yağmur: We always need more volunteers. We need people who think that it’s worthwhile to work on translating or editing LGBT related articles when they have some time off from their work. We are a direct translation group, meaning that we don’t modify the pieces that we work on at all, save for factual corrections we present in footnotes. On the other hand, it’s important for our volunteers to understand that each act of translation is in fact a claim to represent. It is impossible to carry out translations without abiding by certain usages and habits that are ingrained in the languages you engage with. In our work, we confront this often through the issue of choosing gender pronouns. There are some linguistic and translational choices which impact the subject matter of the LGBT cause qualitatively. Therefore, we need volunteers who are willing to consider the reflections and refractions of their linguistic choices as they translate. 

Elizabeth: From an editor’s point of view I’d like to say linguistically talented ones. But, joking aside, I think we need people with passion and commitment; people who know it won’t always be easy to make others see how important it is or deal with the sadness that comes from the work, yet despite this believe we have to keep hoping and fighting.

Zeynep: But as a starting point, we need advanced Turkish-English language skills and we continuously discuss the nature of our work. This discussion has allowed us to reach what Yağmur has explained. It’s great when our editors are native English speakers. We also need social media volunteers to tweet and post on Facebook. Volunteer work can often lead to burnout and we all need time to turn our brains off. A big enough group would allow us to keep the project sustainable.

Is there anything you want to focus on for 2015? Any specific areas or international documentation, etc?

Yağmur: I think that it is very important to translate documents that reveal rights violations and demonstrate how LGBTs in Turkey are exposed to structural violence. In addition to this, I would like to highlight the significance of translating essays, letters or memoirs that allow us hear the voices of LGBTs themselves. The LGBT movement continues to progress both internationally and in Turkey. As such, this cause acquires a position with a potential claim to represent millions of individuals and agendas. However, what we may term in general as “LGBT rights” involves many social cleavages based on culture, region, religion, sect, sex and politics. I think we ought to discover how these cleavages may impact or modify activism both in terms of sensibly and sensitively engaging with the issue of representation/power and in terms of strengthening the movement itself. I believe that it is through listening to and translating LGBT voices that we may reach these social cleavages.

yagmur

Yağmur

Zeynep: Conducting our own interviews, authoring our own stories. It’s great to translate the excellent work of journalists and activists but we are definitely capable of creating our own sources.

Elizabeth: Perhaps gender and its intersections?  For major projects we need to get together and talk about them; it would be nice to have some larger background projects in addition to news articles. I’d like us to find some happy stories.

Artis: I’d be interested in knowing more about LGBTI initiatives in Turkey and how they work to change perceptions. Second, what is being done to expand employment opportunities for LGBTIs? F    inally, I am interested in the intersection of religion and LGBTI in Turkey; how do Sunni and Alawite LGBTIs understand and live their religion? Is it possible to create more tolerance and if so, how is it being done?

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Ekogenç’s closure case ends: work in the area of sexual orientation is not “contrary to morality”

Source: Ömer Akpınar, “Ekogenç’in kapatma davası sona erdi: Cinsel yönelim çalışmaları “ahlâka aykırı” değil!” (“Ekogenç’s closure case comes to an end: work in the area of sexual orientation is not ‘contrary to morality’!”) Kaos GL, 19 December 2014, http://www.kaosgl.com/sayfa.php?id=18298

The case concerning the closure of Ekogenç, which was initiated because the expression “sexual orientation” occurs in its charter, and because it did not adopt an organizational model based on hierarchy, has concluded. The court has ruled that it is not “contrary to morality” for Ekogenç to be active in the area of sexual orientation.

Work in the area of sexual orientation is not “contrary to law and morality”

The fourth session of the closure case, initiated by the Van Governor’s Office against the Ekogenç Youth and Ecology Association, was held today at Van’s Fifth Civil Court of First Instance. The court ruled that Ekogenç’s activity in the area of sexual orientation does not conflict with the expression “no association may be established with aims that are contrary to law and morality,” stated in the 56th Article of the Turkish Civil Code.

In the previous session of the case held last month, the court, stating that there was a “formal flaw” in Ekogenç’s charter, had granted an extension until today’s session and accepted the İzmir Black Pink Triangle Association’s request to participate as a joint plaintiff.

The court accepted LGBTI organizations as joint plaintiffs

In today’s session the case was concluded after the necessary correction in the charter was made. The court also accepted the Kaos GL Association’s lawyer Hayriye Kara’s application to participate. Kara recalled that in 2005, when the Kaos GL Association was founded, the association was involved in a closure request because of its area of work, yet the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office did not initiate a lawsuit against the association.

“Organizing is freedom”

After the trial, Ekogenç made a press statement, saying that “the ruling supported a democratic, participatory, horizontal organizational model.” Explaining that the Van Governor’s Office’s claim of immorality had been answered, and that the ruling had occasioned a re-examination of the concept of morality, Ekogenç said that “organizing is freedom.”

The Black Pink Triangle İzmir Association, the Kaos GL Association, the Left-wing Law Association, the Life Woman Environment Culture and Business Cooperative (YAKA-KOOP), the Van Women’s Association, Hêvî LGBTI, and Ahtamara LGBTI Wan were signatories to the statement.

Elif İnce: A History of Turkey’s LGBTI Movement in the 1990s

Despite the raids and evacuations of trans homes in Cihangir and torture in police custody, the LGBTI in Turkey became organized during the 1990s. Lambdaistanbul and Kaos GL associations were founded after the police dispersed the 1993 Pride Parade and the first LGBTI publications appeared.

Source: Elif İnce, “LGBTİ: Kaldırımın Altından Gökkuşağı Çıkıyor”, (“LGBTI: The Rainbow is Peaking Out from the Pavement”), bianet, 8 December 2014, http://bianet.org/bianet/lgbti/160544-lgbti-kaldirimin-altindan-gokkusagi-cikiyor

The 1990s were the years when the LGBTI movement started to organize as a social movement against police violence. Despite the raids on homes and nightclubs and the days-long torture in police custody, these years witnessed the foundation of the Lambdaistanbul and Kaos GL associations, the LGBTI organizations in universities, and the first LGBTI publications.

The first Pride Parade named “Sexual Freedom Events” in 1993 in Beyoğlu was blocked by the police based on the governor’s ban. Activists’ houses were raided and they were taken into custody. Participants from abroad were deported. The first pride parade was held ten years later in 2003 and was attended by 40 people. In the last pride parade, 2014, tens of thousands marched.

Gays, Feminists, Greens

The oppressive environment of the 1980 military coup led to the weakening of mainstream leftist groups. Those who could not previously find a place for themselves in these movements began to have their voice heard. In 1997, the Kaos GL Association submitted a statement to be published in Radikal İki, a Sunday issue of a liberal daily Turkish newspaper (now only online). The statement read as follows:

“Transvestites, transsexuals, feminine gays also experienced the oppression of the 1980 coup. Things were ignored and it was a time of every man for himself. When we tried to make a little bit of noise, our voice was drowned among those endless hierarchies. They’d say “not now; there are bigger urgencies”… In the 1980s, there were similar reactions from many different groups to voices that people were not used to, voices they had not heard before. Gays, feminists, greens… Where the hell did they come from?”

In the mid-1980s, the Radical Democrat Green Party Initiative was founded under İbrahim Eren’s leadership. Greens, feminists, atheists, anti-militarists, as well as gay and trans individuals started to organize within this initiative. The party declared its support for gay rights. Eren observed that gays became the largest group within the party and the party was dubbed the “party of the gays”. In 1998, trans activist Demet Demir said, “the group was called the gay group but the majority were trans.”

Sevda Yılmaz, who wrote under the pen-name of Ali Kemal Yılmaz, tells the story of a hunger strike that began on 29 April 1987 to protest the systemic violence and oppression of gay and trans individuals at the hands of the Beyoğlu Police Department. The Radical Democrat Green Party Initiative supported the strike.

The strike which began in a house in Taksim moved to the stairs of Gezi Park on 30 April and was dispersed by the police. The strike continued in different houses for a couple of weeks. Yılmaz was the spokesperson for the strike, which found coverage in international press and drew the support of important artists such as Türkan Şoray, Rıfat Ilgaz and Barış Pirhasan.

This hunger strike is remembered as the first large-scale LGBTI protest before the 1990s.

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Who will defend the LGBT organization in Kurdistan?

Source: Müjde Tozbey Erden, “Kürdistan’da LGBT derneğini kim savunacak?” (“Who will defend the LGBT organization in Kurdistan?”) Sol Portal, 19 September 2014, http://haber.sol.org.tr/yazarlar/mujde-tozbey-erden/kurdistanda-lgbt-dernegini-kim-savunacak-97415

[The Van Attorney General’s Office has moved to disband the Van Youth and Ecology Association (Van Gençlik ve Ekoloji Derneği) on the grounds that the Association’s bylaw to “support sexual orientation” is against morality as determined by the Article 56 of the Turkish Civil Code.]

[Update: The court has ruled that it is not “contrary to morality” for Ekogenç to be active in the area of sexual orientation.]

You might have heard of the establishment of the Van Youth and Ecology Association [Van Gençlik ve Ekoloji Derneği] in our region. “What does this Association do?” you may have asked. The association works on several matters, but one of its primary goals is to lend support to individuals regarding their sexual orientations.

According to Article 2 of the Association’s code, “The Association may form alliances with, become a member of, work in solidarity with, and provide financial and moral support to local, national, and international and cultural and academic associations and/or associations working in the fields of women, refugee, asylum seeker, ecology, humanity, youth, children, sexual orientation as it sees fit by following relevant legal procedures.” [sic] Under the “Activities” heading, the code states that “The Association pursues activities in the fields of life, organic agriculture, climate change, rural development, education, culture, social politics, art, gender, discrimination, poverty, refugee, asylum-seeker, youth, children, the disabled, sexual orientation.” [sic]

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President Erdoğan Sues Pişkin for Damages Worth 50 Thousand TL

Source: Yıldız Tar, “Erdoğan’dan Pişkin’e 50 bin liralık tazminat davası!” (“Erdoğan Sues Pişkin for Damages Worth 50 Thousand TL”) KaosGL.org, 29 August 2014, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=17425

President Erdoğan files a new lawsuit against Levent Pişkin, an LGBTI activist, for a tweet Pişkin had made and demands 50,000 TL (23,155 USD) in damages.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has filed a new lawsuit against LGBTI activist Levent Pişkin for a tweet he had made and demanded damages worth 50,000 TL (23,155 USD). This is the second time Erdoğan has filed a suit against an LGBTI activist over a tweet.

The verdict of the last case, in which Pişkin was sentenced to pay 1,500 TL (695 USD) in damages was cited as evidence.

Press Releases made in support of Pişkin also targeted

The new case also targeted press statements made in support for Levent Pişkin. In the filing, Erdoğan’s lawyers wrote, “The whole incident was deliberately misrepresented. The defendant continues to cross the line and grossly insult the acting Prime Minister.”

In the notification document sent to Pişkin, Erdoğan’s lawyers argued that “Erdoğan’s honor, dignity and reputation were damaged,” with the damage estimated at 50,000 TL.

“A fag* myself, I would never use the word ‘fag’ as an insult”

Pişkin, in his previous comments to KaosGL.org, had stressed that  ‘fag’ is a word that has been reclaimed by LGBTI people. LGBTI solidarity organizations had responded to the case by saying “The case against the use of the word ’fag’ has been filed against all of us. Homosexuality/Faggotry is not an insult, but a sexual orientation.”

What prompted the case?

Levent Pişkin had tweeted, “The next declaration I am expecting from Erdoğan is, ‘I am a perfect fag. Obviously I will not learn how to be a fag from you.’ Kisses #LGBTIintheConstitution.*” Prime Minister Erdoğan had then attacked Pişkin through the media. Levent Pişkin had, in turn, filed a criminal complaint against the Prime Minister for insulting his sexual orientation.

Presiding judge removed from the case

While Pişkin’s complaint was not processed, Erdoğan’s action had resulted in the sentencing of Pişkin for libel (125/2) to two months and fifteen days of incarceration, later converted to a 1,500 TL fine.

The first judge appointed for the case had told Pişkin at the first hearing, “Do not be afraid, we are the judges of the December 17th case.** Feel free to tell the truth.” The second hearing, originally scheduled for March 25, was postponed, the original judge removed from the case, and a new judge appointed.

*#AnayasadaLGBTI

**Referring to the corruption allegations raised against Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, then the Prime Minister of Turkey, and circles close to him on and after 17 December 2013. 

Translators Note:

*The Turkish term ibne is originally derived from the Arabic word “boy” and is widely used today as a derogatory slang for gay men. The Turkish Language Institute Dictionary defines ibne as “a passive homosexual man” and “a word said in anger.” The term is being reclaimed by many in the LGBTI movement in Turkey. In this sense, ibne’s current connotations lie somewhere between the American English terms “fag” and “queer.” In this translation “fag” is used to stand for ibne, and “faggotry” for ibnelik, the state of being an ibne.

‘Marginal’ debate in the Peoples’ Democratic Party and the LGBTI community

Source: Barış Avşar, “HDP’de ‘marjinal’ tartışması: LGBTİ zaten hiç sorgusuz sualsiz kabul edilmedi ki”, (“‘Marginal’ debate in the Peoples’ Democratic Party: as a matter of fact, the LGBTI community has never been implicitly, unquestioningly accepted”), Radikal, 26 August 2014, http://www.radikal.com.tr/politika/hdpde_marjinal_tartismasi_lgbti_zaten_hic_sorgusuz_sualsiz_kabul_edilmedi_ki-1209120

‘The debate about the Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) avoidance of marginalized persons’ continues with evaluations from well-known names such as Member of Parliament Ertuğrul Kürkçü, after statements made by Cemil Bayık, leader of the the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. Party member and LGBTI activist Mehmet Tarhan, however, draws attention to a ‘mishap’ in the debate.

After the interview that PKK leader Cemil Bayık gave to Vatan newspaper writer Ruşen Çakır last week, the most salient statement [he made] referring to the HDP was, “It could become Turkey’s greatest opposition force. It needs to avoid certain marginal political positions. For instance, there is a group in Beyoğlu… I do not wish to give their name. In any case, people know who I mean.”

Following this statement, it has been alleged, especially in social media, that the group referred to is the LGBTI movement within the party. Ertuğrul Kürkçü, one of the founding leaders of the party and deputy for Mersin, has made comments on the matter, stating that the HDP should not be engaged in efforts to distance itself from marginal political positions.

We asked Mehmet Tarhan, one of the HDP’s LGBTI activists, what his thoughts about the debate were.

How do you assess the fact that such a debate has made it to the top of the agenda?

First of all, one needs to ask what the issue is, because from the point of view of the LGBTI movement, the point in question has never been ‘being accepted without question.’ The HDP is a party that came into being as a result of the efforts of various opposition movements to form a more effective opposition. Various conflicts are bound to occur in any party that consists of such diverse segments.  We are no exception to this. That controversy could be related to both class and ethnicity…

Could the point in question be an approach where the HDP, as a ‘union of oppositions,’ will, at certain periods, in a tactical sense, give prominence to some of these; as, for example, when a struggle is taking place against ISIL, LGBTI demands will be held back?

The LGBTI movement naturally developed in big cities, but from the nineties even up to this point it has had a relationship with the Kurdish movement. Nevertheless, it is natural to encounter difficulties. Within the Kurdish movement, even the women’s movement encountered resistance as it was gaining strength. Moreover, yes: from time to time, certain political alliances come to the fore. On the other hand, the LGBTI movement is not interested solely on LGBTI rights demands. The demands of other identities, and of those who are oppressed because of [sic] these identities, have been, and will continue to be, on our agenda as well.

In that case, in your view, how should a debate like this be conducted?

These debates should certainly be carried on within the party, and they should be followed by the party members as well. But while the debate is going on, one must not ignore the party’s official position and statements with regard to the LGBT issue [sic], as happened in this latest mishap. When I say mishap, I am referring not to Cemil Bayık’s statement, but to what was subsequently expressed in the course of the debates taking place on Twitter.

 

Homosexual AKP supporters displayed a flag in front of Erdoğan

Source: “AKP’li eşcinseller Erdoğan’ın önünde bayrak açtı”, (“Homosexual AKP supporters displayed a flag in front of Erdoğan”) Radikal, 4 August 2014, http://www.radikal.com.tr/politika/akpli_escinseller_bayrak_acti-1204925/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=trafik

The group named “The LGBTI of the AK Party” attended Erdoğan’s Maltepe rally. The group displayed a rainbow flag at the rally site and in front of the podium.

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The AK Party’s LGBT partisans attended presidential candidate and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s rally for the first time yesterday in Maltepe and they displayed a flag. The group shared photos from the rally on their AK LGBTI Twitter account with the note, “HOMOSEXUALS STAND BESIDE TAYYİP ERDOĞAN. WE ARE AT RALLIES. GET USED TO IT, WE ARE EVERYWHERE.” One user tweeted the following, “I waved the rainbow flag at the very front. Our Prime Minister probably saw it too.” The photographs received supportive comments but there was a hostile message too, which read, “My brothers in the AK Party, put your foot down against this ridicule.”

Before the rally, representatives from the group spoke to Milliyet’s Damla Yur and explained that they had support from the party administration.

The news story entitled “There are active AK Party members in our group” reads as follows:

The first time we saw the rainbow flag next to AK Party members was during the opening ceremony of the Istanbul-Ankara High Speed Railway where Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was also in attendance. The former Minister of State Responsible for Women and Family Affairs, AK Party deputy Selma Aliye Kavaf had declared once that “[she thought] homosexuality was a disease that needed to be cured.”

The AK Party’s Afyon Deputy Halil Ürün had asked, “What is LGBT? I have no idea. How should I know about it? We are ignorant about these issues.” The goal of the AK Party’s LGBTI members is to change the negative perceptions of right wing and conservative sectors against LGBTI people. The group entitled “The LGBTI of the AK Party,” founded on 30 March, already has 937 followers on social media. Three hundred of these followers are assumed to be AK Party members but only 11 people attended the initial meeting.

Some Active Party Members

One of the founders of the group, Kerem, shared the group’s goals with Milliyet. Kerem explains that they aim to make sure that the heterosexual sectors understand how there are LGBTI individuals who vote for the AK Party. It is for this reason that they decided to get together and become visible. Kerem has previously worked in AK Party organizations and states that they are able to reach people through social media. Kerem says that there are several AK Party members who came out with their sexual orientations:

“There are some very active party members in our group. An AK Party affiliated mayor sent us a congratulatory message when we first founded our group. We are not only in touch with AK Party. We have also received support from the LISTAG (Families of LGBTs in Istanbul) Family Group, Hevi LGBT, the Istanbul LGBTT Solidarity Association and other LGBTI groups.

“I have been hurt”

“As a homosexual person who votes for the AK Party, I have at times been very hurt and saddened by the declarations of the AK Party deputies. Our goal is to change the perceptions of right leaning and conservative sectors that have similar thoughts. Every political party may include people who think negatively of LGBTI individuals and there are LGBTI-phobic people among conservatives too. But this does not mean that all hate crimes are committed by conservatives. It would not be right to associate the hate crimes with a single party.”

 

 

Constitutional Court of Turkey: Referring to gays as “perverts” is hate speech

Source: Yıldız Tar, “Constitutional Court of Turkey: Referring to gays as “perverts” is hate speech”, 17 July 2014, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=17105

For the first time, hate speech on the ground of sexual orientation is among rulings of the Constitutional Court. The Court acknowledged that calling gays “perverts” is hate speech. The decision can be seen here in Turkish. 

Attorney Sinem Hun’s application to the Constitutional Court of Turkey about a news article that appeared on the website Habervaktim.com, which involved hate speech referring both to her and to the Kaos GL Association, has come to a conclusion.

The Constitutional Court declared that the article stating, “Sinem Hun who is registered with the Ankara Bar Association and is the lawyer of the association of the perverts called Kaos GL” on Habervaktim.com is indeed hate speech on the ground of sexual orientation but ruled that it actually takes aim at the association and not at the applicant. Hereby, this is the first time hate speech on the ground of sexual orientation has been acknowledged by the Constitutional Court.

Not an assault on honor and dignity!

The Court, in order to protect the material and moral rights of Sinem Hun, decided that it is acceptable that Hun’s right to protect her honor and dignity has been violated but that her right to respect for her honor and dignity has not been broken.

The Constitutional Court supported its decision by claiming that “Unless there is a call for violence or hate speech that might damage pluralistic democracy and might even destroy it, punishment which limits individuals’ freedom should be avoided”.

As the Court investigates Habervaktim.com’s article named “Zionist Servants Again Attack with Terror” they concluded that it did not include any hate speech regarding Sinem Hun.

Hun claimed that the expression “lawyer of the perverts” is hate speech, that there is an assault on her honor and that Habervaktim.com continuously assaults gays with its articles and hate speech.

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