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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