People’s Democratic Party

Lawyers Levent Pişkin and Cahit Kırkazak released

Detained LGBTI activist and lawyer Levent Pişkin and lawyer Cahit Kırkazak have been released on conditions of judicial control and restrictions on travelling abroad.

Source: Kaos GL, “Lawyers Levent Pişkin and Cahit Kırkazak released”, Kaos GL, 17 November 2016, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=22515

Detained after their meetings with arrested Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, LGBTI activist and Lawyer Levent Pişkin and lawyer Cahit Kırkazak have been released on conditions of judicial review and restrictions on travelling abroad by the Criminal Court of Peace in Bursa Courthouse.

In the scope of the same trial, interrogation of 7 other detainees sent to the court for arrest is continuing.

According to Evrensel’s news, lawyer and HDP Istanbul Provincial Administrator Levent Pişkin was accused with the allegations of “organizing the act to lobby internationally against our country by publishing a note regarding the HDP co-chair Demirtas’ arrest in the German Der Spiegel magazine” during his interrogation by the police.

Levent Pişkin said the following in his statement:

On November 5, as the party (HDP) lawyers, we met with Demirtas and other imprisoned parliamentarians in Edirne, Silivri, and Kandira prisons. On November 6, we organized a news conference for national and international press in HDP’s Istanbul Provincial Headquarters to announce the results of the meetings. After this meeting, international journalists asked questions in English. As the only lawyer who spoke English, I answered their questions.

After the meeting, two people from the German Der Spiegel asked me if I can bring a handwritten note by Demirtas with a message about his condition. I told them that I would not be going to Edirne prison this week but that if there is another friend (who’d go), I could tell them to relay their request to Demirtas.

I told Mr. Cahit that a German magazine asked for a handwritten note from the president (Demirtas) and asked him if he could or could not relay this message to the president and if the president agreed on a handwritten note, whether he could or could not bring that message. That’s the content of the conversation. There is no lobbying activity with any German magazine. The event is purely that I spoke with Mr. Cahit because I was by chance the only person in the provincial building who spoke English.

What happened?

Representing arrested HDP Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş, attorney Levent Pişkin was taken into custody during a house raid in Istanbul at around 5 a.m. on November 14.

Before the detention, allegations took place in media outlets such as Takvim, Sabah, Ulusal Kanal (sourcing state-run Anadolu news agency) that Pişkin and Kırkazak would send Demirtaş’s messages to a magazine  in Germany to be used for propaganda.

A social media action with #LeventPişkinYalnızDeğildir hashtags, meaning #LeventPiskinIsNotAlone was started. Libertarian Lawyers’ Association (Özgürlükçü Hukukçular Derneği) where he’s a member, Center for Truth Justice Memory and Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week Committee made statements about his detention.

His alma mater Boğaziçi University and Solidarity Network with Arrested Students (Tutuklu Öğrencilerle Dayanışma Ağı) published messages of support for him.

His detention was also covered in the international media. The Paris Bar Association granted Pişkin honorary membership.

Turkey’s state-run news agency story on Lawyer Levent Piskin

A magazine in Germany asked for a message to Europe and Germany from the HDP’s Co-President Demirtas through a lawyer who would visit him in prison for the purposes of propaganda.

Source: Uğur Ulu, “Alman dergisi propaganda için Demirtaş’tan mesaj istemiş”, (“German magazine asked for a message from Demirtas for propaganda”), Anadolu Agency, 12 November 2016, http://aa.com.tr/tr/turkiye/alman-dergisi-propaganda-icin-demirtastan-mesaj-istemis/683979

It has been found that a magazine in Germany asked for a note from the HDP’s (Peoples’ Democratic Party) Co-President Selahattin Demirtas for propaganda in Europe and Germany.

According to information gathered by Anadolu Agency reporter, the Bursa Public Prosecutor’s Office ordered the detention of lawyer C.K. who has been tracked for a while in relation to the investigation on terror organization PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party).

C.K., a lawyer in Bursa, was detained by the Provincial Police Headquarters Anti-Terror Unit in the morning on Monday, 7 November.

It has been learned that C.K. was planning to visit the HDP’s Co-president Demirtas in Edirne F Type Prison where he has been imprisoned and that C.K. announced this to some administrators.

It has been recorded that lawyer L.P., who is an administrator in the HDP’s Istanbul district presidency, contacted C.K. upıon finding out that C.K. would visit Demirtas and informed him of the German magazine’s request.

It has been determined that the German magazine requested “a handwritten note by Demirtas, with a message addressing Europe and Germany.” for propaganda purposes.

LGBTI Activist Lawyer Levent Pişkin detained in Turkey

One of the attorneys of recently arrested HDP Co-Leader Selahattin Demirtaş was detained after being targeted by the pro-government media.

Editor’s Note: The co-leaders of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) were arrested along with eight other parliamentarians in November. HDP is the third largest party in Parliament with 59 elected lawmakers. The lawmakers were arrested on terror-related charges pending trial. Turkey’s government accuses the HDP of being the political wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decades-long insurgency against the state. The party rejects the accusation.

Source: “LGBTI Aktivisti Avukat Levent Pişkin Gözaltına Alındı” (LGBTI Activist Lawyer Leven Pişkin is detained), kaosgl.org, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=22488, November 14, 2016

Levent Pişkin, who is a lawyer, LGBTI activist and an HDP Istanbul administrator, had recently visited HDP Co-Leader Selahattin Demirtaş in prison and was detained early this morning.

leventpiskin1

Special operations police units arrived at Pişkin’s house in Kurtuluş, Istanbul around 05.00 a.m and confiscated some of Pişkin’s belongings from his room after detaining him.

Pişkin, a member of Libertarian Jurists Association (ÖHD), which is among the 370 associations ordered to halt their activities, is a renowned human rights advocate. ÖHD announced Pişkin’s detention on Twitter:

screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-13-11-20

Libertarian Jurists Association Istanbul Branch: “Our member, HDP Istanbul administrator Lawyer Leven Pişkin was detained during early morning, after being targeted by the pro-government media.”

Pişkin had visited his client Demirtaş as a lawyer and was targeted by Sabah daily (sourcing state-run Anadolu news agency) with the following statements:

It has been recorded that lawyer L.P., who is an administrator in the HDP’s Istanbul district presidency, contacted C.K. upıon finding out that C.K. would visit Demirtas and informed him of the German magazine’s request.

It has been determined that the German magazine requested “a handwritten note by Demirtas, with a message addressing Europe and Germany.” for propaganda purposes.

Levent Pişkin was detained by the orders of Bursa Public Prosecutor’s Office and is being taken to Bursa.

Lawyer C.K. was detained based on the same allegations on November 7 and was later released.

Lawyer Levent Pişkin also represents LGBTI associations and takes part in Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week Committee. He represents Istanbul Pride March and Pride Week.

List of LGBTI Rights Pledgers Chosen for Parliament in Turkey’s November 1 Elections

Source: “İşte Seçimde Meclise Giren LGBTİ Hakları Takipçişi Milletvekilleri” (“List of LGBTI Rights-Following Representatives Chosen for Parliament in Election”), Gzone, 2 November 2015, http://gzone.com.tr/iste-secimde-meclise-giren-lgbti-haklari-takipcisi-milletvekilleri/

LGBTI rights very rarely came to the forefront of the most recent election period. There were no openly identified LGBTI individuals on the candidate lists of any of the parties, but following yesterday’s election, there were some representatives chosen from among LGBTI rights-defending CHP and HDP representatives who had signed the LGBTI Rights Pledge.

As a result of the “LGBTIs in Parliament” campaign led by SPoD LGBTI with support from LGBTI activists from all over Turkey leading up to the June 7th 2015 general elections, 22 representatives from the CHP and HDP signed the LGBTI Rights Agreement upon being elected. After the November 1st repeat of the general election, 16 of these candidates were elected once again.

The full list of candidates as published by SPoD LGBTI is as follows:

  1. Aylin Nazlıaka CHP Ankara Representative
  2. Selin Sayek Böke CHP Izmir Representative
  3. Zeynep Altıok CHPIzmir Representative
  4. Musa Çam CHPIzmir Representative
  5. Oğuz Kaan Salıcı CHP Istanbul Representative
  6. İlhan Cihaner CHP Istanbul Representative
  7. Aykut Erdoğdu CHP Istanbul Representative
  8. Dursun Çiçek CHP Istanbul Representative
  9. Selina Doğan CHP Istanbul Representative
  10. Şafak Pavey CHP Istanbul Representative
  11. Enis Berberoğlu CHP Istanbul Representative
  12. Sezgin Tanrıkulu CHP Istanbul Representative
  13. Didem Engin CHP Istanbul Representative
  14. Erdal Ataş HDP Istanbul Representative
  15. Filiz Kerestecioğlu HDP Istanbul Representative
  16. Onursal Adıgüzel CHP Istanbul Representative

HDP’s Paylan submits Parliamentary Question to Minister of Interior on LGBTI activist Kemal Ördek, Discrimination, and Violence against LGBTI

Garo Paylan, a Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) member of parliament from Istanbul, asked Minister of Interior Sebahattin Öztürk about the attack against LGBTI activist Kemal Ördek.

Source: Bia Haber, “Garo Paylan’dan LGBTİ Aktivisti Kemal Ördek’e Saldırı Hakkında Soru Önergesi” (“Parliamentary Question on LGBTI Activist Kemal Ördek from Garo Paylan”), bianet.org, 15 July 2015, http://bianet.org/bianet/lgbti/166058-garo-paylan-dan-lgbti-aktivisti-kemal-ordek-e-saldiri-hakkinda-soru-onergesi

Garo Paylan, an HDP member of parliament from Istanbul, asked Minister of Interior Sebahattin Öztürk about the attack against LGBTI activist Kemal Ördek.

LGBTI activist Kemal Ördek was sexually assaulted on Sunday, 5 July, at their home in Ankara. In response to an officer’s comment, “Enough with this Tribe of Lot,” the assailants allegedly responded “We are real men, officer; you would understand, wouldn’t you?” and were subsequently released. Ördek spoke about the incident to bianet.

Following the attack, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Rupert Colville made written statements and called on Turkish authorities to take effective measures against homophobic and transphobic aggression and discrimination in a written statement. Republican People’s Party Members of Parliament Mahmut Tanal (Istanbul) and Veli Ağbaba (Malatya) introduced the issue to the parliament with parliamentary questions.

The parliamentary question that Garo Paylan submitted to the Minister of Interior Sebahattin Öztürk includes the following questions:

  • Is it correct that Kemal Ördek called the police for help, but was ignored and scolded by the police?
  • Is it correct that one officer commented, “Enough with the Tribe of Lot,” referring to Kemal Ördek, and that some other officers teased them due to their sexual identity?
  • Has an administrative investigation been started about the officers involved?
  • What is the number of similar attacks against LGBTI individuals between 2010-2015 according to official records?
  • How many LGBTI individuals lost their lives or sustained injuries as a result of similar attacks in the last five years?
  • What kinds of penalties have Directorate of Security employees received as a result of investigations conducted in this subject?

22 MPs in Turkey’s New Parliament Will Support LGBTI Rights

64 candidates for parliament signed SPoD LGBTI’s LGBTI Rights Pledge ahead of the elections and promised to protect LGBT rights. The number of pledgers are expected to increase. 22 of the pledgers have won seats in the Parliament.

The candidates below will be entering Turkey’s 25th Parliament. They have pledged to work for LGBTI rights in Turkey.

Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP)

  1. Asiye Kolçak, MP for Bursa from HDP
  2. Çilem Öz, MP for Mersin from HDP
  3. Erdal Ataş, MP for Istanbul from HDP
  4. Filiz Kerestecioğlu, MP for Istanbul from HDP
  5. Ali Haydar Konca, MP for Kocaeli from HDP
  6. Remzi Özgökçe, MP for Van from HDP
  7. Selami Özyaşar, MP for Van from HDP

Republican People’s Party (CHP)

  1. Oğuz Kaan Salıcı, MP for Istanbul from CHP
  2. İlhan Cihaner, MP for Istanbul from CHP
  3. Aykut Erdoğdu, MP for Istanbul from CHP
  4. Dursun Çiçek, MP for Istanbul from CHP
  5. Didem Engin, MP for Istanbul from CHP
  6. Sezgin Tanrıkulu, MP for Istanbul from CHP
  7. Şafak Pavey, MP for Istanbul from CHP
  8. Zeynep Altıok, MP for Izmir from CHP
  9. Musa Çam, MP for Izmir from CHP
  10. Selin Sayek Böke, MP for Izmir from CHP
  11. Selina Doğan, MP for Istanbul from CHP
  12. Enis Berberoğlu, MP for Istanbul from CHP
  13. Aylin Nazlıaka, MP for Ankara from CHP
  14. Onursal Adıgüzel, MP for Istanbul from CHP
  15. Özcan Purçu, MP for Izmir from CHP

Please see the full list of pledgers below.

(more…)

The Campaign Against Homosexuality in Turkey’s Elections

Only days before Turkey’s upcoming parliamentary elections, unknown gunmen shot at the campaign office of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in the early morning hours of June 2 in Eskisehir, a city in northwest Turkey. More than 100 attacks have been carried out against election offices of the HDP, a left-wing and pro-Kurdish party, during this campaign season, according to Dicle News Agency. [1] Though no one was hurt in the Eskisehir attack, the HDP’s openly gay candidate Baris Sulu, who runs his campaign from that office, left the city over safety concerns.

Sulu has been receiving threats since he declared his candidacy for the HDP nomination in February. A seasoned activist, Sulu says he joined the HDP because the party supported rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex (LGBTI) people even at its nascent stage as the Peoples’ Democratic Congress in 2011. Sulu’s candidacy is highly notable in a conservative country where prejudice and harassment against LGBTI people is a fact of daily life. The number of threats rose in April with his official nomination but the dramatic increase came in May when pro-government media outlets started targeting him.

Pro-government Sabah and Star daily newspapers have called Sulu’s campaign “vile propaganda,” criticizing his tweets such as “recognize our sexual orientation” and for wanting “people to react normally to men kissing.” [23] The Turkish daily newspaper Yeni Akit, infamous for its attacks on LGBTI people, published blurred photographs of Sulu and his partner kissing under the title “Immoral prostitution images of the HDP’s perverted candidate revealed!” [4] The article was quickly reposted by other media outlets and social media users, which escalated the online threats.

In Turkey, media attacks often go hand-in-hand with similar statements from elected officials. President Erdogan, who has led the campaign for the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) despite the fact that his position calls for neutrality, lambasted the HDP on May 28 at a meeting in Ankara. “We don’t nominate so-called religious scholars in Diyarbakir [a pre-dominantly Kurdish city in Turkey’s southeast] and homosexuals in Eskisehir,” Erdogan said in reference to what he sees as the HDP’s pandering to opposing sensitivities of different regions of the country. [5]

Following Erdogan’s statements, two parliamentary hopefuls from the AKP, in an effort to garner votes from religiously conservative Kurds, have criticized the HDP for nominating an openly gay candidate, arguing that homosexuality cannot be reconciled with Islam.

At a campaign stop in the southeastern province of Siirt, AKP candidate Yasin Aktay criticized the HDP’s nominations and said, “You are the child of a Muslim. The Kurds are Muslim and if there are, excuse me, 3 homosexuals on the list of Muslims who defend man’s marriage to man, then I will ask you ‘who are you?’” Aktay concluded that “it is impossible for Muslim society to affirm a man’s marriage to a man.” [6]

Former Interior Minister and AKP candidate Efkan Ala expressed fear that the HDP would give gays and lesbians “all sorts of rights” such as the recognition of same-sex marriages. Speaking to his “Kurdish brothers” on a Turkish news channel, Ala said, “We are against such things that our morality and our traditions reject.” He warned his listeners “the tribe of Lot was destroyed because of this; this is the destruction of humanity,” referring to the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, a trope often used against LGBT communities in the Muslim world. [7]

Sulu says that after each public speech, he has received threats on Twitter from AK trolls, supporters of the AKP who launch large-scale smear campaigns on social media. They called him a pervert “who will burn in hell.” He blocks at least 10 accounts every day, but “systematic swearing, insults, and threats continue to come to all of my social media accounts,” Sulu said.

Sulu believes that Erdogan’s statement in 2002 that “homosexuals must also be given legal protection for their rights and freedoms” was only to appear sympathetic to the EU. [8] Now at the brink of losing a significant number of parliamentary seats to the HDP, “all their hidden fears, all the times they were being disingenuous, are coming out to the surface,” in the shape of homophobia. President Erdogan confirmed this at a June 3 rally in the eastern province of Bingol, when he said, “The Armenian lobby, homosexuals and those who believe in ‘Alevism without Ali’ – all these representatives of sedition are [the HDP’s] benefactors.” [9]

Sulu is last on the list of 6 HDP candidates in Eskisehir and, thus, unlikely to be elected into office. However, the nomination of an openly gay man for parliament is highly notable in Turkey, where 87 percent of respondents to Bahcesehir University’s 2012 survey, “Turkish Values Atlas,” said they do not want gay neighbors. [10] Since 2010, 47 individuals have been killed due to their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. [11] In May alone there were 5 assaults on transgender individuals in Istanbul. [12]

The HDP’s nomination of an openly gay candidate has created campaign fodder for the AKP. While singling out Sulu could prove dangerous for the candidate, he remains hopeful. “If we as LGBTIs are taken so seriously, then we must be succeeding in our twenty year rights struggle,” Sulu said.

Zeynep Bilginsoy is a freelance journalist based in Istanbul. She’s also the founder and project manager of LGBTI News Turkey, an English translation resource on LGBTI issues in Turkey.