Sedef Çakmak, advisor to the mayor of Beşiktaş, and Boysan Yakar, advisor to the mayor of Şişli, are the first openly gay people to advance to these positions. Yakar made news when he was physically assaulted at the municipal building: “No one can kick us, LGBTI individuals, out of the municipality at this point.”
Source: Aydil Durgun, “Bu saatten sonra kimse bizi belediyeden atamaz” (“No one can kick us out of the municipality at this point”). Milliyet.com.tr, 17 January 2015, http://www.milliyet.com.tr/-bu-saatten-sonra-kimse-bizi/pazar/haberdetay/18.01.2015/2000113/default.htm
Sedef Çakmak and Boysan Yakar have been involved in the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex) struggle for years. I crossed paths with them for the first time before the Pride March in 2013. In the same year, I met with Boysan again; this time through the LGBTI Political Representation and Participation Platform that they launched before the local elections. In the elections, they had already started seeing the benefits of the platform. Boysan was a candidate for nomination as a city councilor for the district of Şişli, and Sedef, for Beşiktaş. Boysan made it to the reserve list and Sedef seemed to have made it all the way to the council, but it fell through, and she currently remains as the first reserve candidate. Throughout this lengthy process, Hayri İnönü, the mayor of Şişli, and Murat Hazinedar, the mayor of Beşiktaş, must have been so pleased with their work that they appointed them as their advisors.
Boysan and Sedef now hold the highest public office held by openly gay individuals in Turkey. This is a big achievement in a country like Turkey, and as they emphasize strongly, it is the result of a long fight for which they made big sacrifices.
I met with Boysan and Sedef to discuss what they have been doing since they assumed office. Boysan also talked for the first time about the physical assault he experienced at the municipal building.
It is clear why you would like to be in the political arena. But why did municipal governments and parties want to reach out to the LGBTI movement? Why now and not before?
Sedef Çakmak: Honestly, I believe that it has to do with our determination. We had been thinking genuinely that our party had to adopt LGBTI politics. To speak about CHP in particular, there have been a number of MPs in the recent past who advocated for LGBTI rights. They have paved the way for us. The party was able to think positively about LGBTI candidates thanks to the LGBTI discussions they introduced into the party’s agenda.
Boysan Yakar: There is something that both of us experienced. After our membership to the party went through, they told us about the displeasure of not having had dealt with this subject before.
Sedef Ç.: They said, “We should have come to you, not you to us.”
Boysan Y.: This is how politics works in Turkey: if you’re not there, your rights are not there either.