We compiled what has happened before and after the Governorship of Ankara’s “indefinite” LGBTI+ ban, the rights violations and reactions against the ban.
Source: “Yasaklı günlerde LGBTİ+ hakları,” Kaos GL, Dec. 4, 2017, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=25036
Over the past fifteen days, the Governorship of Ankara banned LGBTI+ activities in the city on the premises of “social sensitivities and sensibilities”, “public security”, “protection of public health and morality” and “protection of others’ rights and liberties”.
During this period, the District Governorship of Beyoğlu has banned another scheduled event. We have reports of censorship of LGBTI+ activities coming in from many other cities.
We compiled the details of events that have transpired before and after the ban decision regarding the violation of our rights alongside reactions against the ban for readers of KaosGL.org:
“Gender Based Journalism Workshop” was Disrupted in Mardin
The “Gender Based Journalism Workshop”, undertaken by IPS Communication Foundation and supported by Kaos GL, was planned for November 18, but could not take place in Mardin as it was targeted in the media.
On November 9, an event in Mardin was postponed after it was announced to the media in a piece titled “Mardinites: We don’t want these immoral people!” Later editorials targeted the workshop and were published on Sabah’s website as well as on Güneş, HaberVaktim, Yeni Akit daily, and in other local media.
Hate speech was propagated on social media. Posts were made stating that there will be “gays marching in Mardin” on November 18 and that “we will stand against this situation and kill [them] if necessary”.
Governorship of Ankara and the German LGBTI Film Days Festival
In collaboration with the German Embassy, QueerFest and Büyülü Fener Cinemas, The German LGBTI Film Days festival was scheduled to take place in Ankara between November 16-17. These events were unfortunately canceled as they were banned by an official notice sent to Büyülü Fener Cinema by the Governorship of Ankara on Wednesday, November 15.
The day before the decision to ban was issued by the governorship, Yeni Akit daily published an editorial defaming the event. In a news article titled “Support for the Perverts by the German Embassy”, Yeni Akit stated that the event was “supported by Germany which has participated in every activity meant to disrupt the country’s peace and will feature perverted films within the scope of the events [which are] to take place for two days”. The same newspaper announced the ban decision of the Governorship with the title “Governorship Slams the Brakes on Perverts”.
Prior to the governorship’s decision, hate speech was disseminated on social media with hashtags #LGBTfilmgünleriiptaledilsin (#LGBTfilmdaysshouldbecancelled) and #İstiklalimizeKaraLeke (#BlackStainOnOurIndependence)
Following the decision, the Pink Life QueerFest organizing committee issued a statement indicating that, just like the arbitrary and unlawful ban against Pride Walk which took place over the past several years, the film screenings were banned using the same public security rhetoric and was only used to raise alarm over provocation and terror. The Pink Life committee warned that this decision legitimized hate speech against LGBTI individuals and cast them as a threat to society. Producers of QueerFest also stated that the decision deprives us of our constitutional rights under the disguise of “protecting” LGBTI individuals and continued: “The duty of the governorship is not to ban the marches or activities but to make sure that they take place in safety.”
Following the ban against the German LGBTI Film Days, the German Minister of State Michael Roth announced via his Twitter account that a rainbow flag was hung at the German Embassy. Roth wrote “The Governorship of Ankara banned the #LGTBI Film festival of our Embassy. The freedom of arts and minority rights are untouchable. This must be valid for Turkey too. Our colleagues in Ankara manifest their attitude clearly by unfurling the flag”.
After the governorship ban against the German LGBT Film Days festival, Hacettepe University subsequently banned a discussion titled “Gender and Discrimination” which had previously been approved.
The discussion planned for November 22, which was to be attended by Kaos GL as well, was banned with a verbal notice, even though there was official university approval 15 days prior.
The indefinite “public morality” ban from Governorship of Ankara
After the ban against the German LGBTI Film Days, which was scheduled to take place on November 16-17 in Ankara Büyülü Fener Cinema, the Governorship of Ankara announced on its website the event has indefinitely banned “the activities undertaken by LGBTI civil society organizations” in Ankara. The statement lists banned activities as: “film screenings, cinevision, theatre, panels, discussions, exhibitions etc. [and] activities”.
The governorship listed “social sensitivities and sensibilities”, “public securities, “protection of public health and morality” and “protection of others’ rights and liberties” as the reason for the ban.
Kaos GL and Pink Life : “The Ban is Arbitrary and Discriminatory”
In response to the Governorship of Ankara’s decision to ban, Kaos GL and Pink Life have released a collective statement which announced that the governorship’s ban is unlawful, discriminatory and arbitrary and that a legal follow-up is in place.
Pink Life and Kaos GL indicated that the scope of the decision was vast and that it led to an ambiguous situation which ostensibly criminalizes LGBTI existence, opening the door for further rights violations. They announced that the LGBTI civil society organizations have been fighting against discrimination and hatred as well as for equal citizenship for years and that this decision has rendered these associations inoperative.
In their statement, Pink Life and Kaos GL emphasized to the public these discriminatory policies are unacceptable as they are against Article 10 of the Constitution on equality in addition to Article 26 on freedom of expression and publication. Pink Life and Kaos GL also note these bans are in conflict with international conventions to which Turkey is a signatory.
LGBTI Associations of Ankara Take the Decision to Court
Kaos GL and Pink Life, LGBTI associations from Ankara have filed a lawsuit against the ban, demanding the ban be cancelled and its execution halted.
The organizations call for the ban ordered by the Governorship on the premises of “social sensitivities and sensibilities”, “public security”, “protection of public health and morality” and “protection of others” rights and liberties to be cancelled and its enforcement be halted immediately as the ban can result in irremediable consequences.
Media Targeting LGBTI People and Hate Speech
LGBTI individuals and organizations were targeted in print press and digital media before and after the ban decision. Many media outlets, especially Yeni Akit daily, labelled the LGBTI individuals as “perverts”, “degenerates”, “against the public morality”. The hate speech was spread through libellous claims that LGBTI people are “diseases” or “criminal”.
Among these articles is a piece on Takvim daily’s website, titled “LGBTI Provocation Supported by CHP and HDP under the Control of Global Powers”, published November 14 . The article is an example of the press constructing a narrative of hate speech which is used to incite public discrimination of LGBTI persons as well as unlawful infringement on our rights.
Kaos GL is soon to publish its annual report which has tracked the use of discriminatory language and hate speech against LGBTI people in media on a daily basis coupled with reflections on the ban and the legal way forward.
Arbitrary Ban in Bursa
As part of the programing for events surrounding November 20 Transgender Day of Remembrance, Bursa Özgür Renkler of LGBTI Association (Free Colors LGBTI Association) was pressured to cancel the screening of the film “Gacı Gibi” via notification by police to event organizers that “the event will be shut down if it is not cancelled”.
Özgür Renkler LGBTI shared the cancellation on its social media accounts and wrote: “Our attorney got in touch with the Directorate of Security and was redirected to the security branch but received no answer at that office. We are yet to receive a written notification regarding the issue. We announce that we have cancelled the event and that we will be following [the process] as the association.”
District Governorship of Beyoğlu’s Ban Decision
“Queer Shorts” — a film screening and discussion panel planned to take place in Istanbul on November 25 in collaboration with Pink Life QueerFest, British Council and Pera Museum was banned by the District Governorship of Beyoğlu.
In a similar manner to the Governorship of Ankara, the district governorship in Beyoğlu indicated “[the event] might cause open and immediate danger against the public order and safety and might be against the constitutional order and public morality”.
Reactions against the Ban: #LGBTİYasaklanamaz (#LGBTICantBeBanned)
Keyfî yasaklara karşı kurulan LGBTİ+ Yasaklarını Geri Çekin Platformu, 29 Kasım’da #LGBTİYasaklanamaz ve 3 Aralık’ta #LGBTİFilmleriYasaklanamaz hashtagleri ile yasaklara karşı ses çıkardı. Her iki hastag kampanyası da Twitter’ın Türkiye gündeminde yer aldı. Çok sayıda sosyal medya kullanıcısı yasaklara karşı dayanışma mesajları paylaştı.
LGBTİ+ Yasaklarını Geri Çekin Platformu (Withdraw the LGBTI+ Bans Platform) was created as a reaction to these unjust bans and online advocates have protested the ban through the hashtag #LGBTIYasaklanamaz (#LGBTICantBeBanned) on November 29 and the hashtag #LGBTİFilmleriYasaklanamaz (#LGBTIFilmsCantBeBanned) on December 3. Both hashtag campaigns were trending topics in Turkey on Twitter. Many social media users across the world shared solidarity messages with us against the bans.
A part of the statement of the platform is as the following: “We invite the national and international public to make some noise to end this nonsense. We demand decisions that restrict our liberties and take away our life spaces to be overturned immediately! We invite the authorities to bring life back to its normal flow.”
Film Screenings at METU
Aside from the lawsuits filed by Kaos GL and Pink Life associations, many LGBTI and human rights activists have reacted against the ban.
After the ban took effect, METU LGBTI+ Solidarity organized two film screenings for November 22 and November 24, to the films “Pride” and “Romeos”. University administrators sought to prevent the LGBTI themed films by being screened by shutting down the power.
METU LGBTI+ Solidarity discussed the tensions which surrounded the screenings on both November 22 and November 24 through statements published on social media.
“The film screening planned for November 22 by Nar Women’s Solidarity was interfered with by the METU administration, by shutting down the power. The administration then retreated upon the reactions of the students and the film was screened.”
“On November 24, METI LGBTI+ Solidarity entered one of the physics classrooms in order to show the film “Romeos” which was on the schedule of the banned film screenings, after which METU administration shut down the power of the physics department. This caused GÜNAM (Solar Energy Research Center) to halt its studies, students were stuck in elevators and other students had to study for their midterms elsewhere. In spite of all pressures and preventions, METU LGBTI+ Solidarity showed the film using a power source and a projector. This was followed by the METU administration sending a private security force of forty to the building, who did not refrain from threatening us with a ‘physical intervention’ “.
Altıok: The Decision is Discriminatory
In her press statement regarding Governorship of Ankara’s ban decision, CHP Vice Chair and İzmir MP Zeynep Altıok stated that the decision is unlawful, misogynistic, and othering: “What discriminates and others the people is the decision of Governorship of Ankara which is polarizing the society, using diversity as an excuse.”
Ban Decision was Taken to Parliament
CHP Istanbul MP Sezgin Tanrıkulu has taken the governor’s ban decision to the parliament. Tanrıkulu presented a parliamentary question with the demand for a reply from PM Binali Yıldırım. The question asks whether the ban is discriminatory, whether the Governorship has a concrete document that can justify the ban, and whether the Governorship has taken necessary measures against discrimination.
Muiznieks: Ban Clearly Disregards Turkey’s International Human Rights Obligations
Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muiznieks issued a statement regarding the ban, indicating that it blatantly disregards the international human rights obligations of Turkey, especially the European Human Rights Convention. Muizneieks wrote: “I call on the Turkish central authorities to ensure that decentralised administrations uphold human rights standards and that this regrettable decision of the Ankara Governor’s Office is reversed immediately”.
Meanwhile, representatives of United Nations, Council of Europe and European Union have contacted the LGBTI associations and received information regarding the incident.
Call for Solidarity from Balkans
ERA LGBTI Equal Rights, founded by the LGBTI organizations of Western Balkans and Turkey, published a statement regarding the LGBTI+ bans in Turkey stating: “[…] local authorities, have taken yet another concerning step, by banning events like film screenings, exhibitions, forums, panels and meetings by LGBTI+ groups on what could be considered illegal grounds, infringing on fundamental human rights such as freedom of assembly, expression and association. Authorities have also given reasons for banning these events such as “social sensitivities and sensibilities,” “protecting public health and morality” and “protecting other people’s rights and freedoms.”
“We Defend the Cancellation of the Decision”
Council of Europe Conference of INGOs published a statement regarding the indefinite ban against the LGBTI activities declared by Governorship of Ankara: “We call upon all authorities to rescind the ban on events by LGBTI organisations in Ankara and not to slide back into another dark age where people have to hide who they really are. We plead that they annul these decisions which might incite and legitimise aggression against LGBTI persons, who once felt free and proud in Turkey”.
Antep Laughs against the Ban
Antep ZeugMadi LGBTI organized a press conference on December 3 against the Governorship of Ankara’s indefinite ban against LGBTI activities. ZeugMadi condemned the unlawful and discriminatory ban and stated “We were banned in Ankara and we were reborn in Antep”.
Çanakkale LGBTI+: We are on the Streets Despite the Bans, we are cleaning the beaches!
The volunteers of Çanakkale LGBTİ+ Initiative came together at Barış Kordonu on December 2 and cleaned the trash on the beaches. The initiative made an open call saying: “We are on streets despite the ban, we’re cleaning the beaches”. The group did not leave the beach for four hours in spite of the weather.