Sexual Orientation

32 Hate Crimes Directed at LGBTI People Appeared in the Press in 2015

According to Kaos GL’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity-based Human Rights Observation Report, in the year 2015 there were 5 hate crime-murders, 32 hate crimes, 2 cyber-attacks and 3 suicides appeared in the press.

Source: Kaos GL, “2015’te LGBTİ’lere yönelik 32 nefret saldırısı basına yansıdı!” (“32 Hate Crimes Directed at LGBTI People Reflected in the Press in 2015”), kaosgl.org, May 25 2016, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=21730

The Kaos GL Association has published its 2015 Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity-based Human Rights Observation Report. The report, which the association has published regularly since 2006 to monitor the human rights violations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, contains striking conclusions about this past year.

5 hate crime-murders, 32 attacks!

General findings are listed in the introduction of the report as follows:

“2015 was a year in which bombs exploded, massacres occurred, systematic attacks were carried out against social groups at the government’s hand, surveillance and detentions were carried out, and the most basic right, the right to life, was not protected. From the perspective of LGBT rights, alongside positive developments it was a year in which generally the routine was not broken;

“Throughout the year of 2015, there were 5 hate crime murders, 32 hate crime attacks (with more than 15 committed by more than one person, 2 at the hands of the police, 12 with a sharp object, 2 with a firearm, and 1 with arson), 2 cyber-attacks, and 3 cases of suicide that were reported to the media;

3 instances of discrimination were reflected in the media. Of these instances, 2 occurred in prison and 1 occurred in the workplace. Out of 9 cases of hate speech, 4 were produced by political figures and 3 appeared in newspapers known to be close to the ruling government.”

Call for killing of LGBTI people

“The societal reflection of hate speech can be [a] hate crime. The attacks by police at the Pride March and ensuing instigation of hate at the hands of politicians turned into a call for murder. A group calling themselves the Young Islamic Defense hung posters on the streets of Ankara calling for the killing of LGBT people.”

Censorship for the internet

“Administrative measures were taken by Turkey’s Telecommunications Directorate (Telekomünikasyon İletişim Başkanlığı, or TIB) against 7 LGBT websites. Of these decisions, 1 was lifted by TIB after making its way into the press and another after being appealed to TİB. However, 5 sites still cannot be accessed. In 2 cases students were attacked because of LGBT banners and a rainbow flag at a university. Bafra Penitentiary denied prisoners access to Kaos GL publications on the grounds of its “obscene” content.”

“The police attacked the Pride March with plastic bullets, teargas, and water cannons; a number of people were injured.”

“The Constitutional Court identified the state’s official relationship format by using the expression ‘unnatural relation,’ in clear violation of the Constitution.”

The report only contains cases reflected in the media

While emphasizing that only cases reflected in the media were reported, problems experienced in the reporting process are outlined in the report as follows:

“The violations found in the report are cases reflected in the media only. For this reason this report does not display all of the human rights violations experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Turkey

“We have presented this report as the 2015 Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity-based Human Rights Violation Observation Report. However, our struggle continues in reaching the problems of gay and bisexual women and the discrimination and human rights violations suffered by transgender men.”

The report contains separate sections on ‘hate crimes and violations of the right to life,’ ‘discrimination and hate speech,’ ‘freedom of expression,’ and ‘lawsuits taking place and ending in 2015.’ Violations reflected in the media over the course of a year are listed.

What should be done?

The conclusion of the report lists the necessary steps for getting ahead of human rights violations as follows:

  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals should be granted equal civil rights in the Constitution and “sexual orientation, gender identity, and intersex status”(CYCKİD) should be protected categories in the Constitution’s discrimination article
  • Adjustments should be made to the Turkey Human Rights and Equality Foundation Law to include protections for CYCKİD; the law should be rewritten to take into account Civil Society recommendations about the impartiality of the foundation
  • LGBTI people should be included in public social policy
  • Effective campaigns should be led against the homophobic and transphobic hate speech of politicians, public authorities, and opinion leaders
  • All relevant public institutions, especially the Directorate General of Migration Management, should develop sensitivity towards and policies related to the various problems of LGBTI refugees
  • The Turkey Human Rights and Equality Foundation and the Ombudsman Institution should handle all violations of human rights, democracy, and law that come under its jurisdiction with an approach based on sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Clauses on sexual orientation and gender identity should be added to articles regulating discrimination law in the judicial system
  • Regulation regarding hate crimes should be expanded to cover basic rights such as the right to life, bodily integrity, education, and shelter alongside hate speech, and clauses on CYCKİD should be included in hate crime regulation. The necessary punitive measures should be taken for hate crimes directed at LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex) individuals; modifications in the law should be made to prevent reduced sentences for “grievous provocation” following hate crimes
  • Ambiguous phrases such as “general morality,” “public decency,” “obscenity,” “immodesty,” and “infamous crimes” used in the Turkish Republic Constitution, the Turkish Penal Code, Civil Code, Law of Misdemeanor and various other foundations and institutions should be taken out of regulation or readjusted in a way that cannot be interpreted as against LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex) people.
  • Turkey should immediately take all necessary legal and political steps to fully comply with the 2010 Combating Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Recommendations from the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, of which Turkey was a founding member
  • In the investigation and prosecution stages following rights violations such as hate crimes, discrimination, and police violence suffered by LGBTI people, precautions should be taken to eliminate the discriminatory and/or prejudiced attitudes of law enforcement officers and forensic units, which heighten the victims’ suffering
  • The classification of homosexuality and transsexualism in the Turkish Armed Forces Health Code as “sexual identity and behavior disorders” and practices suffered by homosexual, bisexual, or transgender individuals that damage their honor and dignity should be eliminated
  • The Turkish Armed Forces Discipline Code, which punishes homosexuality by stigmatizing it as an “unnatural relation” and leaves the homosexual officers in question to fall victim to discrimination in the workplace and lose their jobs, should change and homosexuality should no longer be considered a crime.
  • The government should regulate CYCKİD discrimination in work life. Regulations directed at LGBT workers should be made in job announcements, hiring, continued work relationships, and termination. Sexual orientation, gender identity, and intersex status should become protected categories under the discrimination article in the Labor Law
  • Societal and institutional educational programs to eliminate the rights violations experienced by LGBTI people in education, employment, and health in the public sector and private institutions, as well as in access to services, should be applied and followed as a positive obligation of the state.
  • On every subject relevant to human rights and especially when making changes related to the prevention of discrimination, opinions from the United Nations, Council of Europe, European Union, and related units should be taken into account. Human rights organization, organizations that work in the field of women’s human rights, and LGBTI organizations should work in collaboration to accomplish all of these endeavors.
  • Statistical studies to aid in bringing discrimination to light should be completed.
  • To ensure fair trials, human rights education based on homophobia, transphobia, and discrimination should be designed for law enforcement officers and members of the judicial branch. This education should be carried out in collaboration with civil society organizations.
  • Prison schemes should be designed with respect to sexual orientation and gender identity; an end should be put to isolation.
  • Pursuant to all of these endeavors, dialogue and collaboration should be established between LGBTI organizations and public establishments and Parliament.

Access report here [Turkish]

GAP Turkey branch forced a gay staff member to resign

Apparel brand GAP’s Istanbul branch forced a gay staff member to resign, LGBTI organizations in the country made a joint statement to give support to the gay man’s legal struggle.

Source: Kaos GL, “GAP Turkey branch forced a gay staff member to resign”, kaosGL.org, March 17, 2016, http://kaosgl.org/page.php?id=21318

A gay staff member in one of GAP’s Istanbul branches faced homophobic pressure and was forced to resign. The apparel brand, which supports equality based on sexual orientation in its International Diversity Policy, was put to trial today.

While the attorneys of GAP did not show up in the first hearing, Attorney Eren Keskin representing the young gay man requested that the witnesses be heard and the case has been adjourned until June 7. Many LGBTI activists followed the case.

LGBTI organizations and activists made a joint statement explaining that the staff member had a high performance for 10 years and got many promotions in the international apparel brand.

The statement emphasized that once the sexual orientation of the staff became known, he faced mobbing and sexist remarks such as “be a man”.

“We will keep claiming our rights even in a legal system in which current laws do not recognize us. We will continue with our legitimate struggle nationally and internationally, making our voices even louder.”

Homophobic Attack in Datça

Yasin Keskin of Vegisso Kitchen suffered a homophobic attack in Datça. Another person alleged to be a plain-clothes police officer participated in the attack. The police who responded to the attack then mocked Keskin rather than catching the attacker.

Source: Yıldız Tar, “Datça’da Homofobik Saldırı” (“Homophobic Attack in Datça”), KaosGL.org, 17 August 2015, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=20030

On the night of Saturday, August 15th, Vegan LGBTI activist Yasin Keskin suffered a homophobic hate crime in the town of Datça in Muğla province. Keskin, who first encountered disconcerting looks while dancing at the bar he went to have fun, later took a punch from an unknown person as he left the bar. Following this, a person alleged to be a plain-clothes police officer attacked Keskin with a pipe.

They saw him inside the bar and attacked outside

Keskin explained his experiences to KaosGL.org:

“We went to Datça for a one-day holiday as three friends. In the evening we went out to have fun and were dancing. While there I noticed that a group of men was giving us dirty looks. At the end of the night we came across a fight outside. A group of men was fighting.”

“At that point, although we had nothing to do with the fight one of the people from inside who had been giving us bad looks suddenly came up to me and smacked me. The area under my eye is still deep purple. After being hit I started yelling. The person who hit me ran away but then someone else started to attack me, this time with a pipe. Later the people around us said that the second attack was by an undercover police officer. And the bar owner, rather than helping us, threw us outside.”

Homophobic Discrimination from the Police

Immediately after the attack, Kesin called the police. He then recounted the attack to the police squad that came, but the officers laughed at him instead of taking his statement:

“The police came a while after I called them. I ran to the police car right away, but they didn’t pay attention to me. When I explained what had happened, the police and other people there laughed at me. I experienced violence, but they were preoccupied with making fun of me, probably because they were thinking, ‘What are we going to do with a fag?’” I said for them to take me to the police station and take my statement but they would not take me. They refused to carry out the procedure.”

Keskin reminded us that while he was living in Istanbul, he had faced violence from the police because of his homosexuality, and that following the homophobic attacks he has suffered in the past he again encountered discrimination at the police station and in the justice system. “Both because they laughed at me and because of my previous experiences, I distanced myself from the police,” he said.

“They were already watching you…”

While Kesin and his friends were trying to get away from Datça, two motorcyclists began following them. According to what Keskin explained, the motorcyclists’ words summarize the events of the night:

“The people inside were already watching you all. Be careful and get out of Datça. They will lynch you here. They are dangerous.”

High turnout at the hate crimes panel in Mersin

Ismail Saymaz from the Radikal newspaper and Yıldız Tar from Kaos GL participated in the “Hate Crimes” panel, on “Hrant Dink and Zirve Publishing House Assassinations” and “Sexual Orientation- and Gender Identity-based Hate Crimes,” at Mersin University. The panel was moved to a larger lecture hall due to high turnout.

mersin-universitesi-nefret-suclari-paneli

Photo by Salih-i Umar

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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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On the Dismissal of Police Officer F.E.: “These kinds of officers are to be cleaned out immediately!”

Source: Burcu Karakaş. “Bu tür memurlar hemen ayıklanır!” (“These kinds of officers are to be cleaned out immediately!”) Milliyet, 16 June 2014, http://www.milliyet.com.tr/bu-tur-memurlar-hemen-ayiklanir–gundem-1897738/

Police officer F.E. had been dismissed from office with a disciplinary investigation because he is gay. When he went to court to amend the decision, he received the following answer from the Ministry of Internal Affairs: “The law foresees that these kinds of officers are to be immediately cleaned out!”

Police officer F.E. was subjected to disciplinary investigation because he is gay and the investigation resulted in his removal from office. He went to the court to appeal the decision. His suit was rejected by every court that he applied to. Upon his appeal to the Council of State, he received a written response from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Deputy Legal Advisor. The statement included scandalous phrases. One Ministry official stated the following: “It is without a doubt that if civil services are run by officers who are less than reputable, this would damage people’s confidence in the administration. The law aims to prevent these kinds of developments and foresees that those who are responsible are removed from civil service and thus eliminated from the instruments of administration.” Even though the Council of State Investigation Judge wrote a dissenting opinion noting the right to “private life,” F.E.’s plea was overruled by majority voting.

“Embarrassing actions”

In 2009, there was a denunciation against Istanbul police officer F.E. with allegations that he kept child pornography. The police raided his house based on the allegations, which turned out to be false. It was decided that there was a lack of grounds for legal action. However, certain documents were found on F.E.’s computer, which pointed to the fact that he is gay. This resulted in a disciplinary investigation on his behalf. The investigation ended with the Ministry of Internal Affairs High Disciplinary Commission ruling for F.E.’s removal from civil service due to the charge of “acting in shameful and embarrassing ways that do not agree with the qualities of civil service.” Upon this decision, the police officer went to the 8th Administrative Court in Istanbul to demand that the decision be reversed. The court maintained that the ruling was within legislation and rejected F.E.’s appeal.

After this rejection, F.E. appealed to the Council of State. The 12th Department of the Council of State studied and rejected F.E.’s appeal eight months ago, thereby approving the decision of his removal from office. At this time, F.E.’s lawyer Fırat Söyle took the appeal back to the 12th Department of the Council of State with a request to revise the decision.

Council of State Investigation Judge Şevket Polat argued that the actions, which resulted in F.E.’s removal from office, were to be considered within the framework of “private life” in accordance with the 20th article of the Constitution as well as the 8th Article of the European Convention on Human Rights. Polat thus put forth that these actions did not constitute a disciplinary breach and advised for an issue of stay order. However, members of the department unanimously rejected the judge’s request with the justification that “the reasoning presented did not constitute due grounds for a stay order.”

“He lives with a woman who is of legal age”

The Ministry of Internal Affairs delivered a statement in response to the appeal about revising the decision. The statement included the justifications for why F.E. had to be removed from office. The Ministry Deputy Legal Advisor Adnan Türkdamar authored the statement, which explains that there were times when F.E. shared the same living quarters with two men who are known to be gay. Also, F.E.’s living together with a woman was described as a “shameful and embarrassing action.”

The Ministry responded with the following in relation to the discrimination appeal: “The law aims for civil service to be carried out by credible, trustworthy and socially prestigious agents. It is without a doubt that if civil services are run by officers who are less than reputable, this would damage individuals’ confidence in the administration and result in undesirable developments in the relations between individuals and the administration. As such, the law aims to prevent such a development and foresees that those who are responsible are removed from civil service and that these kinds of officers are eliminated from the instruments of administration.”

UPR Submission by Turkey’s LGBT Organizations

We are excited to be sharing our Universal Periodic Review submission of “Human Rights Violations of LGBT Individuals in Turkey” to the United Nations. 

The Universal Periodic Review

The Universal Periodic Review “has great potential to promote and protect human rights in the darkest corners of the world.” – Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States. The UPR is a State-driven process, under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, which provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfil their human rights obligations. As one of the main features of the Council, the UPR is designed to ensure equal treatment for every country when their human rights situations are assessed.

The UPR was created through the UN General Assembly on 15 March 2006 by resolution 60/251, which established the Human Rights Council itself. It is a cooperative process which, by October 2011, has reviewed the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States. Currently, no other universal mechanism of this kind exists. The UPR is one of the key elements of the Council which reminds States of their responsibility to fully respect and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms. The ultimate aim of this mechanism is to improve the human rights situation in all countries and address human rights violations wherever they occur.

The Universal Periodic Review of Turkey

The second-cycle review of Turkey will take place in January-February 2015. While Turkey submits its own State report, Turkey’s civil society organisations is providing their reports on Turkey’s human rights situation. The joint report by the Human Rights Joint Platform highlights Turkey’s failure in applying the accepted recommendations in the first-cycle and human rights violations since 2010. The joint LGBT submission highlights human rights violations of LGBT individuals in Turkey since 2010.

Human Rights Violations of LGBT Individuals in Turkey

This report is a joint submission by Kaos GL Association, LGBTI News Turkey, and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) (ECOSOC accredited NGO), to the United Nations Human Rights Council on the occasion of the 21st Session of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review. This submission presents human rights violations in Turkey on account of actual or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity. These violations consist of acts of violence against LGBT individuals, discriminatory domestic laws, arbitrary administrative measures, and hostile approach of State officials towards the LGBT community.

In preparing this submission, we relied on documentation and data from the following sources: LGBT organizations and allies in Turkey; reports by national and international human rights NGOs; the European Commission’s Annual Progress Report; Concluding Observations of the UN Human Rights Committee’s review of Turkey’s compliance with the ICCPR; recommendations from Turkey’s first-cycle UPR; Turkey’s Constitution and recent legislation; and media reports of violence and discrimination against LGBT individuals.

Please see the full report here: UPR: Human Rights Violations of LGBT Individuals in Turkey