United Nations

Syrian gay refugee killed in Istanbul

Muhammed Wisam Sankari was a gay Syrian refugee. He had arrived in Istanbul a year ago. He was threatened, kidnapped, raped. Last week he was found dead in Yenikapi and was stabbed multiple times. Wisam’s friends identified him by his pants.

Source: Yıldız Tar, “İstanbul’da Suriyeli eşcinsel mülteci öldürüldü”, kaosGL.org, 3 August 2016, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=22065

Syrian gay refugee Muhammed Wisam Sankari left his house in Aksaray on the night of 23 July. He was found dead in Yenikapi on 25 July. He was beheaded and his body mutilated beyond identification. Wisam’s killers have not been caught. Wisam, who was previously threatened, kidnapped by a crowded group of men, and raped, was trying to go to another country as a refugee because his life was in danger. After the murder, we listened to Wisam’s housemates Rayan, Diya and Gorkem tell us about what Wisam went through, what it is like to be an LGBTI refugee in Turkey, and the problems refugees face. They spoke to KaosGL.org about the murder that was so clearly in the making, how the authorities did not take any preventive measures, and their anxieties about “who is next”.

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“We complained to the Police HQ, they did not do anything”

Rayan, who has known Wisam for a year, says “He was feeling very insecure recently. When we asked him, he would not tell us much” and explains that Wisam had been threatened and kidnapped before. He said they had difficulties even walking on the streets of Aksaray where they lived and where crowded male groups wielding knives had threatened them several times, saying they wanted to rape them. According to Rayan, Wisam experienced the following:

“We were staying in a different house before and we had to leave that house just because we are gay. People around would constantly stare at us. We did not do anything immoral? About five months ago, a group kidnapped Wisam in Fatih. They took him to a forest, beat him and raped him. They were going to kill him but Wisam saved himself by jumping at the road. We complained to the Police Headquarters but nothing happened.”

“We identified him from his pants”

Gorkem is also Wisam’s friend and he was among the people who went to identify the body after Wisam was killed. Gorkem tells the story of Wisam’s disappearance and the news of his death in tears:

“That night Wisam left the house. We were already anxious because of the threats. We told him not to go but he said he was going out for 15-20 minutes. He didn’t come home all night. The next day, we panicked when we couldn’t reach him. We went to the Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (ASAM). They directed us to Fatih Police Headquarters. We did not even know how to get there or what to say.

“On Sunday police called us. We went to Yenikapi with Rayan. They had cut Wisam violently. So violent that two knives had broken inside him. They had beheaded him. His upped body was beyond recognition, his internal organ were out. We could identify our friend from his pants.”

“Who is next?”

Diya says they live in fear and with the thought of “who is next” following Wisam’s death and says they are afraid to go out on the street:

“I am so scared. I feel like everyone is staring at me on the street. I was kidnapped twice before. They let me go in Cerkezkoy and I barely got home one time. I went to the UN for my identification but they did not even respond to that. No one cares about us. They just talk. I get threats over the phone. I speak calmly so something does not happen. It does not matter if you are Syrian or Turkish, if you are gay you are everyone’s target. They want sex from you and when you don’t they just tag along. I don’t have identification, who would protect me? Who is next?”

Rayan criticizes ASAM and the United Nations. “What’s the use of them doing anything after Wisam is killed? Our friend is dead,” and adds:

“ASAM and the UN don’t do anything for us. We can only protect ourselves. We stay together to protect ourselves. We cannot get any information or answers. Just talk… ASAM called us after Wisam’s death. After his death… What’s the point? A very pure and good person is gone from this world.”

 

Sema Yakar Will Serve As Advisor to Şişli’s New Equality Unit

At the inauguration of Şişli’s Social Equality Unit, Şişli Mayor Hayri İnönü noted that the Unit will focus on gender issues and Sema Yakar will serve as a volunteer advisor.

Source: Yıldız Tar, “Şişli Eşitlik Birimi’ne Sema Yakar Danışmanlık Yapacak”, (“Sema Yakar Will Serve As Advisor to Şişli’s New Equality Unit”), kaosgl.org, 23 October 2015, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=20401

Şişli’s new Social Equality Unit was inaugurated at an event in Şişli’s City Hall. The night was hosted by Mayor Hayri İnönü and attended by representatives from LGBTI and human rights organizations, as well as the consuls of the United States, Israel, Brazil, and Canada.

Hosted by actress Seyhan Arman, the event introduced the Unit set up largely by the efforts of Boysan Yakar, LGBTI activist and the advisor to the Mayor, who recently died in a traffic accident.

sisliesitlikbirimigece_3“This is a space that we fought to earn”

Arman began her speech with words in memory of Yakar: “In a world of inequalities and discrimination, Boysan convinced us that we could win if we stood united. He conquered our hearts with his kindhearted and egalitarian attitude. This space can be seen as simply a workplace, but it is also a space that we fought to earn.”

After Arman’s speech, a video was screened showing the Unit’s street interviews on the subject, “What is gender?”

Next, the municipality’s social media representative Dilek Güven delivered a speech. A close coworker of Boysan, Güven had a hard time suppressing her tears. She reminisced about meeting Boysan in the local elections and his question to her at the time, “Will you stand by me?”

“I had not understood exactly what he meant at the time, but now I do. The Equality Unit was one of Boysan’s biggest dreams. He had told me a long time ago that we would succeed in setting up this unit. And with Mayor Hayri İnönü’s leadership, the Unit has finally come into being.”

“Hayri İnönü: Boysan inspired us all”

Mayor Hayri İnönü also began his speech with words honoring Boysan: “Boysan was someone that everybody should have met. He inspired us all with his high level of energy. His absence is deeply felt.” İnönü conveyed his condolences once again to Yakar’s family, the LGBTI community, and to all human rights advocates.

İnönü explained how the Social Equality Unit is planned to function:

“The Social Equality Unit will develop the municipality’s policies regarding women, LGBTIs, disabled individuals, minorities, refugees, children and senior citizens, who experience economic, social, and cultural discrimination. The Unit will work both on the services that we provide within our participatory government framework and the issues of inclusion within decision-making mechanisms. Our final goal is to eliminate all social inequalities.”

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Sema Yakar will serve as advisor to the Unit

After tackling gender, the Unit will gradually expand its work area and encompass all of society. The Unit will receive guidance from a volunteer team headed by Sema Yakar, Boysan’s mother and a founder of LISTAG (Families of LGBTIs in Istanbul).

Sema Yakar: “Boysan is my comrade”

Sema Yakar, who was in the US to work on Boysan’s uncompleted tasks from when he was in the US earlier this year, joined the event via a videotaped message. Yakar remarked that, these days, we see once again that human life is cheap. Speaking in memory of Boysan, she noted, “He is my comrade, my teacher of all things new. Your fight will be the fight of us all.”

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Boysan’s father Hakan Yakar continued: “Being an ‘other,’ Boysan had to begin his fight at an early age. He was an LGBTI activist, an advocate of human rights and the environment, a brave heart, a revolutionary, and most importantly, the pride of our family.” Yakar noted that a book that Boysan was reading before his death, called Beyond Human, was found at the accident site: “He had scribbled in the margins the ‘cheapness of death in Turkey.’ It is so true. Traffic monsters took away three of our dearest souls: Boysan, Zeliş, and Mert. May they rest in peace.”

“No peace without equality”

Melda Onur, a CHP candidate in the general elections from Istanbul, remarked that Boysan’s absence was deeply felt: “We have to hold on to each other tightly and continue the struggle.” Onur said that the Unit should set an example for other municipalities.

“There can be no peace without equality and no freedom without peace. I hope that this Unit sets an example to all local governments and inspires them, starting with municipalities in Istanbul.”

The last speaker was Meltem Ağduk from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Ağduk reminded the audience of the “Women Friendly Cities” project that her agency had started in 2005: “Şişli Municipality’s project seems to be at a much more advanced level than our project. Cities are founded with a masculine perspective and this perspective labels many groups as ‘others.’ The way to overcome this problem is to multiply projects like the one started by Şişli.”

The night was concluded with a cocktail.

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Deputy Prime Minister Arınç criticizes Istanbul Pride: “They get completely naked in broad daylight”

Source: DHA video, “Bülent Arınç: “Güpegündüz çırılçıplak hale gelip…”,” (“Bülent Arınç: “They get completely naked in broad daylight”,”) CNNTurk, 2 July 2015, http://www.cnnturk.com/video/turkiye/bulent-arinc-gupegunduz-cirilciplak-hale-gelip

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Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç answered journalists’ questions at the AK Party (AKP) Mardin Headquarters.

Arınç said,

Unfortunately, I am ashamed to say this in a place where our lady sisters are present but some people turn this into honor, meaning people in different sexual orientations. These things are not liked in our belief, our traditions, our customs and mores, and our society’s structure.

But it is extremely saddening that they get completely naked in broad daylight, challenging and having fun in the middle of Istanbul, and unfortunately, parliamentarians from the CHP and HDP supporting them.

I know that there are women and men parliamentarians, 5-10 parliamentarians from the CHP, who joined that march and who supported it. I submit this to our nation’s discretion. If our nation likes this and applauds it, it can continue to follow them. If our nation sees these as wrong, criticizes it, and beyond criticizing, says what comes to their mind, do the necessary thing at the ballot box.

LGBTI News Turkey Note: Please also see Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç’s statements on LGBT at the United Nations on 27 January 2015.

There is no discriminatory provision against LGBTs in our laws.

The principle that everyone is equal before the law without distinction as to language, race, color, sex, political opinion, philosophical belief, religion, sect and other such grounds is organised by the Constitution’s Article 10. Due to the expression “and other such grounds” in the aforementioned article, types of discriminations are not limited but rather exemplified, and there is no question that other types of discrimination are left outside the scope. That there is no special regulation for LGBTs does not mean that this group’s rights are not legally guaranteed.

On the other hand, pursuant to our Constitution’s Article 90, the international agreements we ratify are [considered] law. The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence -Istanbul Convention-, which we ratified without reservations, includes provisions which state that there can be no discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

In our country, like in all democratic states of law, perpetrators who commit murder and acts of violence against individuals of LGBT and all kinds of hate crimes are identified, the necessary investigations are started in order to bring them to justice, and the process is conducted by legal authorities scrupulously. The claims that the reasoning of unjust provocation constitute a routine in the reduction of penal responsibility do not match with the real situation that is revealed by tangible court decisions.

Syrian Trans Refugee Mişa: Trans Guesthouse has become a home for me

Discussions on trans refugees were held as part of the trans pride week. Mişa, a Syrian trans refugee woman, lamented “I imagined that I would be happy in Istanbul. Apparently, I was wrong.”

Source: Yıldız Tar, “Suriyeli Trans Mülteci Mişa: Trans Misafirhanesi evim gibi oldu” (“Syrian Trans Refugee Mişa: Trans Guesthouse has become a home for me”). Kaos GL, 20 June 2015, http://www.kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=19661

Organized by the Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association, 6th Trans Pride Week continues. As part of the various panels and workshops taking place during the week, a discussion on trans refugees was held. Problems of trans refugees seeking shelter and various solutions to their problems including the trans guesthouse were presented.

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The panel, held at the İsmail Beşikçi Foundation, was moderated by Deniz Tunç. The speakers were Mişa, a trans refugee woman and occupant of the trans guesthouse; Zeynep Kıvılcım of the Istanbul University Political Sciences Faculty, Cansu Alözkan of the Refugees and Immigrants Solidarity Association and Selin Berghan of the Pink Life Association.

Trans Guesthouse provided shelter for 50 people

In her opening speech, Deniz Tunç provided updates on the Trans Guesthouse.  According to Tunç, the trans guesthouse provided shelter to almost 50 people. “We have hosted as many as 20 LGBTI refugees from war and we will continue to accommodate them as long as our resources allow us. It is, however, time to stand in solidarity with the guesthouse.” Tunç continued.

“I imagined that I would be happy in Istanbul, Apparently I was wrong”

First panelist Mişa, a Syrian trans refugee woman, talked about the hardships of being an asylum seeker and what she went through in Istanbul.

“When I first got here, I imagined that I would be very happy here and that I would have a good future. I thought people would be open-minded and respectful but apparently I was wrong. I escaped Syria because it is a homophobic country and I was not respected there. In Istanbul though, every day is a different adventure. I do not have a job. Istanbul is an expensive city. I do not have an ID card. I have no income to speak of. The only place I can live in is the Taksim area and it is very expensive here. I have thought about returning to Syria after going through all of these problems. I risked going back, even though my life was in danger there. That is when some people told me about the Trans guesthouse and that I could stay there. I met the people in the organization and they told me that I could stay with them until I get my life in order. Later, I registered with the United Nations as a refugee. If it were not for the Trans Guesthouse, I would be on the streets now.”

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Deputy PM Bülent Arınç’s Statement on LGBT at the Universal Periodic Review

Bülent Arınç, Deputy Prime Minister responsible for Human Rights, represented Turkey at the Universal Periodic Review on 27 January 2015. The webcast archive of the session can be viewed here.

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In response to questions and recommendations on LGBT rights in Turkey, Arınç said,

There is no discriminatory provision against LGBTs in our laws.

The principle that everyone is equal before the law without distinction as to language, race, color, sex, political opinion, philosophical belief, religion, sect and other such grounds is organised by the Constitution’s Article 10. Due to the expression “and other such grounds” in the aforementioned article, types of discriminations are not limited but rather exemplified, and there is no question that other types of discrimination are left outside the scope. That there is no special regulation for LGBTs does not mean that this group’s rights are not legally guaranteed.

On the other hand, pursuant to our Constitution’s Article 90, the international agreements we ratify are [considered] law. The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence -Istanbul Convention-, which we ratified without reservations, includes provisions which state that there can be no discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

In our country, like in all democratic states of law, perpetrators who commit murder and acts of violence against individuals of LGBT and all kinds of hate crimes are identified, the necessary investigations are started in order to bring them to justice, and the process is conducted by legal authorities scrupulously. The claims that the reasoning of unjust provocation constitute a routine in the reduction of penal responsibility do not match with the real situation that is revealed by tangible court decisions.

Translated by LGBTI News Turkey.

İnsan haklarından sorumlu Başbakan Yardımcısı Bülent Arınç’ın 27 Ocak 2015 tarihli Türkiye’nin Evrensel Periyodik İncelemesi’nde LGBT ile ilgili sözleri:

Mevzuatımızda LGBT’lere yönelik ayrımcı bir hüküm bulunmamaktadır.

Dil, ırk, renk, cinsiyet, siyasi düşünce, felsefi inanç, din, mezhep ve benzeri sebeplere ayrım gözetilmeksizin herkesin kanun önünde eşitliği ilkesi anayasanın 10. maddesi ile düzenlenmiştir. Sözkonusu maddede yer alan “ve benzeri sebeplerle” ifadesi sayesinde ayrımcılık türleri sınırlayıcı değil örnekleyici olup, diğer ayrımcılık türlerinin kapsam dışı kalması söz konusu değildir. LGBT’lere yönelik özel bir düzenlemenin olmaması hukuken bu grubun haklarının garanti altına alınmadığı anlamına gelmez.

Diğer tarafta anayasamızın 90. maddesi uyarınca onayladığımız uluslararası anlaşmalar kanun hükmündedir. Çekincesiz olarak taraf olduğumuz Kadına Yönelik Şiddet ve Aile İçi Şiddetin Önlenmesi ve Bunlarla Mücadeleye İlişkin Avrupa Konseyi Sözleşmesi’nde  -İstanbul Sözleşmesi-, cinsel yönelim temelinde ayrımcılık yapılamayacağına ilişkin hükümler de yer almaktadır.

Ülkemizde tüm demokratik hukuk devletlerinde olduğu gibi, LGBT’li bireylere karşı öldürme ve şiddet eylemleri ile her türlü nefret suçlarını işleyen faillerin belirlenerek adalete teslim edilmelerini teminen gerekli tahkikat açılmakta ve süreç adli makamlarca titizlikle yürütülmektedir. Sözkonusu davalarda haksız tahrik gerekçesinin ceza sorumluluğunu azaltan bir rutin teşkil ettiği yönündeki iddialar somut mahkeme kararları ile ortaya çıkan gerçek durumla örtüşmemektedir.

Turkey’s Human Rights Record to be Reviewed by the UN Human Rights Council 

Joint Media Advisory
KAOS GL, LGBTI NEWS TURKEY, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and ILGA-World

Media Contacts:

In Istanbul: Zeynep Bilginsoy zeynep@lgbtinewsturkey.com
In Ankara: Ezgi Kocak ezgi.kocak@kaosgl.org
In New York: Hossein Alizadeh halizadeh@iglhrc.org
In Geneva: Alessia Valenza alessia@ilga.org

#UPRTurkey, #UPR21, @lgbtinewsturkey, @KaosGL, @IGLHRC, @ILGAWORLD

(Istanbul, Geneva, New York; January, 23, 2015) — On 27 January 2015, United Nations’ member states will review the Republic of Turkey’s human rights record since 2010, when the nation pledged to improve its record on discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Since then, LGBTI organizations have documented Turkey’s failure to do so.

The Human Rights’ Council’s second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) will be a follow up on the recommendations that Turkey accepted during the first cycle in 2010. The second periodic review of Turkey will take place during the 21st session of the Human Rights Council’s UPR Working Group. Similar to other countries under review, Turkey’s UPR process is facilitated by groups of three Council members from different regional groups, Gabon, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia. This troika will act as rapporteur for Turkey’s UPR review. Member states will be raising questions based on civil society’s submissions along with recommendations and questions about Turkey’s human rights records shared by other members of the United Nations.

The second cycle of Turkey’s UPR already shows a promising increase in the engagement of local and international civil society organizations that include LGBTI organizations who have submitted a document entitled “Human Rights Violations of LGBTI Individuals in Turkey” for the Human Rights Council’s consideration.

To help journalists cover the upcoming UPR review, IGLHRC, KAOS GL, and LGBTI NEWS TURKEY have included the attached “Background: The UPR Review of Turkey by the UN Human Rights Council” also available on the organizations’ websites. Experts are available to answer media inquiries about the process.

The Second Periodic Review of Turkey will take place at the United Nations’ Human Rights Council’s (09:00 in Room 20 at the Palais des Nations) in Geneva on January 27 and will be telecast live at this address: http://www.upr-info.org/en/webcast. The video archives of the session, as well as the videos from the first session are available on this website: http://www.upr-info.org/en/webcast/Turkey

Background: The UPR Review of Turkey by the UN Human Rights Council

Joint Media Advisory
KAOS GL, LGBTI NEWS TURKEY, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and ILGA-World

The January 27, 2015 review of the Republic of Turkey at the U.N. Human Rights Council marks the second time that Turkey volunteered to present its human rights records to be evaluated by members of the international community. In May 2010, Turkey had its first UPR review at the Human Rights Council. The Universal Periodic Review is a state-driven process, which allows states to discuss their human rights performance and receive feedback on how they can improve.

The First Cycle

In 2010, states raised concerns about Turkey’s record of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Turkey accepted recommendations by Norway, Canada and the Netherlands and committed to take steps to eliminate discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Paradoxically, the Government rejected similar non-discrimination recommendations by the Czech Republic and Ireland but accepted amendments to combat discrimination against women with the removal of the term sexual orientation in the case of the Czech Republic and the removal of the terms sexual orientation and gender identity in the case of Ireland. The Government also noted the Czech Republic’s recommendation on human rights education and training for state personnel with a focus that includes sexual orientation and gender identity. The full list of recommendations accepted by the Republic of Turkey during the first UPR review can be viewed here.

Follow-up to the First Cycle and New Developments

Since undergoing its first review, Turkey has failed to implement the accepted recommendations of non-discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” were not included in the 6th Democratization Package of March 2014 that includes the Anti-Discrimination Bill and regulations on the basis of Hate Crimes. Furthermore, no reference to sexual orientation and gender identity were included in the Article on Equality of the New Constitution’s draft.

Article 90 of the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey stipulates that international agreements duly put into effect have the force of law. The non-discrimination provision of the Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence which Turkey ratified in November 2011, includes the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity”. This means that Turkey must fulfill its international obligation to bring its domestic laws in line with this convention to ensure the protection of LGBT individuals, something that the government in Ankara has so far refused to undertake.

The Second Cycle: LGBT Group’s Submission

In the summer of 2014, a coalition of local and international LGBTI organizations submitted a joint UPR report to the U.N. Human Rights Council documenting rights violations against LGBTI individuals between 2010 and 2014. The report highlighted the murder of at least 41 individuals due to their real or imputed sexual orientation or gender identity. This number is limited to data compiled from reports by LGBTI associations and the Turkish media.

Despite Turkey’s pledge to implement comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation with the inclusion of the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (SOGI) in the first UPR cycle back in 2010, the government of Turkey has not taken any steps to legally recognize or protect these categories. In the absence of state recognition and protection of LGBTI individuals, Turkey does not collect data on crimes committed on the basis of SOGI; while some Judges apply reductions to prison sentences of perpetrators of hate crimes against LGBT individuals. Though homosexuality is not criminalized, homosexuality is often considered “indecent” and “contrary to law and ethics”. Such troubling interpretations of sexual orientation and gender identity have in effect limited the right to free speech and freedom of association for the LGBTI community. Furthermore, the lack of legal protection for LGBTI persons have resulted in systematic discrimination against individuals because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity: Civil servants are fired because their sexual orientation is considered shameful and “unfit for the position of a civil servant”. Trans individuals have no access to employment because of rampant discrimination and are arbitrarily fined by the police when they turn to sex work.

Officials from the ruling AKP government in some cases contribute to a homophobic and transphobic environment by making derisive statements about LGBTI persons in public. In 2010, Aliye Kavaf, then the State Minister of the Affairs of Women and Families, stated that she believes “homosexuality is a biological disorder, a disease … something that needs to be treated”. In 2013, Türkan Dağoğlu, Istanbul MP and Deputy President of the Committee on Health, Family, Labor, and Social Affairs, stated in that “’LGBT’ is a behavior that is outside the bounds of normality”. These statements are then mirrored in pro-government newspapers, potentially contributing to a context in which the cycle of discrimination and hate crimes can continue.

Finally, the Republic of Turkey’s National Report submission for the second cycle of the UPR does not include any reference to sexual orientation, gender identity or LGBTI issues.