Volkan Yılmaz

Turkey’s LGBTI File Criminal Complaints for Attacks Against Istanbul Pride- Hear Them Out!

Turkey LGBTI

“We are here today to make a complaint against the Governor of Istanbul, Minister of Interior Affairs, General Chief of the Police in Istanbul and Istanbul police who attacked the protestors at the gay pride on 28th of June”, says lawyer and LGBTI rights advocate Yasemin Öz. Behind her looms the giant complex of the Caglayan Justice Palace. Though LGBTI activists doubt that the perpetrators of the violence against Istanbul Pride will be brought to justice, they vow to use every legal mechanism at their disposal.

Pride is a special day for Turkey’s LGBTI, who regularly face discrimination in all aspects of social life, if they are not already victims of hate crimes. University student and drag queer Madır Öktiş says, “Pride is the day I can express my pride with almost a hundred thousand people like me and it’s the only day I can, you know, I can feel that solidarity, that strong”.

Madır was getting ready to join the parade when they heard that police attacked pride-goers. They wore a pom pom hat and a hundred per cent gorgeous t-shit and “A police officer told me that I could not walk in with that outfit”.

Until this year, twelve Istanbul Pride Parades passed without incident. LGBTI activist and academic Volkan Yilmaz says, “I wasn’t expecting any attacks on Sunday because even after Gezi protests we could make the march happen so after the attacks, actually, I was a bit surprised and I started to think about why it happened now and it turned out to be that it’s about Ramadan month”.

Last year’s Pride also coincided with the month of Ramadan when an estimated ninety thousand people marched without police interference. But this year, there was a significant rise in the visibility of the LGBTI rights movement and a corollary increase in hate speech from both public officials and conservative media.

Veteran activist Şevval Kılıç says, “this is a big step, that we are threatening the system, we are a movement, a big huge movement, and of course some people are afraid of this, some people are afraid of changing, going forward”.

Volkan thinks the attacks may have happened “because of media provocations and the new governor of Istanbul is a bit more conservative than the other guy and this happened this year”.

At least 78 people were wounded in the police intervention against Pride. One person is in risk of losing an eye. The Governor stated that proportionate force was used against the demonstrators after they refused to disperse.

Boysan Yakar, a prominent LGBTI activist and advisor to Sisli Municipality Mayor, was among the wounded and filed a criminal complaint for battery charges. He says, “I was beaten by the police while I was trying to stop the violence of power at the very first beginning of the pride parade and at that moment we had the support of the MPs from two different parties, HDP and CHP, and when we were trying to stop the violence, police attacked many activists”.

Şevval takes issue with the Governor’s statement of proportionality. She says, “they just directly attacked us with plastic bullets, you know, there are thousands of ways that you can dismiss the crowd but they choose to attack us with plastic bullets”.

So far, 4 LGBTI associations and 68 individuals filed criminal complaints. They are filing criminal charges (PDF-Turkish) against Interior Minister Sebahattin Öztürk, Istanbul Governor Vasıp Şahin, Istanbul Police Chief Selami Altınok, and police officers involved in the attacks for the following crimes:

  • Offenses of Bodily Harm (Turkish Penal Code (TCK) Articles 86-87)
  • Torture (TCK Articles 94-95)
  • Torment (TCK Article 96)
  • Ill-treatment
  • Violence (TCK Article 108)
  • Exceeding the Limits of Authorization for Use of Force (TCK Article 256)
  • Misconduct in Office (TCK Article 257)
  • Executing Illegal Mandatory Provision and Order of the Supervisor (TCK Article 24)
  • Restriction of freedom of belief, conception, conviction (TCK Article 115)
  • Restriction of Right to Meetings and Demonstration Marches (Law No: 2911)
  • Offenses against Freedom (TCK Article 109)

As one of the seven lawyers submitting the complaints, Yasemin Öz says, “I’m not hopeful about the Turkish state’s courts, especially when it comes to the ministers, police chiefs, and governors but we are hopeful about the constitutional court or otherwise the European Court of Human Rights”

But despite the lack of trust in the Turkish judicial system, Volkan Yılmaz says, “We have to do it to push the legal process a bit further”.

There was global outcry against the banning of Istanbul Pride and the violence that ensued. Boysan appreciates the global support and says, “It’s great to see that thousands of people are protesting right now throughout the country, from Korea, from Japan till the United Kingdom and United States as well and this is not only happening in the level of citizens. This is happening in the very high levels as well. Government to government it’s happening right now. It’s so important. And it’s great to see such solidarity throughout the universe”.

Yasemin calls for continued support for LGBTI in Turkey and the world. “We want the world to know that our basic right to free assembly has been violated by our own state so as the LGBT people and their friends, we have to unite where there is a violence against LGBT people because no state volunteers to protect LGBT rights. Many states in the world criminalize homosexuality and transsexuality”.

Tired but determined, Boysan says, “We are here, we exist, and they have to get over it”. This is how everyone, gathered in front of the Caglayan Justice Palace to seek justice, feels. They chant, “Gays will not be silent, they will not be silent, will not be silent”.

Zeynep Bilginsoy/ LGBTI News Turkey

Summary Results of the Social and Economic Problems of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (LGBT) Individuals in Turkey Research

Source: Yılmaz, V. and Göçmen, İ. (June, 2015), “Summary Results of the Social and Economic Problems of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (LGBT) Individuals in Turkey Research”, Vol. IV, Issue 6, pp.97-105, Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (ResearchTurkey), London, Research Turkey. (http://researchturkey.org/?p=9142)


Social and Economic Problems of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGBT) Individuals in Turkey Research offers insight to social and economic problems that LGBT individuals face due to the discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. Results of the research report diverse forms of discrimination that LGBT individuals encounter in various domains of social policies including employment, health, education, income poverty, housing, participation in the social life, family and ageing. While reporting different forms of discrimination from the perspective of LGBT individuals, the research also demonstrates that the legal system falls short of tackling these forms of discrimination again in the eyes of LGBT individuals.

Please see the full article here: http://researchturkey.org/summary-results-of-the-social-and-economic-problems-of-lesbian-gay-bisexual-and-transsexual-lgbt-individuals-in-turkey-research/

SPoD LGBTI on IDAHOT: Of course we are in politics!

Social Policies, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Studies Association (SPoD LGBTI) organized a cocktail with the call “Of course we are in politics” for the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on 17 May. Politicians, lawyers, psychologists, and academics joined the cocktail and emphasized LGBTI rights.

Social Policies, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Studies Association (SPoD LGBTI) organized a cocktail with the call “Of course we are in politics” for the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on 17 May. The Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) Istanbul co-spokesperson Ayşe Erdem, the HDP’s Istanbul 2nd District Candidate and LGBTI Rights Pledge signatory Gülsüm Ağaoğlu, the Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) Istanbul 2nd District Candidate and LGBTI Rights Pledge signatory Gül Yüksel as well as representatives from LGBTI organizations, SPoD’s volunteer lawyers, psychologists, health-care workers, and academics joined the cocktail.

In the opening remarks, SPoD’s President of the Board Volkan Yılmaz informed the guests on the association’s work and called on them to support LGBTI associations. SPoD’s Political Representation Coordinator Sezen Yalçın said the eradication of homophobia and transphobia requires a long-term struggle. Yalçın emphasized the importance of LGBTI participation in politics and informed guests about the In School, at Work, at the Parliament election campaign with the idea that “We are used to politics, politics and politicians should get used to us”. Yalçın said 33 candidates for parliament have signed the LGBTI Rights Pledge ahead of the 7 June general elections and that the signatories are increasing daily.

Beşiktaş Municipality Mayorial Advisor and SPoD’s Board Member Sedef Çakmak reminded guests that very few parliamentarians were reached in the mid 2000s when LGBTI associations faced the threat of closure. She emphasized the increase in number of LGBTI rights supporters in many levels of politics and how important this win is.

Istanbul 2nd District Independent Candidate Batuhan Aydagül signed the LGBTI Rights Pledge and said he will take the problems of youth facing discrimination in education due to sexual orientation and gender identity to the parliament.

For your inquiries regarding the news and interviews:

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[email protected]

LGBTI NEWS TURKEY is the official translation source for SPoD LGBTI’s “In school, at work, in the parliament: LGBTIs are everywhere!” campaign, which is endorsed by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC).

SPoD’s Volkan Yılmaz: “Political parties must ban LGBTI discrimination in their organizations”

The LGBTI movement is an important segment of the opposition in Turkey. We discussed the elections and LGBTI movement with Volkan Yılmaz, the chair of the board of directors of SPoD (Social Policies, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Studies Association).

Source: Faruk Ayyıldız,”Partilerde LGBTI’lerin Dışlanması Yasaklanmalıdır”,(“Political parties must ban LGBTI discrimination in their organizations”), Evrensel, 4 February 2015, http://www.evrensel.net/haber/103777/partilerde-lgbtilerin-dislanmasi-yasaklanmalidir

What do you think is the atmosphere of upcoming elections in Turkey?

These elections appear to mark the end of the debates surrounding the new constitution that have been raging for years. If the ruling party acquires the power to change the constitution by itself, equal citizenship for us will become a fantasy. Viewed from the vantage point of LGBTI people, this period leading up to the elections includes both negative and positive developments. The suicides of Okyanus, a trans man in Izmir, and of Eylül Cansın, a trans woman in Istanbul, Hande, who migrated to Vienna and became a victim of a hate crime,and the passing away of trans activist Doğa due to complications after her gender reassignment surgery were all events that shook the LGBTI community. Even if these losses cannot be recuperated, there were some positive developments as well. For example, last week, under the rubric of UN Universal Periodic Review, human rights violations in Turkey were discussed. It was the shadow report of the LGBTI rights associations spearheaded by LGBTI News Turkey and Kaos GL that shaped the agenda. Western European and Latin American countries demanded from the Turkish delegation that Turkey ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. Another positive development: The Galatasaray bathhouse’s refusal of entry to Ebru Kırancı, an LGBTI activist, because of her gender identity was recognized by the court as discrimination and the bathhouse was fined.


Trans murders continue. Some comment that trans murders have increased during the rule. What do you think?

Frankly we do not know if trans murders have increased or decreased. We are only able to hear the murders that reach the media or LGBTI rights associations. It is misleading to act on that. These murders need to be assessed by the law enforcement and judiciary for us to know the exact number of gay, bisexual and trans hate crimes. As you know, an article regarding hate crimes was added to the Turkish Penal Code for the first time. When compared with the hate crime laws under international human rights law, this article is missing three things: sexual orientation, gender identity and ethnic identity. Under the circumstances we are unable to have clear information on hate crimes during AKP period. But we can easily assert that the government bears responsibility for the inadequate sanctions against crimes targeting sexual orientation and gender identity by passing such an article in the parliament.

In terms of political representation, do you see LGBTI representation in political parties as adequate?

The representation of open LGBTI individuals in the parties is inadequate. As for women and people with disabilities, LGBTI people are deprived of fair representation. In the course of local election work spearheaded by SPoD, in the last local elections, for the first time in the history of Turkey, 14 open LGBTI friends were declared as candidates for municipal councils from various political parties all on the left of the political spectrum. Even as we see this representation as a positive step, we can say it is still inadequate. Political parties need to be free of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity from local level organization to central offices. Discrimination and exclusion of LGBTI individuals from party ranks must be banned by political parties. The problems LGBTI people experiences because of their identity are seen as less important agendas compared to other issues. Meaningful representation and organizing can only be achieved as such.