Gay Middle East Web Site: http://www.gaymiddleeast.com/
More information about Islam & Homosexuality can be found at: www.al-fatiha.org
Other articles of interest can be found at: groups.yahoo.com/group/al-fatiha-news
Queer Muslim magazine: Huriyah
Gay Islam discussion groups:
February 5, 2006
Turkey Balks on Widening Rights for Gays
by Sebnem Arsu
Groups advocating equal rights for gay people in Turkey have long hoped that their country’s bid for membership in the European Union would bring European-style sexual freedoms. But as Turkey has moved closer to conforming with European legal standards and policies, its movement toward legal parity has been halting. Social opposition to public depictions of homosexuality dissolved in the 1990’s, letting a gay world emerge from hiding, at least in part. The trendy clubs of Istanbul nightlife have gay singers; gay clubs are crowded in the city’s funky Beyoglu district on weekends; and one of the most prominent singers of traditional Turkish music is Bulent Ersoy, a transsexual.
But discrimination and simple distaste for the general topic is widespread. In a rare disclosure of bias crimes, an Istanbul police official, making a speech before an international conference on global security in 2003, said 36 homicides classified as bias crimes involving sexual orientation had occurred from 1996 through 2003; advocates suspect that the number is not really representative because families are hesitant to bring the cases to court.
During Turkey’s campaign for membership in the European Union, rights groups had moments of great hope. In 2004, as lawmakers revised the Turkish penal code, the groups persuaded the Justice Commission to enlarge the definition of the crime of sexual discrimination to include bias based on sexual orientation. But then the justice minister, Cemil Cicek, eliminated the term from the draft law, recounted Serdar Soydan, a 25-year-old rights advocate. “Turks have achieved a remarkable transformation in terms of human rights, but ours is not a part of that,” he said. Recep Ozel, deputy chairman of the Justice Commission at Parliament, rejects the argument for broadening the definition of discrimination. “It doesn’t matter if a person is a heterosexual or a homosexual, if he or she has been the subject of a crime,” Mr. Ozel said.
The groups have not found it easy to rally public opinion against that approach. Kursad Kahramanoglu is the secretary general of the Brussels-based International Lesbian and Gay Association, which represents more than 400 organizations worldwide. A Turk, he left for Britain in the early 1970’s, when homosexuality was still seen as morally reprehensible in Turkey. After a military coup in 1980, gay artists were banned from appearing on Turkish state television or on stage in public places. Many fled to Europe, but eventually came back when bans were lifted in the 1990’s once a civilian government had been firmly reinstated.
Still, he noted, even popular gay and lesbian intellectuals, writers or artists have not tried to give a public face to the quest for more rights. “They remain completely silent, giving in to the official state line that limits discussion of human rights violations in Turkey to the issues of the Kurdish community or freedom of expression.” The efforts by rights groups to change public opinion are hampered by officials in the government who consider gay groups a threat to traditional values. During the regular process of registering advocacy groups with the Interior Ministry, traditional prejudices against homosexuality place the groups seeking legal parity at the mercy of interpretations of Turkish Civil Code statutes that prohibit the establishment of any organization that works against the rule of law or public morality.
In September, a gay rights group known in Kaos GL that is active in the capital, Ankara, applied for official status. But before the Interior Ministry could rule, the deputy governor, Selahattin Ekmenoglu, asked the courts to block recognition. It was a delicate moment, just as the country was on the verge of starting negotiations over membership in the European Union. In early October, a state prosecutor in Ankara declined to act, after which the group was given public status. In a measure of how important the European Union considers gay rights, it referred to the case in one of its regular progress reports on Turkey’s preparations for membership, criticizing the legal barriers raised to its recognition.
Mr. Soydan, a member of Lambda-Istanbul, another gay group seeking government recognition, and other advocates are learning organizational skills from their long-established counterparts in Europe, and preparing regular reports for the European Union. A conference that Kaos GL and Lambda-Istanbul hope to organize this year would encourage gay men and lesbians to speak about their lives and experiences. Improvements in the legal framework could give homosexuals strength to come out and claim their rights, said Mr. Soydan, one of Lambda-Istanbul’s 400 volunteer workers, as he took a last sip from his tea and plunged his hands into a plastic bag full of bright yellow stickers that read, “If they don’t know you exist, we’re never complete!” “I’m going to hand these out today,” he said. “When I see the enthusiasm in the eyes of the newcomers, it encourages me the most. That’s what counts.”
Kaos GL is a LGBT organization and a legally registered non-governmental organization that publishes a bi-monthly magazine to completely cover Turkey. Please refer any questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org and refer to the web site for information: http://news.kaosgl.com/
Kaos GL is organizing an International Anti-Homophobia Week in Ankara/Turkey from May 17th till May 21st. We hope that lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders as well as heterosexual individuals will join the activities during this week. You are invited. If you can’t attend the meeting personally, we would appreciate it if you could share with us your information, experiences, ideas, concerns and suggestions.
With best regards,
Kaos Gay-Lesbian Cultural Researches and Solidarity Association, Ankara / Turkey
1- What will be the topics in these meetings?
Although the finalized program will be determined by April 15, 2006, you can find some information about the meeting program as following:
A famous author and a social psychology professor will speak about homosexuality, homophobia and sexual orientation discriminations.
Gay-lesbian partnerships, marriage, starting a family… Problems of families with homosexual sons/daughters… Coming out to parents… How parents’ attitudes around this issue are going to change … Homophobia in the family and resistance tactics of gay-lesbian youth…
Lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders living far from the cities will talk about their rural experience and the lifestyle they follow.
Lesbian existence and homophobia directed at lesbians
Lesbian anti-homophobic strategies
(Open only to lesbian and bisexual women)
Gay-Lesbian Movie Video workshops…
Mainly short films with gay-lesbian characters or with homosexual subject
-It is an open forum for all women-
Feminist struggles and homophobia
Workshop for Homosexual Refugees
The problems of the LGBT refugees living in Turkey
International Forum of Anti-Homophobic Life Experiences Sexual Health Workshop
The struggle for sexual health rights
How are gays & lesbians excluded from the sexual health area?
Mainstream Media – Communication Forum
What kind of a relationship do we want to establish with media?
How do we spread the word the LGBT media tools?
Anti-Militarist Forum Against Homophobia
Militarism and masculinity… militarism and homosexuality
The problems of gay soldiers…
Homophobia in Labor Life and Gay-Lesbian Worker/Officer Forum
Problems of gay-lesbian workers and officers…
How can we fight against discrimination based on sexual orientation and against homophobic attitudes and practices in labor life?
Forum on psychological issues
Homophobia in the area of mental health issues
Gays and lesbians discuss with psychotherapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, psychological consultants and counselors
Homophobia in Education / Campus Forum
How can we fight against homophobic attitudes and practices towards gay and lesbian students in secondary education and university campus.
Compulsory heterosexuality… sexual education… trade union of teachers… ministry of education…
These are workshops which only gays or/and lesbians can join under the guidance of a psychologist moderator.
2- Where and when will the symposiums take place?
May 17, 2006 Wednesday and May 18, 2006 Thursday (day time) – University of Ankara, Cebeci Campus, Ankara
May 17, 2006 Wednesday and May 18, 2006 Thursday (night time) – to be determined before April 15, 2006.
May 19, 2006 Friday and May 20, 2006 Saturday (day/night) – Esin Art Place (Esin Sanat Merkezi), Kizilay, Ankara
3- What is Kaos GL?
In the summer of 1994, the Ankara branch of the Human Rights Association (IHD) established a Gay and Lesbian Rights Commission. The Commission included KAOS GL, which was already publishing KAOS GL at that time. However, when a new administration took over Ankara’s IHD branch, it withdrew recognition of the Commission and, after an internal vote, shut it down. As a result, the LGBT members of Ankara’s IHD branch left the IHD in protest, and some of them joined KAOS GL. Since then, KAOS GL has defined itself as an independent homosexual group, and it remains a vital component of Turkey’s homosexual movement.
KAOS GL applied for non-government organisation (NGO) status with the Ministry of the Interior in July 2005 under the name of Kaos Gay and Lesbian Cultural Research and Solidarity Organization. Although the deputy governor of the capital, Ankara, had petitioned a court to rule that Kaos Gay and Lesbian Cultural Research and Solidarity Organization is breaking the nation’s immorality laws, in October 2005 the Prosecutor decided not to proceed with the case. KAOS GL has been a legally registered non-government organisation (NGO) since October 2005.
4- Who will participate to these meetings?
We are in contact with LGBT individuals from Macedonia, Poland, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Greece and USA. Representatives from ILGA and ILGA-Europe indicated that they will join the meetings. LGBT organizations from Holland, Sweden, Spain have expressed their commitment. We are also expecting diplomats from some European embassies who came to our meeting last year.
Last year, on February 15, 2005 a series of conferences were held in Ankara to provide information to the Turkish and foreign public about “Human Rights Seminars for the LGBT Community in Turkey Project”. For the first time embassies from different Western countries attended the conference regarding LGBT issues either by directly attending or sending one of their representatives (United Kingdom, Netherlands, Australia, Denmark, USA, Germany, and Norway). Also representatives from European Commission and EU Reproductive Health Program were present.
5- When will the final list of the participants be announced?
The complete list of the organizations and individuals will be announced on April 15, 2006.
6- How can I contact with Kaos GL in order to attend the meeting?
Please fill out the form on the web site: http://news.kaosgl.com/
March 23, 2006
Opposition to Gay Bar Opening in Alanya, Turkey
A crisis regarding a gay bar emerged in Alanya resort town of southern Antalya city. Kemal Kacmaz, branch chairman of Justice & Development Party (AKP)in Alanya reacted to a gay couple’s (from the Netherlands) desire to open a gay bar in the resort, saying that a gay bar should not be opened, because it causes the image of the town to be spoiled. Justice & Development Party (AKP) won a landslide victory in the 2002 general elections, despite capturing barely a third of the popular vote, and its leader, former Istanbul mayor Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is currently the Prime Minister of Turkey.
May 10, 2006
Turkish Military Court Defies EHCR (European Court of Human Rights)
On May 2, 2006 Military Court of Appeals rules ECHR decisions on conscientious objection not abiding for Turkey. Homosexuality is an "advanced psychological disorder" the court says and orders objector Tarhan to serve the military.
Conscientious objector Mehmet Tarhan will have to do his compulsory military service according to the final conclusive decision of a special interdepartmental council of Turkey’s Military Court of Appeals. The Turkish daily Milliyet newspaper reported that the military court detailed verdict says European Court of Human Rights decisions on conscientious objection are not abiding for any individual country and homosexuality itself must be regarded as a psychological disorder.
Tarhan, 27, first voiced his conscientious objection to military service in October 2001. "I think that wars caused by power-mongering states are first and foremost a violation of the right to life," he said at a press conference in Ankara. "The violation of the right to life is a crime against humanity… I therefore declare that I won’t be an agent of such crime under any circumstances. I will not serve any military apparatus," he said.
Since then he has been detained twice, first on 8 April 2005 for two months and again upon his release in June. On both occasions he was held in Sivas for refusing military service. Tried on 10 August last year, he was given a prison sentence of two years for each charge of insubordination, totalling to four years. "I… refuse to be transformed into a murder machine by taking a course in dying and killing," Tarhan told a court in his defence in August 2004.
The Military Court detailed verdict on Tarhan rules, however, that no matter his views, he will have to accept serving the military, for him a 15 month compulsory recruitment period. Last November the Appeals Court had overturned Tarhan’s prison sentence on grounds that it was disproportionately high and therefore unfair, but its final written recommendation that his homosexuality should be identified by "proper physical examination procedures" was never realised.
In its detailed final decision, the Court of Appeals referred to Tarhan refusing to undergo physical examination to establish his homosexuality and said that under these circumstances, the correct course of action would not be a forced examination, but recruiting him into military service. The Milliyet report also said the verdict used the term "advanced stage of psychological disorder" in describing homosexuality. The decision argued that where Tarhan was not serving in the military his commander could not know whether he was a homosexual and "because of these reasons, Tarhan cannot be held exempt from military service".
Tarhan’s case Mehmet Tarhan made a press statement and announced that he is a conscientious objector on October 27, 2001. He said he would not kill, he would not die and thus would not become anyone’s soldier. Tarhan is a homosexual and views the medical certificate deeming him "disabled" as evidence that in fact the state itself is disabled. Because Turkey doesn’t recognize the status of "conscientious objector," Mehmet was legally seen as a deserter.
But Turkey’s policy of "ignoring" some 70 people, who have announced being conscientious objectors, changed on April 8, 2005. In the 15-year-old history of conscientious objection in Turkey, three people have been charged with this offence. All three of them were released at different stages of different trial procedures. Although their addresses were known, none of the conscientious objectors were recalled to the army. This issue is Turkey’s weakness. The state would never dare to let the conscientious objectors trigger a debate about the military or military service, which are both taboos in Turkey. On April 8, when Mehmet refused to sign any documents at the Izmir Military Recruitment Office, the deadlocked bureaucracy let the incoherent legal system solve the problem. Mehmet was first transferred to the military corps in Tokat, then to the Sivas Military Jail.
The course of his life sentence was thus drawn out. Although Mehmet repeated on a number of occasions that he is a conscientious objector, he was charged with "insisting on disobeying orders in front of assembled recruits." He was attacked by prisoners who were provoked by the prison administration, he was blackmailed and threatened.
Although he openly stated he is a homosexual, he was forced to undergo physical examinations. Ten soldiers kicked and stamped him, and cut his hair and beard. He was locked into a solitary confinement cell. He began self-mutilation and a hunger strike to protest against discrimination and bad treatment. He also demanded that his conditions be improved. He stood the third hearing of his trial on June 9. He was released pending the outcome. Because he was persistently referred to as a "soldier" he was sent again to the Military Recruitment Office, then to the corps, and then to prison. He ended his hunger strike after 28 days when some of his demands were met. But a day before his hearing on July 12, his hair and beard was forcibly cut again.
May 24, 2006
Another Turkish gay rights group risks closure in the city of Bursa
The governor of Bursa has asked the courts to order the closure of a newly formed gay rights group in the city of Bursa. On March 3, 2006 Rainbow Solidarity and Cultural Association for Transgenders, Gays and Lesbians was established in the city of Bursa, becoming the second legally registered LGBT organization in Turkey. The Ministry took the application and forwarded it to the related branch which functions under the Mayor of Bursa.
However on May 24, 2006, Cafer Odabas, the deputy governor of Bursa, came out with a statement referring to the Articles 56 and 60 of the Turkish Civil Code prohibiting establishment of an organization “that is against the laws and morality rules". He also referred to the articles 40 and 45 of the Constitution “providing clauses to protect the family” and authorized a court procedure at the Principal Registry to close down the Rainbow Solidarity and Cultural Association for Transgenders, Gays and Lesbians. The deputy even referred to the article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights claiming that that article allows a government to dissolve an association that are in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
A similar series of events happened to Kaos GL, an LGBT organization in Ankara last year. The group, which was founded 12 years ago, had applied for non-government organization (NGO) status with the Ministry of the Interior in July 2005. However on 15 September 2005, the deputy governor of Ankara said that official registration of an LGBT organization in existence since 1994 is against the laws and morality rules and therefore it should be closed down.
Finally on October 12, 2005, the prosecutor, Kursat Kayral, allowed the KAOS Gay and Lesbian Cultural Research and Solidarity Association to continue to operate. In his ruling the prosecutor even gave a reference to the American Psychiatric Association indicating they do not consider homosexuality as a disorder and said that the words "gay" and "lesbian" were widely used in daily life and scientific research. Homosexuality has never been illegal in Turkey, but the government has refused to grant specific rights to gays. An attempt was made in 2005 to introduce an anti-discrimination bill in the Parliament, but it was later dropped by the government.
Turkey has been under increasing pressure from the EU to offer protections for its LGBT citizens if it wants membership in Europe. The members of the Rainbow Solidarity and Cultural Association for Transgenders, Gays and Lesbians will issue a press statement on May 25, 2006 at 12:30 at the center with the support from some local women rights association and Human Rights Association’s Bursa chapter. — Kaos GL is a LGBT organization and a legally registered non-governmental organization that publishes a bi-monthly magazine to completely cover Turkey
Please refer any questions to: email@example.com and refer to the web site for information: http://news.kaosgl.com/
June 22, 2006
The 13th Annual LGBT Pride Events in Istanbul June 22, 2006
The 13th annual lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) pride events will take place in Istanbul between June 23 and July 2, 2006. This is the first year that gay pride events will take place for longer than a week. This years celebrations will be kicked off with a cocktail party on June 23, 2006 Friday and the LGBT community will march through Istikal Street in the Istanbul suburb of Beyoglu on Sunday, followed by the handing out of the 2nd Hormone Tomato Homophobe Awards, targeting homophobic Turkish press coverage.
The celebrations will include symposia and a dance party. The Turkish government has had a difficult relationship with LGBT communities in the past, but the prospect of Turkeys entry into the European Union has forced the government to confront their human rights situation. The Turkish government is secular, but rules over a largely Islamic population.
History Of Pride Events In Turkey:
The Christopher Street Day Sexual Liberation Activities, a gay and lesbian pride conference in Istanbul originally scheduled for July 2-6, 1993, was banned at the last minute by the governor of Istanbul, apparently on the grounds that it would be contrary to Turkey’s traditions and moral values and that it might disturb the peace. This was despite the fact that the Interior Ministry had previously provided the organizers approval to conduct the event. The governor allegedly sent his agents to many hotels in Istanbul, instructing them not to provide lodgings to the participants.
The next day, Turkish authorities detained 28 foreign delegates. At the time of their arrest, most of the detainees were in transit to a press conference in protest of the ban. They were detained for over five hours, threatened with possible strip searches and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) tests, and deported on a Turkish airliner to Germany. The most striking result of this event was the immediate establishment of Lambda Istanbul, which, to this day, remains one of the most active LGBT organizations in Turkey. Right after the Istanbul city government banned the conference, a group of gays and lesbians, formerly named "Gokkusagi" (Rainbow), renamed themselves Lambda Istanbul.
The groups first activity was to work with other organizations seeking to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. Working with Turkeys AIDS Prevention Society, Lambda Istanbul prepared the first safe sex brochure that directly addressed gay men. Lambda Istanbul became a member of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) in 1993. But things have changed since 1993. Now such repression would be almost inconceivable. With the prospect of European Union membership, Turkish LGBT organizations, such as Lambda Istanbul in Istanbul and Kaos GL in Ankara, have begun to benefit from relaxed censorship and a more open civil society.
In 2001, Kaos GL participated in the May Day labor demonstrations in Ankara under its own banner and signs. This was the first time that Turkish homosexuals participated in a public forum. It also paved the way for Lambda Istanbul to join the May Day labor demonstrations in Istanbul in 2002 for the first time. In June 2003, Lambda Istanbul celebrated its tenth Gay Pride week and the anniversary of its establishment. For the first time in Turkeys history, about 50 gays and lesbians marched down Istiklal Street in Istanbul and issued a press statement at the end of the parade.
The press statement pointed out that The Right to Live Proud is an indispensable part of Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The statement also indicated the problems Turkish gays and lesbians continue to face in their lives. Other events followed the parade, including the traditional pride party, the showing of the legendary movie Stonewall, a symposium and a poetry recital. Since 2003, Lambda Istanbul in Istanbul has been organizing Pride events every year.
April 20, 2006
Turkish police look away as organized lynch mob attacks transvestite/transsexual sex workers
“The day before they had broken into a house and attacked people who were already injured. The next morning they appeared again, they’ve attacked us anywhere they have seen us. That’s why we thought they would attack us that night and cut us into pieces with their knives.”
“We’re stuck at home, no policeman cares. I called them, I called the police station. I begged them to come over. I said I wanna leave in police escort, I wanna go home, I wanna go to M—–. but they won’t come.”
In the ten years since the Ulker Sokak incidents–wherein transvestites and the transsexuals living on Ülker street in Istanbul suffered brutal and systematic violence at the hands of an organized mob–very little his changed; transvestites and transsexuals have again been subjected to mistreat. On April 7, 2006, transvestites and transsexuals were again violently brutalized by an organized mob, this time in the conservative Eryaman district of Ankara. In the attacks—which were carried out over five days—roughly fifteen transvestites/transsexual sex workers were individually attacked with sticks and knives—with often as many as six assailants teaming up on a single victim. Two of the victims were attacked while on the street working. Back from the hospital with broken bones in casts, they were again assaulted in their own home by members of the original mob. Despite their obvious injuries, no mercy was shown to them as they were viciously dragged by their hair and beaten.
The violence of the aggressors, which happened not only on the streets where transvestites work but also at their homes, continued day and night. Their houses were encircled. They could not leave their homes without facing the same violence again. They sought protection from the police—if only to escape from the city—but the police refused to intervene, acting as if nothing was happening. Two of the victims have filed lawsuits against the police.
The text below is from an interview with “Esma” on April 22, 2006, at the LambdaIstanbul LGBT Initiative’s cultural center:
“We all live in Eryaman. We are about 10 to 15 people…You know, normally, certain attacks against the transvestites occur. Those are usual, taken for granted. But the last incidents which made us run are not random like “let’s beat them”, rather these attacks were barbarian, plainly aimed to murder, as brutal as a massacre.
What’s more, the police did not see most of it. I mean they did, but they didn’t.
Firstly, one day, 25 to 30 people, or maybe more, came to the street at the fourth stage where our friends work. They had sticks; they had them all the time… It all started with the assaults and beatings with big sticks and long knives. This day passed away with a few injuries of some friends, the day after, another friend has been attacked. Usually those attacks were starting about at 9-11 pm. It happened twice, one after another. So, the following day ‘the sledge team’ (from the public morals section of the police) arrived and they didn’t let us work for the day. After the incidents, we were not working for two days anyway; also, the day after was the Islamic holy night. On those nights nobody works.
On the following days everything went crazy. One of our friends called Yagmur, she’s a little bit fat, so she cannot easily run away… She, with her three friends, were working on the street when cars stopped nearby. There was a green, old Ford, I can’t remember the number plate but my friends can tell. Their leader was in that car, his car was the most recognizable. Again, more than 25-30 people… 6-7 people for each, if you calculate all those, coming out of the cars. They lynched them. With sticks, knives, it lasted several minutes. At the same time some other groups have attacked other friends of ours. Five people to one transvestite, five to another, they were spread out. Whoever they caught…
One of our friends wanted to escape, she tried to get into a car passing by. While she was trying to escape they crushed all the windows of the car. The driver was somebody who had nothing to do with us, just trying to help, and his car was broken into pieces. Yagmur took a very serious hit. First she was treated at the public medical center and the doctors there asked to send her to the Emergency Service of the Ankara Hospital. She risked cerebral hemorrhage. While Yagmur was being lynched -not only beaten but lynched- another friend saw a police car nearby, stopped it and brought the officers to Yagmur, expecting the police to help her. The police locked Yagmur’s friend in the police car instead and told her not to go out since otherwise the aggressors would beat her too. And right there in front of the police car, they kept on beating, lynching Yagmur. After all this, the only thing the police did was take the sticks from the aggressors and tell them to leave. They said simply, “go, now!”
We spent the next day at the hospital. Three or four of our friends were heavily injured and one of them very seriously. We were very scared, and the next day we went out to work again. They came again, the same group, this time without any cars. They shot at us with a gun, which was supposed to be used for blank shots. The arm of my friend broke with the bullet and the bullet stuck in. She had an operation, had her arm in plaster but the bullet could not be taken out. She needed to go every two days to hospital for dressing for her wounds. Her arm was seriously in plaster and the bullet they used was a small one but it could have killed her if it had hit her head. We brought her to the hospital and after the plaster she became even worse psychologically. She still had the bullet in and the plaster over it. After the necessary treatment we brought her home to rest.
At midnight… The one who had been shot in the arm and our other friend who had nearly been lynched were staying in the same house. The same group came again, broke the door, and tried to lynch the girls again, shouting “Are you still alive?” They dragged one by her hair who had almost been lynched before and beat her terribly. Then they beat the other who had the bullet in her arm from two days ago, who was just out of the emergency service; they beat her so badly that bearly anybody can recognize her. Then they broke everything around into pieces and left.
That day, everybody was so upset. We came together at night, the girls did not work to do something about… But, after a quarrel with the police one of our friends tried to burn herself by pouring gasoline on herself. Of course, meanwhile guns were shot into the air by the police and the atmosphere was very tense. 3 or 4 of us were taken into custody for attacking and resisting the police. They were kept in the police station that night. In the meantime, while they were protesting the house break in and struggling with the police, the aggressors came back again, this time in a car. Just next to the police… And all kinds of policemen were there: civil officers, public moral officers, many of them were there. Just next to them, they again attacked our friends and none of them were arrested by the police. Yet, in just two hours they broke into a house, nearly lynched our severely injured friends and broke cars into pieces. After an hour they came back and attacked the girls who protested. And none of them were caught. Even though the police saw it all, none of them were asked what their purposes were. The policemen, who had taken our friends into custody and brought them up for trial, did not engage in the case at all.
Of course, when we arrived in our flats, we kept in touch with each other by phone. In telephone conversations we said, “Do not open your doors, they know where you live. Barricade your doors, they will try to break into your flats. Don’t trust the police, they won’t show up.” We spent that night positioning our furniture and tables as barricades… not only in our flats but also in the flats of the other girls. Like in horror movies when you panic you do…We cut the electricity. We even tiptoed going to the bathroom. We waited in fear, as our houses were about to be intruded, waiting for them to attack us. Because they were so furious, they used to appear when we were out in the street working. But at your own home… as they can come to a house where seriously injured people are hiding and attempt to lynch them, they proved they have so much power, the police by their side. What you do is set up barricades behind your doors. Your life is not safe. The attacks were not only meant to beat us, I mean they wanted to kill us all. Otherwise, if it was to intimidate us… breaking into houses; dragging a person by the hair who had been shot in the arm, whose arm is in plasters, who can’t get up from the bed, next to whom there’s a person seriously injured by the attacks and knocking this people into a cocked …it’s inconceivable. It’s not human what they did, even for the extreme barbarians that they are. We locked the doors, you know, spent the night sleepless and in fear.
A friend of ours talked with someone from the Eryaman police station, a person of rank… The officer assured us by saying: “Don’t work in the streets of Eryaman. Don’t prostitute in Eryaman. If you continue your daily life, there won’t be any attacks and your houses won’t be intruded.” Imagine, all this have been said to a friend of ours. This definitely means: “If you don’t prostitute in Eryaman, there won’t be anymore attacks or raids.
And I will tell one more thing that I forgot to say before. I want this point to be very clear. From the day the incidents started until the day we escaped from Eryaman, the streetlamps where we usually work were all off. I mean they were deliberately turned off. Imagine three streets, which cross each other. Only the street we hang around was completely dark. Again, this was deliberate. All the other streets were illuminated. Everywhere was bright except our street; for example, the opposite street… The street we work in was completely dark.
Two severly injured friends, one of them shot and the other seriously beaten up, after having been twice attacked, wanted to go back to their home town of M—-. They planned to pick up only their personal belongings from their homes, the home which had been broken into before. Because they both were badly injured and incapable of working. We found a little van for transportation. They thought to take some stuff like the TV, their music collection, etc. And lave the furniture and beds. We went to that house to take basic things like cosmetics. We carried everything out. We were four, and were carrying daily outfits, slippers, etc. It was around 11 in the morning. This was just after… Do you remember? our friends had come back from court, we had met and talked. Do you remember, I told you about the conversation between a friend and a police officer in which the officer said we can continue our daily life. Half an our later there was relief, so everybody returned home–we felt like everything is over. You know, after all, we went to our friends’ home to take the stuff with the van. After everything was carried out, I mean as we were about to leave, this green Ford appeared again, even though it was broad daylight. Once more with big sticks and long knives…They drove the car into us, of course we ran immediately. We ran in all directions; I left the slippers and ran, somebody else left something else and everyone fled. The commodities in the van were just left in the middle of Eryaman. We took shelter in a flat, a flat which belongs to girls we know. From there we called the police. Actually we just wanted to transport our things under police protection. We told them everything. By the way, we let the other girls know: they came back in the daytime and they came to attack us in the daytime.
So we fled and called the police. The police car didn’t show up for a long time. Then we demanded a civil team. Anyway the police came. We told them thing all over again: they came, they attacked us again, please do something, etc… But the police remained uninterested. I mean they really didn’t care, they kept on talking. We were like captives in a flat. Although there was a civil team, the aggressors were still spinning around with their cars. They were passing right by the policemen. We could plainly see them, but the police could not see, I mean, they didn’t want to see. We showed them but they insisted on not seeing. Our friends were still planning to return to M—-. The one who was shot in the arm and beaten up again got inside the civil police car, which is a Toros (a model of FIAT), and then locked herself in the back of the civil car. She just said “I’m going with them. It’s not safe to live here. Tell them to take me out of this district. Then I’m going to find a bus and leave immediately.” That was how she left after locking herself in the car. She had to leave everything she owned behind. With that civil police car, she got out of Eryaman. Meanwhile, the number of aggressors began to grow. Their numbers got bigger and bigger and they all knew where our flats were. They began to besiege our flats. We weren’t different from captives. In the daytime, they had long knives and daggers in their hands and there were so many of them.
They caught one of our friends in the middle of the street as she was going to take some personal stuff from her house, after she had left her friends’ house. They were everywhere, and some where even in disguise. Even though some of them were walking around with knives, others were sitting in the park, reading a newspaper so as to not attract attention. Like they were doing proper things… For example, one man, who was smoking cigarettes and another two men sitting next to each other could gather and as they encounter one of us. They caught a friend of ours, Esra, this way. In a crowded area, in front of a taxi station, where many buses and minibuses frequently pass by and families are usually around, they dragged her by her hair and beat her in front of all these people. While taunting her with “Haven’t you still left Eryaman? Do you want to die?” These were the words they said, while they beat her. Esra was beaten very badly.
We were in constant contact with each other by phone, as we didn’t dare go out, we were like captives in our houses. We were 9 captives, as the house we are in was encircled. We called the police. As we told the patrol officers the last time: “There is no guarantee of our lives. Just do, whatever you can do. The number plate of the car is a motorbikes number plate and the number plate is such and such; the color of the car is this, its model is this, it cruises even in the most crowded streets“. But the police never cared. Once a police man said, “Visit the district attorney and file a petition, fill in every detail like number plates, this and that. You should write down your names and sign the text. I mean inform crown authorites about the case, so they can charge them. After all this we’ll do what we can.“ While the policeman was telling us about the procedure in our house, our houses were under blockade. While those who who were preparing to kill us were walking around with sticks, the police just informed us about the bureaucratic stuff…In a way like they might talk about papers, pens, stationery stuff… Without hesitating a friend wrote the petition and immediately signed it and we also signed it. Then she got into her car and presented it at the office of the public prosecutor. There it was said that the petition has to be written again and this time everyone has to write it separately. So this was also useless, there wasn’t any solution.
At that precise moment we worried for our lives. Many times we broke out in cold sweats. Imagine you are like official captives, you can be smashed into pieces, there is no compassion. They have no pity. And every minute their numbers increased. By that time, they were nearly 100. Because there were only 7 to 8 houses and around each house there were 15 to 20 people. Imagine the ones who are walking around, who are cruising in their cars… Just like in a horror movie all this happened in the middle of Eryaman, even at the most visible points, on some of the most crowded streets. Only we experienced this and the police knew it. We could only call each other and say: “Let’s do this, do that, but run away”… Most of us are coming from M—– Maybe 17 of the nearly 20 people living in Eryaman are originally from M—–, the rest are from A—–… I mean we are from the same region of Turkey. We all thought: “Let’s go to M—– immediately, as soon as possible. Let’s get out of here, run away from here, let’s leave everything, The police men won’t help a bit.” We spent hours stuck in the houses, some were crying, all of us so frustrated. Time kept passing on and it was getting darker. We expected them to attack in the dark. I mean, they could also attack in the daytime, but it was obvious that they were going to do it under darkness. Because they waited for so long, there was no other option. Besides, the day before they had broken into a house and attacked people who were already injured. The next morning they appeared again, they’ve attacked us anywhere they have seen us. That’s why we thought they would attack us that night and cut us into pieces with their knives. Since we were injured by them, we all thought that they were going to attack us again and tear us apart. We kept calling each other.
For example a friend, whose name is Eylem, called. At her place there were five and they could not leave the house. Among them there was Yagmur, who has been beaten up twice by the attackers. She couldn’t even stand on her own. Even though she has to see a doctor and to be examined we couldn’t manage it in that situation. Eylem, who went a bit crazy, was crying on the phone and told us: “We’re stuck at home, no policeman cares. I called them, I called the police station. I begged them to come over. I said I wanna leave in police escort, I wanna go home, I wanna go to M—–. but they won’t come.“ Another five transvestites were stuck in the house of another friend called Ece. They were also begging: “We are stuck in here, if we look through the window we can see that they are there. They are throwing stones, doing that, are about to attack, they can attack in a minute. We called the police, but they didn’t show up.” For three long hours there weren’t any policemen, I mean for three long hours they didn’t show up.
After a police car finally arrived, three hours later, Eylem and the friends fled without taking their commodities, even their basic clothes, while policemen accompanied them. Even when they were in police escort, the aggressors wanted to attack them. They couldn’t take any bus, the only thing they could do was to get to the central train station. And then they took the first train and went directly to M. We fled from the back door; everything, furniture, etc., was left behind, when everybody began to drift away. I mean, you leave everything once you begin to run away. We saw that they went right in and plundered our houses.
July 3, 2006
"Pink Life" The First Turkish Transgender Association Founded
Transvestites and transsexuals in capital Ankara found "Pink Life" support association in wake of growing attacks on Turkey’s transgendered community. "We will struggle for social, economic, cultural rights but most important of all, the right to life". Turkey’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transvestite and Transsexual Solidarity Association formally founded the "Pink Life" support association in capital Ankara on June 30 in wake of a growing number of attacks and discrimination targeting the country’s transgendered community.
"We will struggle for social, economic, cultural rights but most important of all, the right to life" a statement by the Association said, noting that their purpose was to support the participation of alternative genders in social peace, calamity and prosperity with their social and cultural life as well as behaviour.
The statement particularly referred to violent attacks on transgender individuals in recent times in Istanbul, Bursa and several district of Ankara saying "we don’t want to watch this violence". Pink Life’s statement said "sex work", for which transsexuals and transvestites are regularly blamed by the mainstream media, "is not a fate" and that the Association wants to draw attention to the fact that no one cares for the problems of people with an alternative gender being forced to work in the sex industry.
Kaos GL magazine is banned!
The 28th summer 2006 issue of Kaos GL, the only homosexual magazine in Turkey, has been confiscated by Ankara 12th Justice Court on the same day it was printed. The issue, in which pornography is questioned and contributed by the figures who are experts in their fields, have been seized because the court deemed that its content is ‘pornographic.’
July 24 Press Festival surprise from Ankara republican prosecutor’s office for Kaos GL!
Judge Tekman Savas Nemli decided CONFISCATION AND SEIZURE of Kaos GL after Republican Prosecutor Metin Sezgin from Ankara Chief Republican Prosecutor’s Office Press Crimes Investigation Bureau demanded this in a text dated July 21, 2006 and numbered 2006/1708 because some content and pictures in some texts in a file on pornography in the 28th issue because these were understood to breach protection of general morality. In the decision of Ankara Chief Republican Prosecutor’s Office Press Crimes Investigation Bureau, the expression that some texts and pictures are against "protection of general morality". But this expression does not state which pictures and texts should be banned on what ground.
Turkey’s gay and lesbian magazine published regularly since September 1994
It is the first time that our magazine is banned on the same day it was delivered from the printing house even before it is distributed to bookstores. Kaos GL, which started to be published in 1994, was recorded legally at the end of 1999 and the Republican Chief Prosecutor did not find it "pornographic or obscene." Two of its issues following its registeration by officials were distributed in closed envelopes because of the Prime Ministry Council for Protection of Juveniles from Obscene Publications. Other than this, Kaos GL has not faced any investigation.
Not homosexuals but general morality will change!
This decision, which coincides with July 24 Press Festival, should be a "surprise" against freedom of expression! The decision is sexist and homophobic. What is attempted to be buried with a siege of ‘general morality’ is the freedom of expression of Turkish national gay and lesbians. From the beginning, we have developed arguments and given a struggle against putting homosexuality the same category with sexuality and putting sexuality with the same category with pornography. Our right to have our word which should exist within the framework of freedom of expression is at the same time gay and lesbians’ struggle for existence. It is obvious that not homosexuals but ‘general morlaity’ will change.
Not pornpography but criticising and questioning pornography is banned!
Today presentation of views on women bodies with a sexist mentality makes no problem but scientific, cultural and artistic criticism of pornography via gay-lesbian sexuality is seen and banned as an attitude against ‘general morality’. In the magazine with contributions from writers Ahmet Tulgar, Fatih Özgüven, Güner Kuban, Hasan Bülent Kahraman, Mehmet Bilal Dede, Meltem Arýkan, painter Taner Ceylan and photography artistý Bikem Ekberzade’, the relation of pornography with homosexuality is discussed.
The file with headline "Visuality of sexuality, sexuality of visuality: Pornography", the doors of the world of pornography that invades the globe are opened and we question how all the images that confuse our minds turn into pornographic elements. Now with the demand of Ankara Chief Republican Prosecutor and decision of Ankara 12th Justice Court, examination and questioning of pornography bywriters, artists, academics, feminists and gay-lesbian individuals have been banned.
Long Live July 24 Press Festival!
Kaos GL Gay and Lesbian Cultural Research and Solidarity Association (KaosGL)
Refer to following links for further information:
Kaos GL is a LGBT organization and a legally registered non-governmental organization that publishes a bi-monthly magazine to completely cover Turkey. Please refer any questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org and refer to the web site for information: http://news.kaosgl.com/
August 09, 2006
Harsh crackdown on Turkey’s gays
This past week has seen Turkish gays the target of multiple attacks, by both the government and an organized homophobic mob.
Last Friday, the entire press run of Turkey’s only gay and lesbian magazine, published by the Ankara-based gay organization Kaos GL was confiscated by police before it could be distributed to bookstores and kiosks. The 28th issue of the quarterly
magazine, which bears the same name as the association that sponsors it and has been continuously published since 1994, was seized on a court order sought by the national government’s prosecutor in Ankara, Turkey’s capital, under a law for "protection of general morality."
The national government of the Republic of Turkey has been controlled by an Islamist party, the AKP (Justice and Development Party), since 2002, and so are a significant majority of local governments. Gokkusagi (The Rainbow Association) of Bursa, Turkey’s third-largest city with a population of 2 million, had called a demononstration for Sunday, August 6, to protest an attempt by the governor of Bursa to shut down the association under the same "general morality" statute. But before the LGBT group could hold its march, the association’s headquarters, where the gay protesters had assembled—and which also serves as a gay cultural center—was besieged by a stone-throwing, homophobic mob of 500, trapping some 100 gays, lesbians, and transgendered inside as the anti-gay hooligans chanted, "There is no way out here, you will die!"
The anti-gay demonstration was organized by the city’s Association of Tradesmen Supporting Bursaspor, the local football team, with the help of its Web site. In a press conference held by the football supporters to call their anti-gay demonstration, the Tradesmen’s Association’s president, Fevzinur Dundar, declared: "Bursa is the city of Ottoman sultans and religious men. This city does not deserve to be humiliated by these people who are outside society. We will stop them from marching. If the governors and politicians do not want these people to be lynched, they must make their attitude clear."
In response to this call for violence, members of gay groups from other cities—including Lambda-Istanbul and Ankara’s Kaos GL—journeyed to Bursa to join the planned gay march. Even though the gay group had obtained a legal permit for its march in Bursa, organizers accused police of failing to insure the march could take place and prevent violence. "The police could have taken the required measures, but they didn’t. They even sought to dissuade us from holding the event," Emir Birant, an activist from Ankara’s Kaos GL, told Agence France-Presse by telephone from Bursa. "There was absolutely no help from the authorities, which clearly demonstrates how homosexuals are regarded in Turkey."
The transgendered individuals were particularly prominent in the Bursa gay protest.
"The president of the Bursa Rainbow Association is transgendered, and so are about half its members," Cihan Huroglu of Lambda-Istanbul told Gay City News. "For the event, many transgenders from Ankara from the association Pink Life had arrived. Also around five trans-people from Istanbul had come. Altogether there were around 25 transgendered people among the 100 trapped in the Rainbow Center" during the homophobes’ siege, according to Huroglu.
Pink Life was founded in Ankara on June 30 as Turkey’s first association of transvestites and transsexuals.
After the siege ended, "The activists from Istanbul and Ankara eventually were deported with police escorts to the bus station, and safely returned home. But those who lived in Bursa had to wait a little longer until the football game started before they could leave safely," Huroglu told Gay City News. "The police claimed that they would not be able to protect the LGBT activists, and said if they tried to march they would be taken into custody. Stones were thrown into the center’s windows, and also at the buses when the LGBT activists were trying to leave."
"The Bursa group—whose full legal name is the Rainbow Association for Protecting Transvestites, Transsexuals, Gays and Lesbians, Solidarity, and Development of Cultural Activities—is an LGBT group that was formed in March this year, and has about 170 members," Huroglu explained. "Their cultural center houses their regular meetings and gives social support to the gay community. Their most significant activity to date was their campaign against the executions of gay people in Iran—last month they collected petition signatures on the street, which was the first open political appearance of an LGBT group in Bursa."
Government authorities, at the end of July, began legal proceedings to shut down the Bursa Rainbow Association not only under the "general morality" provisions in the Turkish Civil Code used to ban Kaos GL Magazine, but by citing constitutional clauses relating to "protection of the family." A similar procedure was used to try to outlaw the Kaos GL association last September—but after worldwide protests, especially in Europe, the government dropped the effort a month later. However, as Huroglu pointed out, "That was at the time of the fragile first-stage negotiations for Turkey’s accession to the European Union," which requires full human rights for gays and lesbians of its member states. Now Turkey’s attempt to join the E.U. has somewhat stalled, and, said Huroglu, "the atmosphere in Turkey today is a bit less pro-E.U., and there is no provisional political threshold from the E.U. as there was last fall to encourage the government to show an extra effort" to conform to E.U. human rights norms.
The issue of Kaos GL Magazine that gave authorities the excuse to seize it last week included a special section entitled "Vision of Sexuality, Sexuality of Vision: Pornography," with contributions by writers, academics, feminists, painters, and photographers discussing "cultural and artistic criticism of pornography via gay-lesbian sexuality," according to a statement by Kaos GL’s editors, who insisted the magazine was "criticizing and questioning pornography." Yet the government obtained a court order banning the magazine as "pornographic." Umut Guner, one of the founders of the Kaos GL association and chief editors of its magazine, told Gay City News, "There is still massive discrimination against LGBT people in both the public and private sector. It is very difficult for someone to press charges when he or she faces discrimination based on sexual orientation; Turkish laws do not recognize crimes of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Transgenders, who are often the most visible part of the LGBT community, continue to face discrimination and physical harassment by society.
Just like gays and lesbians, they have little legal recourse. Homosexuality has never been illegal in modern Turkey, but the government has refused to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or sexual identity." The only political party to have embraced lesbian and gay issues is the tiny,
libertarian/socialist ODP (Freedom and Solidarity Party), which in 1997 even nominated a transgendered candidate, Demet Demir for an Istanbul City Council seat. But in the last national elections, the ODP got only 0.3 percent of the vote. In fact, said Guner, "It is difficult in Turkey for a political figure to embrace the idea of banning discrimination against gay people, because homosexuality is still seen as a taboo. However, this taboo is slowly changing. Some left-wing politicians have expressed sympathy for gay people‘s rights—but no right-wing politician has." Guner added, "Turkey has changed a lot in the last ten years. For instance, a demonstration, with rainbow banners flying, would have been unimaginable a decade before," but this year, Istanbul held a ten-day Gay Pride Festival, including a July 1 Pride March that had 150 participants.
By way of comparison, Guner noted that, "In 1993, a group of mainly German gay and lesbian activists planned a three-day seminar in Istanbul on ‘Sexual Freedom Activities,’ meant to give support to a nascent and nervous Turkish LGBT movement. It had workshops on homosexuality and politics, and speeches by German politicians and foreign social scientists and artists. Istanbul authorities closed the event down. Twenty-eight foreign guests were arrested and deported. Bars friendly to gay and lesbian people in Istanbul were raided; one of the Turkish organizers of the seminar was jailed. Now such repression would be impossible."
Guner agreed that Turkey’s ambitions to join the European Union are playing a key role in changing the atmosphere for gay people.
"Turkey hopes to join Europe, not shut the door," Guner said, adding: "All LGBT organizations, including Kaos GL, have been hampered by legal difficulties and occasional harassment. Yet we benefit from an environment in which censorship is relaxing, civil society is enjoying greater, if imperfect, space. The consequent sense of freedom is palpable in Turkish culture at large, and gays and lesbians feel it as well; so too do some in Turkey’s large communities of transgendered people." In view of the recent debate here over Iran, in which some gay activists in the U.S. have insisted that a "gay identity" is a form of cultural imperialism and insensitivity when applied to Arabic and Islamic cultures, Guner was asked his views on the question. He replied, "In my personal opinion, a ‘gay’ identity is not incompatible with Eastern, Arab, and Islamic cultures, which also means that ‘democracy, human rights, freedom’ are not incompatible with Eastern, Arab, and Islamic cultures. I believe Turkey has a chance to become the first predominantly Muslim country which will embrace all those Western values, including respect to individuals who are different because of their sexual orientation or sexual identity."
Guner added, "There are reasons to be optimistic regarding the fate of Turkish LGBT people. Turkey has always been somewhere between the West and the East. Its culture includes both Western and Eastern values. These values sometimes clash with each other. We believe that a striking example of this clash is the struggle for human rights by Turkish lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders. Providing solutions to the problems of the Turkish LGBT community will be one of the litmus tests for the future of democracy in Turkey, as well as for its inclusion in the European Union. Even though the LGBT movement in Turkey is still in its early stages, one can easily notice that the Turkish LGBT movement is becoming more vocal and active. Especially since the 1990s, the momentum has been steadily increasing." Guner’s organizational ambitions match his optimism, and he said that, "Kaos is considering new projects, such as a publishing house, a psychological counseling center, a law bureau for gay rights, a solidarity network with homosexuals in jail, a health center, a senior citizens facility, and a radio channel.
August 9, 2006
Press Release of Rainbow Association regarding the Cancellation of the LGBT March in Bursa, Turkey
Our legal march has been suspended with the reason of its being an illegal aggressive protest!
Our legal demonstration with a legal permission on 06.08 2006, called Homosexuals do have Associations, in front of the city museum has been hindered. With our friends from the organizations of Lambdaistanbul, Kaos GL, Pembe Hayat and from other cities who came to support the demonstration we have organized, we were surrounded by some aggressors and stuck in our building of Rainbow Association.
With the provocative press declaration of the head of the Association of Tradesmen Supporting Bursaspor a call to lynch has been made with the words: … I am addressing here the security forces, the governor and the politicians, they have to define their position if they do not want the lynching of these people. Saying so, the head of the association clearly committed a crime. Both the security guards and the jurisprudence apparently have been frightened so that our legal demonstration has been hindered with the reasoning of this declaration of the head of the tradesmen association and a group of hooligans. About one hundred transvestites, transsexuals, gays, lesbians and bisexuals coming from IstanbulAnkara and Bursa have been cursed and have not been let out of the building, moreover our building has been stoned. While aggressors were using even carring guns with fake bullets the officials who confirmed the legal permissions only watched our fundamental human right to peacefully march and demonstrate being violated. In that sense the civilian authorities are collaborators of the illegal lynch atmosphere experienced outside the building.
We believe that the states attitude in this case was the continuation of the general prohibitive attitude towards LGBT organizations. The ban on the Kaos GL magazine on the day of the press fest, 24th of June, the attempts to close Lambdaistanbul and Rainbow Associations, systematic assaults to transvestites and transsexuals in Ankara, Bursa, Istanbul and Mersin, arbitrary detentions and punishments appear as discriminative and unequal treatments.
To all the groups, institutions and to the aggressors which were trying to lynch us claiming that we are immoral, we want the declare that the real immorality is to insist not to see the reality of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transvestite and transsexuals, to force them to live in a two-faced life and creating the lynch atmosphere. The LGBTs do exist and will exist for good. We also declare that we will start legal action against the head of the Association of Tradesmen Supporting Bursaspor who carries the flag for these inhuman attitudes towards LGBTs.
One thing should not be forgotten, LGBT rights are human rights and therefore those aggressions must be evaluated as aggressions towards human rights and democracy. In this society everyone has the right to live her/his life as she/he wishes to live and nobody has the right to take this right, to discriminate, to ignore her or his existence, and nobody has to right to selfization or otherization of LGBT’s. We are not sick, nor immoral. We are humans. What has to be changed is not us, but the perspective of the society which is wrong and unjust.
Therefore, we want to ask:
· Do we have to ask permission from the Association of Tradesmen Supporting Bursaspor instead of the governor for our demonstrations?
· Does not the Bursa Police Forces have the necessary equipment to hold back a group of hooligans from the destination of the demonstration?
· While the fundamental human rights are at stake, will the responsible officials step back instead of protecting these rights?
· Should we also use violence to defend our legitimate rights? Was it a sign of the will for our annihilation to show that tolerance to the hooligans while it was clear that we are insistent in our attitude against violence?
The freedom of LGBTS will be the freedom of heterosexuals!
(Among other things we want to thank here to the organizations which supported us all the way through. Those were: Human Rights Association, Platform of the Unions for Public Workers. Socialist Democracy Party, Democratic Society Party, Freedom and Solidarity Party, Gunyuzu Women Cooperative, and Coalition for Global Peace and Justice. )
Rainbow Association for Protecting Transvestites, Transsexuals, Gays and Lesbians, Solidarity and Development of Cultural Activities
Tel-Fax: 0 224 225 28 03-04
Address: Orhanbey Mh. Atatürk Cd. Oba İşhanı No:45 B.No703 Osmangazi-BURSA
E-mail: gokkusagidernegibur sa@mynet. com
Note: Please also refer to other news articles regarding this issue at Kaos GL’s web site
Kaos GL is a LGBT organization and a legally registered non-governmental organization that publishes a bi-monthly magazine to completely cover Turkey. Please refer any questions to: email@example.com and refer to the web site for information: http://news.kaosgl.com/
22 August 2006
Turkish Ban on Gay/Lesbian Publication is Going to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)
The Attorney Generalship of Ankara had banned Kaos GL gay and lesbian solidarity foundation’s publication issue on pornography. The First Instance Criminal Court rejected their appeal. The Foundation is preparing to carry the case to the ECHR. Ankara First Instance Criminal Court held with the decision to ban the Kaos Gay and Lesbian Cultural Studies and Solidarity Foundation’s publication Kaos GL issue 28.
The court rejected the appeal to release the publication and declared that the decision is lawful and complies with the procedural proceedings. The Foundation decided to carry the case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
Ankara Attorney Generalship, Division on Press Offences had called upon the court on July 24th to publicly ban the issue 28 of Kaos GL. The court then ruled that the issue is "contradictory with the public morality" and should be collected from the vendors.
Dossier on the idea of pornography
The issue subjected to the ban included a dossier on pornography and its relation to homosexuality. Prominent academics, writers and artists such as Ahmet Tulgar, Fatih Ozguven, Hasan Bulent Kahraman and Bikem Ekberzade were featured in the issue.
Kaos GL is a LGBT organization and a legally registered non-governmental organization that publishes a bi-monthly magazine to completely cover Turkey. Please refer any questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org and refer to the web site for information: http://news.kaosgl.com/
October 5, 2006
Turkey’s transsexuals face increasing violence
by Selcuk Gokoluk
Belgin still vividly remembers the night, more than a quarter of a century ago, when police herded her and dozens of other transsexuals and transvestites on to a train as part of a campaign to clean up Istanbul. "We did not know where the train was taking us. The police beat us and locked us up in the wagons. They gave us no water or food," she said, evoking scenes reminiscent of World War Two.
The roundup took place just before the 1980 military coup in Turkey which led to the suspension of democracy and the jailing of hundreds of thousands of people for their political views. Some were executed. Many people fled abroad.
Since then, Turkey has taken big strides forward in human rights, scrapping the death penalty and clamping down on torture, with an eye on future membership of the European Union. But Belgin says it still fails to protect people like her. "I first wore this dress in 1970. Not much has changed since then," saidBelgin, a retired prostitute who now works for Lambda Istanbul, a group that campaigns for the rights of transsexuals, transvestites, gay men and lesbians.
Rights groups say transsexuals face increasing violence and this reflects a wider trend in Turkish society — the growing influence of Islam in daily life since the centre-right AK Party, which has Islamist roots, came to power in 2002. " Now the police raid their bars and take these people into detention more frequently," said Huseyin Ayyildiz, branch secretary of the Human Rights Association in Istanbul. He said this reflected the AK Party’s promotion of more Islamist-minded police officers keen to defend conservative family values.
The intolerance is not restricted to transsexuals or homosexuals, the rights groups say. "Businesses are having difficulty getting licenses to sell alcohol," Ayyildiz said. Islam prohibits alcoholic beverages. In the capital Ankara, Deniz, a transvestite who works as a prostitute, complained that many clients were ignoring her calls. "Most of my clients are pious Muslim men and they are very afraid that the police will publicize their names," said Deniz, who also declined to give her full name.
Belgin said Turkish men were guilty of hypocrisy. "Men who secretly come to us at night for sex jeer at us on the streets," said Belgin, 53. She said she had to work as a prostitute because prejudice prevented her finding another job. She said many of her friends had been murdered over the years and violence against transsexuals, most of whom work in the sex industry, showed no sign of abating. " Some people talk about human rights. I have never seen them," she said. "Here you can kill a dog or a transsexual. There is no difference. "The murders of my friends have never been resolved. The police turn a blind eye in such cases." Like homosexuality, having a sex change operation is legal in Turkey but there are no laws to protect transgender people from discrimination as there are in some Western countries.
A tradition of tolerance for cross-dressing and same-sex liaisons that existed in the old Ottoman Empire has long faded. In August, efforts by transsexuals to set up an association in the western, conservative-minded town of Bursa were blocked by the authorities on grounds of protecting "public morality." Over the years, many transsexuals have moved from the provinces to Istanbul, a sprawling metropolis which at least provides anonymity and a network of support. Belgin sees little change in police attitudes. " There was a police chief (in the past) who was known as bone-breaker cretin because he did not leave transsexuals before breaking their bones," she said. Another liked burning the arms of transsexuals with a cigarette lighter. "He would then ask how they would endure the fires of hell in the after-life if they cannot stand this," Belgin said.
And now? "They come with hate and feelings of revenge and do not hide their aim of cleansing Beyoglu (hub of Istanbul’s night life) of its transsexuals." Turkish police spokesman Ismail Caliskan rejected the accusations that the police breach human rights. " The police have always been a target of such accusations … (human rights groups and transsexuals) always say ‘the police beat us’. These claims are not true," he told Reuters.
October 14, 2006
Turkish Conscientious Objector and Gay Activist Mehmet Tarhan sentenced to 25 months of Heavy Imprisonment
Below is the Press Release from the Committee of Conscientious Objection at Human Rights Association Istanbul Branch on October 13, 2006.
Sivas Military Court overruled General Board of Appeals’ decision on Mehmet Tarhan and adjudicated the case on 10/10/2006. Conscientious Objector Mehmet Tarhan received a sentence of 25 months heavy imprisonment for each of the charges. Commitee of Conscientious Objection arranged an immediate press conference concerning Military Court’s decision with the participation of anti-war activists in the meeting hall of “Human Rights Association Istanbul Branch” on October 13, 2006 at 13.15. The following days Committee of Conscientious Objection will take the case back to the Military Court of Appeal.
Kurdish objector defies Turkey’s mighty army October 8, 2006
Reuters, Selcuk Gokoluk ‘A bomb exploded in the hands of a child in the village where I was working. You ask yourself: ‘What the hell was that bomb doing there? Why do we have this war?’’ says Tarhan Mehmet Tarhan knows a lot about the desperation and anger that led a Turkish draft dodger to hijack a plane this week hoping to avoid military service. Kurdish, a homosexual and described as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, Tarhan is a determined activist whose refusal to serve in one of the world’s most powerful armies has cost him dearly. Last year he was jailed for “consistent insubordination … with the intent of evading military service altogether.” He is reluctant to talk about the beatings, the enforced shaving of his hair and beard, the rape threats and a 34-day hunger strike to protest his treatment in jail. He prefers to concentrate on his message and his immediate plight. “My purpose is not the abolition of the Turkish Armed Forces, but of all armies,” Tarhan told Reuters recently.
Since his release in March he has been struggling to recover a life that has been stripped bare by a society which reveres its military and views compulsory service as a proud rite of passage every patriotic man must complete. “I can’t find a job, I can’t get a passport, I don’t even have an identity card,” he said.
His treatment in jail sparked the condemnation of human rights groups and an international petition campaign. Amnesty International called on Turkey to recognize the right of conscientious objectors to alternative service. Although the Military Court of Appeals overturned the ruling against him, he lives in fear that he could be forced into the army at any time. But he retains the determination he expressed at his trial. “I… refuse to be transformed into a murder machine by taking a course in dying and killing,” Amnesty’s Web site quotes Tarhan as having said at his trial. But he also has some further scars.
Tarhan said he believed his sexual orientation incensed the military authorities, who view homosexuality as a psychological disorder and will exempt gays from service once they have undergone “physical tests”. Tarhan, who is also a gay activist, said he rejected taking this option to avoid service on principle. “I could see the disgust the judge and prosecutor felt for me in their eyes,” he said.
His objections to military service developed while he was working as a civil servant in the southeast region. “A bomb exploded in the hands of a child in the village where I was working. You ask yourself: ‘What the hell was that bomb doing there? Why do we have this war?’” Tarhan said. “I promised myself I would in no way become a part of this conflict.” He said he is not alone among Kurds in Turkey with his quest to abolish conscription, or at least, provide an alternative civilian service for those who object to serving in the army. “I know Kurdish groups are considering opting for rejecting military service as conscientious objectors,” he said, adding that there were now around 70 conscientious objectors in Turkey.
But his peaceful campaign of resistance is unlikely to embrace the actions of Christian convert and draft dodger Hakan Ekinci, who hijacked a plane from Albania to Italy on Tuesday in a bid to attract the intervention of the Pope. Turkey’s government is firm on the issue of conscription, saying it cannot afford to abolish compulsory service when the country’s security is threatened by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and regional conflicts; it borders Iraq. National pride in the army, which is seen as the guarantor of Turkey’s secular political system is also an obstacle to reforming conscription. Turks regularly name the armed forces — the second largest force in NATO after the United States — as their most respected institution.
October 9, 2006
Request to ban a second Turkish gay rights group rejected in Bursa
An official demand to ban another gay rights association in the city of Bursa was rejected by a prosecutor on October 6, 2006, allowing the Rainbow Solidarity and Cultural Association to continue to operate. The decision was hailed by gay rights activists as a big step in combating discrimination in the country, which hopes to join the European Union. On March 3, 2006 Rainbow Solidarity and Cultural Association for Transgenders, Gays and Lesbians was established in the city of Bursa, becoming the second legally registered LGBT organization in Turkey. The Ministry took the application and forwarded it to the related branch which functions under the Mayor of Bursa.
However on May 24, 2006, Cafer Odabas, the deputy governor of Bursa, came out with a statement referring to the Articles 56 and 60 of the Turkish Civil Code prohibiting establishment of an organization “that is against the laws and morality rules". He also referred to the articles 40 and 45 of the Constitution “providing clauses to protect the family” and authorized a court procedure at the Principal Registry to close down the Rainbow Solidarity and Cultural Association for Transgenders, Gays and Lesbians.
The deputy even referred to the article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights claiming that that article allows a government to dissolve an association that are in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. But the prosecutor, Nazmi Guven, reviewing the demand decided not to proceed with a court case on the grounds that the laws do not consider being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender an illegal action therefore there is no legal ground for punishment. The prosecutor also referred to European Convention of Human Rights while defending his decision.
A similar series of events happened to Kaos GL, an LGBT organization in Ankara last year. The group, which was founded in 1994, had applied for non-government organization (NGO) status with the Ministry of the Interior in July 2005. However on 15 September 2005, the deputy governor of Ankara said that official registration of an LGBT organization in existence since 1994 is against the laws and morality rules and therefore it should be closed down. Finally on October 12, 2005, the prosecutor, Kursat Kayral, allowed the KAOS Gay and Lesbian Cultural Research and Solidarity Association to continue to operate. In his ruling the prosecutor even gave a reference to the American Psychiatric Association indicating they do not consider homosexuality as a disorder and said that the words "gay" and "lesbian" were widely used in daily life and scientific research.
Lambda Istanbul, another LGBT organization, has also applied for non-government organization (NGO) status with the Ministry of the Interior this year. Their application to become a legal entity is still on-hold because the Istanbul Governor’s Office also filed a complaint against the association, accusing that their activities do not comply with morals and family values. Homosexuality has never been illegal in Turkey, but the government has refused to grant specific rights to lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders. An attempt was made in 2005 to introduce an anti-discrimination bill in the Parliament, but it was later dropped by the government. Turkey has been under increasing pressure from the EU to offer protections for its LGBT citizens if it wants membership in Europe.
Turkish LGBT groups also complain that the European Union, which Turkey is seeking to join, has failed to lend them adequate support and have called on Brussels to speak out in favor of their struggle for equal rights. As of October 6, 2006 there are two legally existing non-government LGBT organizations: Kaos GL in Ankara and Rainbow Association in Bursa. Lambda Istanbul in Istanbul is still awaiting a court decision to become the third legal Turkish LGBT organization.
December 9, 2006
Turkish Gay Activist Faces Prison
A criminal court case has been filed in Ankara, Turkey against the chief editor and owner of Kaos GL Magazine which is the only LGBT Turkish magazine that has been published since 1994. Umut Guner, who is the owner of the magazine on behalf of Kaos GL and vice president of Kaos GL Association, is being accused of publishing pornographic issues based on Turkish Penal Code, Article 226. If he is convicted, he may face up to three years of jail sentence.
Turkish Penal Code, Article 226, Part 2 says: “A person who broadcasts or publishes obscene images, printed or audio material or who acts as an intermediary for this purpose shall be sentenced to imprisonment for a term of six months to three years.” (It is crucial to remind that one of Kaos GL’s requests during the Penal Code review in 2005 was amending the “obscenity” article in the Turkish Penal Code by clearly defining what constitutes “obscenity”.)
On July 24, 2006, issue 28 of Kaos GL magazine was confiscated on the same day it was printed by the Twelfth Ankara Justice Court, because the court deemed its content to be ‘pornographic’. The issue in question examined pornography, and contributors to the issue are considered experts in their fields.
Kaos GL appealed the decision to the Supreme Court; however he Supreme Court approved the lower court’s decision. The court rejected the appeal to release the publication and declared that the decision is lawful and complies with the procedural proceedings. Ankara First Instance Criminal Court held with the decision to ban the Kaos Gay and Lesbian Cultural Studies and Solidarity Foundation’s publication Kaos GL issue 28.
Since further domestic appeals are not available, Kaos GL is in the process to carry the case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Now Umut Guner, owner of the magazine and vice president of Kaos GL Association, is facing up to three years of jail sentence.
December 14, 2006
Gay Editor Faces Prison
I wrote the following article for Gay City News — New York’s largest gay weekly — which published it today:
The editor of Turkey’s only magazine for LGBT people, who is also a leading gay activist, was indicted last week under a vague statute banning "obscene" material, and could face up to three years in prison. The criminal case was brought against Umut Güner, 29, who is editor of Kaos GL—the magazine published by the Ankara-based LGBT association of the same name, of which he is also a vice-president—because it had [CHANGE: consecrated TO: dedicated] its issue published in July to a symposium discussion of the subject of pornography, with articles by various gay writers.
"I personally took out anything that could be deemed pornographic before the magazine was printed," Güner told me, through a translator, from Ankara, adding, "We did this issue to figure out what role pornography plays in LGBT life, and how it shapes LGBT life. We especially focused on how heterosexual porn objectifies women and how straight men see lesbians as a fantasy. We asked LGBT writers to respond to questions like, ‘Where is pornography in our lives? Why do we watch porn? Are eroticism and pornography different?’"
The entire press run of Kaos GL’s issue 28, containing the symposium on pornography, was seized as "pornographic," before it could be distributed, on July 24 by order of Ankara’s Twelfth Court of Justice (a development covered by my article "Crackdown on Turkey’s Gays," in the August 10-16 issue of Gay City News). Kaos GL appealed the seizure to Turkey’s Supreme Court, which upheld the lower court’s order. Having exhausted all appeals within Turkey’s justice system, the magazine’s publisher is pursuing an appeal of the seizure at the European Court of Human Rights.
But now editor Güner—who for legal reasons is listed as the magazine’s "owner"—is the target of a criminal indictment under the Turkish penal code’s Article 226, Part 2, which reads: "A person who broadcasts or publishes obscene images, printed or audio material, or who acts as an intermediary for this purpose, shall be sentenced to imprisonment for a term of six months to three years."
Last year, under pressure to conform to human rights norms of the European Union, which Turkey seeks to join, the nation’s Parliament undertook a revision of the penal code—and Kaos GL then lobbied, unsuccessfully, for a revision of the vague "obscenity" statute. But with its application to join the EU having stalled since early 2006—just last week an EU summit meeting froze negotiations as a result of the nation’s refusal to end is policy of denying port entry to ships registered in the Greek-controlled Republic of Cyprus—Turkey’s human rights reforms have also halted pADD: this year], according a recentl, lengthy report in Le Monde, the leading French daily newspaper.
Kaos GL Magazine first appeared clandestinely in 1994 in samizdat form as a 16-page, photo-copied bulletin on LGBT issues in Turkey produced by a collective of budding gay activists in Ankara who, meeting in private homes, also founded the KAOS Gay and Lesbian Cultural Research and Solidarity Association, the full name of the LGBT group. Today, Kaos GL Magazine is a printed periodical with attractive and sophisticated graphics, that intelligently discusses gay cultural and political issues.
In July 2005, the Kaos GL Association was finally granted legal status as a non-governmental organization by Turkey’s Interior Ministry, and established its own offices. But in September last year, the Ankara’s governor—a member of the ruling Islamist party, the AKP (Justice and Development Party), which has governed the Republic of Turkey since 2002—tried to ban the gay association and filed a lawsuit to close it. Legal action to ban the group was rejected, however, by the courts the following month, a development hailed by Kaos GL as a major victory for the gay rights movement. (Left, Kaos GL members participate in the annual May Day labor parade)
In March 2006, another group, the Rainbow Solidarity and Cultural Association for Transgenders, Gays and Lesbians was established in the city of Bursa, and became the second legally registered LGBT organization in Turkey. A third group, Ankara-based Pink Life—an association serving Turkey’s large transgender community—has also recently been granted legal status.
Hhowever, another major gay group, the 12-year-old association Lambda Istanbul—which organized Turkey’s first Gay Pride March of 50 LGBT activists in Istanbul in 2003—has yet to be recognized as legal. Güner told Gay City News, "It seems unfair for Lambda Istanbul to still face the same legal obstacles we did, when there are three precedents in three different cases that accept the right of LGBT associations to establish their organizations."
Istanbul’s city government is also controlled by the Islamist AKP.
Güner touched on his own life as a gay man:
"I was born in 1977, and I think I began to realize I was gay when I was 11 or 12," he said. "When my family suspected that I was gay when I was 13, they took me to a psychiatrist—my parents were both teachers and well-educated. I was taken to a non-homophobic doctor, who told my mother not to create psychological problems for me, and after that my parents left me alone. I finally came out to my parents in 2001."
But, Güner told me, "When I was growing up, there were no resources for gays, and I had to try to figure out everything for myself just like the other gays and lesbians. I think this is still a continuing problem today, particularly outside the metropolitan cities of Turkey, where gays and lesbians still face their problems alone and still think there’s something wrong with them."
"When I came to Ankara for my university education, I had a very hard time acknowledging my sexual orientation," Güner recounted. "I finally figured out that being gay is not something that only happens in your bedroom, and I started volunteering for Kaos GL in 2001, and have been working for the organization ever since. I came out in public and in the media in 2003, when I appeared at the first public forum of Kaos GL on LGBT issues. And I’ve been the editor of Kaos GL Magazine since then."
Asked if he fears more prosecutions of gay activists, and further attempts to dissolve the Kaos GL Association or ban the magazine, he replied, "There is always the possibility to ban or shut down the magazine because homosexuality is still seen as a taboo. Most people don’t want to talk about it or think about it or discuss it. Kaos GL is an LGBT magazine that naturally discusses sexuality, and as long as we discuss sexuality and homosexuality we will face obstacles."
How has Turkey’s intellectual and cultural community reacted to Güner’s indictment?
"We are just beginning to start a campaign around this legal action, and we haven’t even issued a press statement yet, so most of the intellectuals and the cultural community in Turkey don’t know about it yet," Güner said. "I think the intellectuals are waiting for us to take the initiative first."
Güner added, however, that "the feminist and human rights organizations here that we’ve been in contact with have sent us support messages and indicated they wanted to be with us during this legal process."
Güner, who always displays a sunny optimism, said: "I went to the attorney general with my attorney, Yasemin Oz, and submitted a brief defending my actions. But the judge in my case has not yet reviewed it, and might not allow the case to proceed. You have to remember that the judicial system here is independent of the government. And the court may close the case at the first hearing, which is what it does in most of the other LGBT-related prosecutions of organizations."
For more information on the situation in Turkey, visit the Kaos GL Association’s Web site—which has a substantial English-language section—at http://news.kaosgl.com/