January 21, 2009 – PinkNews
Istanbul gay rights group wins appeal against closure under morality laws
by Tony Grew
Turkey’s leading gay rights group will be allowed to continue to operate after a Supreme Court ruling. A department of the Istanbul Governor’s office responsible for non-governmental organisations had alleged that the group, Lambda Istanbul, violates Turkish laws on morality. In May 2008 a court in Islanbul agreed that Lambda breaches both the Penal Code, as an association in violation of "law and morals," and Article 41 of the Turkish constitution, which is concerned with "the peace and welfare of the family."
The court ordered Lambda Istanbul to close. It was founded in 1993 and registered as an association in May 2006. Yesterday the organisation learnt that the Supreme Court of Appeals "rejected the local court’s decision on the grounds that reference to LGBT people in the name and the statute of the association did not constitute opposition to Turkish moral values," said Amnesty International.
"The Court’s judgment also recognised the right of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals to form associations. The case will now go back to the local court in Istanbul, which is expected to uphold the Supreme Court of Appeals’ decision." Lambda Istanbul aims to "support all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people to adopt equality as a value".
It has actively lobbied for legal protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Government officials have made similar legal moves to shut down other lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender organisations in Turkey but failed. Kaos GL, based in Ankara, faced a demand for closure from Ankara’s deputy governor, Selahattin Ekmenoglu, in 2005. The closure petition was dismissed by prosecutors.
Turkey is a candidate country for EU membership, but concerns about human rights are one factor frustrating negotiations. After Lambda Istanbul was banned, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe issued a stark reminder to the Turkish government that freedom of expression and freedom of association are enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, which Turkey has ratified.
Lissy Gröner, Vice-President of the European Parliament’s LGBT Intergroup, said: "If Turkey is to enter the EU, it should not forget that human rights are a part of acquis communautaire (EU law). We, the politicians in the European Parliament, will now pay a special attention to the respect of human rights of LGBT people in Turkey."
January 29, 2009 – Kaos GL
Press Release: Report of 2008
Ankara – On January 24, 2009, the Platform of LGBTT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transvestites and Transsexuals) Rights of Turkey issued a detailed report about LGBTT Rights Situation in Turkey during the year of 2008. Below is a short summary of the report. Report of 2008 Last year was a tough and depressing one for LGBTT individuals of Turkey. We left a year behind, full of hate murders, torture, harassment, suicide, civil penalties and gangs, incidents like sealing houses, homophobia during legal processes, violation against LGBTT individuals and LGBTT organizations with respect to their right of association.
We remarked that there is a “different Turkey” for homosexuals, alike every ‘other’ of Turkey. Problems we experience with our families, problems we experience with the state, and even problems we encounter when we get organized may differentiate. Within this year, we observed a different Turkey for us. We experience a year in the Turkey of homosexuals full of events like sealing of homes, extreme provocation abatements, Eryaman-Esat cases, tortures and assaults. And this report presents the Turkey of homosexuals. What happened in Turkey in 2008? The price you have to pay when you are a trans is 125 TL (80 US Dollars), as well in 2008.
In Ankara, police continued to extort money from trans individuals, by basing their excuses on the Law on Misdemeanor. Even in the case that law suits accepted the complaints of trans individuals about the money extorted on the basis of Law on Misdemeanor, and then penalties were invalidated, trans individuals were taken into custody arbitrarily under the pretext of extortion.
In Istanbul police stamped houses and trans people were forced to live at streets. In Beyoglu, which is a region of Istanbul, houses where transsexuals live and the blocks where their apartments are located are stamped by the police arbitrarily, and not only trans individuals, but also their neighbors have to face the danger of living in the streets. Thus, police, by stamping the blocks, deteriorates the relations between transsexuals and their neighbors.
LGBTT refugees are located in the cities where Turkish LGBTT people do not live, and thus, cannot reach the former. Especially, refugees who escape to Turkey because of the fear of death are forced by Ministry of Internal Affairs to live in satellite towns. LGBTT refugees who have to live in these areas are left unprotected against human rights violations. In 2008, we face the cold face of death over again and again…
He brought a complaint against his family because he was exposed to death threat. He was murdered in 17 July 2008 in an assault of arms. His murder is not revealed up to now, nota single information was transmitted to us concerning his investigation. Moreover, we even do not know whether there is an investigation or not.
In 12 November, Dilek Ince was killed with a pump-riffle. Dilek, or “Bahar” as we know her, was one of the first plaintiff of Eryaman case, and she was killed solely because she was a trans. The assaults occurred at Eryaman, Ankara, continued in Esat. After the events, thanks to the efforts of Pembe Hayat (Pink Life) LGBTT Association the gang was tried, and for the first time crimes which are committed against LGBTT individuals were evaluated as organized crimes. And more importantly, the jurisdiction named Eryaman gang a “gang.”
We have the objective to make obvious the discrimination which homosexual, bisexual and transsexual women and men are exposed to with the help of the 2008 report. This report is written so that violations which we do not want to see, about which we are not informed, or towards which we become a mere spectator may not be forgotten, so that oblivion may not be permitted.
In the hope for the days to come when such reports will not be written.
Note: One may obtain the entire book of the Report 2008 from associations Kaos GL and LambdaIstanbul.
Issued by The LGBTT Rights Platform Note: LGBTT Rights Platform is composed of various LGBTT organizations and initiatives in Turkey which are stated below: Izmir Transvestite and Transsexual Initiative, Izmir, Turkey Kaos GL Association, Ankara, Turkey Kaos GL Izmir Formation, Izmir, Turkey Lambda Istanbul LGBT Solidarity Association, Istanbul, Turkey Mor EL Eskisehir LGBT Formation, Eskisehir, Turkey Pembe Hayat LGBT Solidarity Association, Ankara, Turkey Piramid LGBT Diyarbakir Formation, Diyarbakir, Turkey
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 and refer to the web site for information.
March 13, 2009 – PinkNews
Transgender activist murdered in Turkey
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
The killing of Ebru Soykan, a prominent transgender human rights activist on March 10th in Istanbul, Turkey, has led to calls for the Turkish government to protect trans people. Soykan, 28, who worked for Lamda Istanbul on ending police violence against trans people, is the second murder victim in the organisation in the last year. In July 2008, 26-year-old Ahmet Yildiz was shot and killed as he was leaving a café near the Bosporus. As yet, no one has been charged.
According to Human Rights Watch, Soykan had asked for police protection from a man who had beaten her on several occasions and threatened to kill her. Lambda Istanbul was told that a few weeks ago police detained the man but released him two hours later. The same man is under police custody as the murder suspect.
“The Turkish police have a duty to respond to all credible threats of violence, whoever the victim,” said Juliana Cano Nieto, researcher in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights programme at Human Rights Watch. “Investigating violence against LGBT people, prosecuting suspects, and passing effective legislation to ensure equality are all critical to ensuring that these murderous abuses end.”
Lambda Istanbul has said that in 2007, it submitted a file of 146 cases they had documented to the Istanbul Provincial Human Rights Board, many dealing with reports of violence against transgender people, including cases of violence by the police. Several of these cases had been reported to the police. According to the organisation, the then-deputy governor of Istanbul told Lambda Istanbul that the governor’s office had found no records of these allegations and complaints in the police districts involved.
“Until an anti-discrimination law is in place to protect the LGBT community and the police take seriously their duty to protect everyone, these murders will continue,” said Cano Nieto. “Turkey cannot continue to ignore its obligations when lives are at stake.”
May 2009 – lgbt-ep
The Intergroup concerned about the ruling of the Turkish Supreme Court
European Parliament’s Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights welcomes the decision of the Turkish Supreme Court of Appeals (Yargitay) overturning the ruling of a local court on the closure of LGBT organisation Lambdaistanbul. However the Intergroup is very concerned about the wording in the ruling which states that “dissolution of the organisation could be possible if it would act in the ways of encouraging or provoking LGBT behaviour or acting with the aim of spreading such sexual orientations.”
"This wording is jeopardising freedom of assembly and speech of LGBT citizens and their organisations," said Michael Cashman, President of the Intergroup. "This statement is contrary to fundamental rights as we understand them in Europe. It is severely tampering rights of LGBT citizens not only freely spread but also receive information intended to them. If Turkey is to join EU, it must treat all human beings equally and respect the rights of every citizen".
The case on the closure of Lambdaistanbul will re-open on the local level shortly. The European Parliament’s Intergroup will closely follow the hearing on 30 April and hopes that this time the local court will safeguard the freedom of association to LGBT citizens.
June 9, 2009 – PinkNews
Russian activists plan picket for Obama’s visit to Moscow
by Anish Bhavsar
Gay rights campaigners are planning to stage a picket during US President Barack Obama’s visit to Moscow in July to highlight his pledge to increase rights for same-sex couples. LGBT rights campaigner Nikolai Alekseev told GayRussia.ru: “We want to express our solidarity with US gay activists who are planning similar protests in Washington DC, Chicago and other cities in the coming months.” He praised developments since Obama took office, but added that the next step was legalising gay marriage.
In May, a lesbian couple attempted to obtain a marriage licence at the city’s marriage office. As expected, their request was denied but they now plan to marry in Canada and exploit a legal loophole in Russian law on marriages abroad which does not state gender. However, the campaigners will have to seek permission from the city authorities to stage the picket on July 7th. Alekseev said that it was “highly unlikely” that they would be granted the right to protest outside the US Embassy in Moscow after the banned Slavic Pride march last month.
Andy Thayer, a member of Chicago’s Gay Liberation Network, feels the picket will be a strong reminder to the US leader following his election promises to do more for gay rights. “Since President Obama has backed away from his campaign promises to LGBT people in the US to repeal the Defence of Marriage Act and ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, we are grateful that our gay and lesbian friends in Russia are continuing to raise these human rights concerns during the president’s visit to their country,” he said.
June 11, 2009 – IGLHRC Blog
Subsisting on Bread and Tea: Iranian Refugees Talk
by Hossein Alizadeh
Last night was a sleepless one: I spent the night in a small, rather uncomfortable hotel room filled with the lingering aroma of cigarette smoke. But as I tossed and turned, I remembered that many LGBT refugees would find my room in this rather run-down hotel to be a luxury. Most of them share a humble place with several people, and consider themselves lucky if they can go to bed with food in their stomachs. Yesterday, one of the refugees told me how he ended up living for a whole month on bread and tea, which he could afford to buy only once a day. Another person was thrilled that the UNHCR gives him and his partner 81 Turkish Lira (about $55 US a month) to live on. In a country where the official poverty line is $450 US, this is peanuts. But most refugees are not even able to get this much cash to survive on. This refugee told me that he went through so much hardship and humiliation both in Iran and Turkey, that when the UNHCR interviewed him about his case, his story brought the UN officer to tears.
Yet another refugee told me how degrading it was to report his status as an asylum seeker to the local Turkish police station in a small conservative town. As soon the translator found out he was gay, he summoned other police officers to the interview room to laugh at the “freak case.” The translator asked him intimate questions about his sex life, and then laughed out loud as he told the other officers that, “the fags take it up their ass.” The police recorded the “hilarious asylum interview” on their mobile phones and sent the audio files around for the entertainment of other police officers. Soon the gay refugee discovered that, thanks to the authorities, everyone in the small town knew about his sexual orientation and his asylum case.
I asked the refugees to join me for a meal in a buffet-style restaurant filled with middle-class Turks. There was nothing fancy about the restaurant and the food was simple and delicious. As I invited my guests to help themselves to whatever they liked, I saw them hesitate. After a few seconds, one turned to me and said: “Thanks for the offer, but we really don’t know what these dishes are.” I reminded myself that those who can’t afford to buy even a loaf of bread a day are hardly capable of treating themselves to what is considered “everyday Turkish cuisine.”
Over the meal, I learn how difficult it is to find—and keep—a job in Turkey. One gender conforming gay man was fired from his job because he didn’t look like a Muslim (even though he is). Another worked for a week, was fired, and was paid only two days wages. A third had to work for 8 hours a day but could only make 200 Turkish Lira ($120) a month washing dishes. When you are a gay refugee, people exploit you, call you names, even physically assault you, and then ask you to leave the job, refusing to pay you what you earned.
After the meal I got a chance to take a walk in downtown Kayseri. It is a beautiful city, bounded by snow-covered mountains. To me, the people are warm and friendly. But I know this is not how many gay refugees experience this city. To them, society is often hostile and inhospitable. I wonder how my life would have been if I was in their place—without money in my pocket or travel documents to give me freedom of movement. It is a chilling thought.
June 22, 2009 – Human Rights Watch
Turkey: Pride and Violence
In 2006, Human Rights Watch released a detailed report on violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Turkey "We Need a Law for Liberation". This week, researcher Juliana Cano Nieto is back in Turkey, witnessing the successes and challenges of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender human rights movement three years later. Activists have achieved ever-increasing visibility; at the same time violence, particularly against Turkey’s transgender communities, remains a fact of life.
Turkish Pride Week is being held in Istanbul between June 22 – 28, and features seminars, workshops, films, and forums. Activists say that the first Pride march in 2003 had only a few dozen participants. In 2008, however, around 1500 people marched to the streets in the name of diversity. Pride week will end on June 28 with a demonstration on Istiklal street, in the heart of Taksim, a popular area in the city that lies on the verge of what used to be a thriving transgender community on Ulker Street, driven out brutally by police as part of a social cleansing campaign in the 1990s.
Such old stories of violence remain real for many people in Turkey, where at least seven transgender people have been murdered in recent years. This week, Cano Nieto will be reporting on Pride and violence in a changing Turkey.
Day 3 – June 24, 2009
Fourth Entry: Threats to Civil Society
Laws on the books are also used to harass LGBT organizations in Turkey. Though changes in the Law on Associations have made it formally easier for associations to acquire legal recognition by the government, other laws curtail this right in practice. A big question also remains around the right of youth to participate in civil society, since under the Law on Associations only people over 18 may organize in this way.
There have been government attempts to censor or close down most of the LGBT groups in Turkey–Lambda Istanbul, and in Ankara KAOS-GL and Pink Life– using Article 56 of the Civil Code, which ostensibly protects "morality" or "decency." The article reads: "No association may be founded for purposes against law and morality." Now it’s the turn of Pink and Black Triangle, an LGBT group in the coastal city of Izmir. Human Rights Watch spoke to Elif Ceylan Öszoy, attorney for the organization, about their situation. Ceylan Öszoy said:
The department of associations in Izmir challenged article 2 of our charter, arguing it goes against public morals. The article sets forth the objectives of the organization and is word by word and comma by comma like Lambda and Kaos GL’s objectives. They asked us to change the article, but we refused. We later got a communication saying they [ the department of associations in Izmir] had sent the charter to Ankara to be reviewed; and we are waiting for a response. Today in Ankara, we spoke to Sentürk Uzun, the Head of the national Department of Associations. This department belongs to the Ministry of Interior and was created in 2003 as part of reforms to the Law on Associations. It is in charge of receiving and deciding on requests from associations wanting to organize. It is also in charge of auditing the associations.
I was surprised to hear from Uzun that he was not aware of Pink and Black Triangle’s situation, in particular after the conversation with the organization’s lawyer. I told him what Ceylan Öszoy had explained to me.
Uzun first assured me that the government did not have any problem with LGBT people forming organizations. He said he recognized that the reference to "public morals" found in the Civil Code was too broad and could mean anything. "General Turkish moral values, what are they?" he said. Uzun added that it was not up to the department of associations to decide what is against "public morals," but that it was up to the courts. I asked him to explain this a bit further, since the Department of Associations is in fact the entity in charge of receiving and approving the applications of all organizations in Turkey.
Uzun explained that the department could not refuse any application outright, but that if the department felt that approving the application might violate the law for any reason it would ask the courts to decide. He said that the law obligates the government to treat groups that work on LGBT issues as against "public morals." He reiterated: The government is in favor of setting up [LGBT organizations], but we send it to the courts to decide. Even if a person wants to set up a terrorist association [the law on associations prohibits forming terrorist organizations], we will take the application and we will send them to the court.
Deciding to send them [LGBT organizations] to the courts is political. The government has to follow the interpretation that LGBT associations go against public morals, it is also in the law. But we don’t make a decision about this, the government does not make this decision, we send it to the courts. The government does not want to make any concrete decisions on this.
I asked once again, why does the department interpret LGBT organizations as going against public morals? He replied, "This side is political, but we don’t decide, the courts do." Despite this buck-passing, it is clear that not all organizations are taken to court. According to Uzun Turkey has approximately 82,000 organizations, and not all of them have been sent through the judiciary for a decision on their applications. So I asked Uzun if he knew about the recent decision by the Supreme Court on Lambda Istanbul’s case, in which the court determined-after years of litigation– that the group’s objectives did not go against public morals. He said he did, but added that that decision was for other courts to take into account. He reiterated that his office is not a court.
And so the future of Pink and Black Triangle remains uncertain. It appears their application will be sent to court. If the judge considers Lambda Istanbul and Kaos GL precedents, Pink and Black Triangle will continue with their work. If the judge decides to ignore the precedents, the organization will be shut down. The time frame for this whole process remains unclear, but support for this organization will be needed from inside and outside Turkey, with a government that appears set on skirting the issue as much as possible.
June 17, 2009 – Google
Struggle for gay rights hits football in Turkey
by Burak Akinci
Istanbul (AFP) — The fledgling homosexual movement in Turkey has ventured into the roughest of fields — the macho world of football — after a referee "came out" on television, dropping a bombshell in this football-mad country and leaving authorities confused. Already stripped of his refereeing licence, Halil Ibrahim Dincdag, 33, vows to fight on to restore his career and, if need be, go as far as the European Court of Human Rights. "I have not committed a crime, I have not defamed my profession. I’m only a homosexual," he told AFP from Istanbul, where he was on "self-exile" after leaving his home in Trabzon, a conservative bastion on the Black Sea coast.
Dincdag’s "coming out" last month was an act of unprecedented courage in a country where gays are widely ostracised and derisive words such as "fag" are among the favourite booing chants against referees at the stadiums. "Since then, my life has turned into hell," he said, explaining that he lost not only his licence but was also "thanked" for his services by a radio station in Trabzon, where he used to do a programme. "I have inadvertently become a standard-bearer of the homosexual struggle" in Turkey, he said timidly, adding he still had the support of his family, which includes an imam brother.
The Turkish Football Federation dug around to find an argument to revoke Dincdag’s licence: since he was exempt from military service due to his homosexuality, thus falling into the army’s classification of "unfit", the federation said he would be physically unfit for a refereeing job as well. Scrambling to defend the move, federation vice president Lutfi Aribogan argued that Dincdag was a mediocre referee lacking "talent" and would have never made it anyway from the amateur to the professional league.
But as criticism of the decision mounted, the head of the referees’ board said the door remained open for Dincdag to return to the fold even though he did not explain how. "They are not sincere… In any case, they would not like to see me at the matches," Dincdag said. Despite his pessimism, Dincdag is bent on fighting to restore his licence and has already lodged an appeal at the courts. "If necessary, I will go even to the European Court of Human Rights," he said.
Despite his personal plight, Dincdag’s "coming out" is a cause for celebration at the offices of KAOS-GL, the increasingly outspoken group for gay and lesbian rights in Turkey, where the referee’s case is hailed as a step forward for the movement. Turkey’s bid to join the European Union, in which respect for human rights is a key condition, has already "contributed to a better understanding of homosexuals" in the country, said Ali Erol, a senior KAOS-GL member. He complained, however, that "Turkey, which has managed to break taboos on the Armenian genocide and the Kurdish problem, is yet to openly face the reality of homosexuality."
Unlike most Muslim countries, which punish homosexuality — some with death, Turkey has never criminalised same-sex relationships and homosexual traditions can be traced back to the palaces of Ottoman sultans. But even though gays today figure among the country’s top celebrities, prejudice against the ordinary homosexual remains strong in daily life. Police are notoriously harsh against transsexual prostitutes. Several of them have been killed in "hate murders" in recent years.
"While an openly homosexual mayor is running Paris, we are still at the point of discussing whether a homosexual can run a football match," grumbled Murat Soylemez, Dincdag’s lawyer.
July 2, 2009 – Bianet News
Stuart Milk: "If my uncle Harvey Milk was still alive he would have attended Pride Week in Istanbul ."
LGBT rights activist Stuart Milk, nephew of deceased homosexual US American politician Harvey Milk, spoke to bianet about his observations regarding the Turkish LGBT movement, the Pride Week and its closing Pride March (among other things).
What did you think when you received the invitation for the LGBTT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transvestite and transsexual) Pride Week in ?
I was very excited. I came here instead of attending other scheduled events in the because I think that is a key country for the global LGBT struggle. So I happily accepted the invitation. I think your country is the only country that can build a bridge between the East and the West. plays a very important role in the question of human rights. That is why I am very happy to be here.
Did you change your mind after coming here?
I was optimistic before I came. I am even more optimistic now after seeing the local LGBT struggle and meeting the activists.
So what did you observe?
The struggle in is run both from inside and outside. This is difficult for LGBT communities. It is hard to strengthen the movement if it is not manifested in the human rights but at the same time people do not mind the movement’s existence. "Nobody bothers me, I can go to my pub" – it is difficult to persuade people with this kind of attitude to become active. A position in the middle is the biggest obstacle to take sides.
As an example let’s have a look at northern states of the , where Afro-Americans had some rights while they did not have any rights in the southern states. When Afro-Americans in the south started to fight for their rights, a part of their northern comrades did not participate in the struggle. As a result of their struggle, Afro-Americans in the south reached equal rights but still not all of the rights being in effect in the northern states were recognized for them. On average a hundred people attended this week’s panel discussions. This is a small number for such an organization. People do not see a reason to go to the panel and discuss issues. On the other hand, hundreds of people came to the parties and hundreds of people went to the gay bars. I guess this sums up the situation clearly.
What do you think about the Pride March on last Sunday 28 June?
The march has increased my optimism and my hopes even more. And not only the march but also the attitude of the people watching it in the street. It is important that people did not intervene and that there was no harassment. Even in the so-called "advanced" every march is being disturbed. On the other hand I got a bit sad.
Because I could not see enough international focus on the events. There were MPs from but I was disappointed in the LGBT community for taking too little notice and not participating. Believe me when I say that if Harvey Milk were still alive, instead of going to New York or San Francisco he would have joined the activities of the Pride Week in Istanbul .
What do you want to tell the Turkish LGBTT activists and community?
Two things. I wanted to show them that they possess more than they actually think they possess. In my opinion, the activists in this country are not fully aware of that. They are not aware of how important their impact is both in and in the rest of the world. I think the global movement has to notice what is happening here and should strengthen the resources. But they should not do this as a "rescue" plan.
There is a nice anecdote about Nelson Mandela. When he was in prison, international groups visited him, saying "We came here to help you". Mandela answered: "If you came here for me I don’t want your help. But if you thought by helping me you would also help yourselves, you are more than welcome." In my opinion ‘s LGBT movement is like the struggle of Nelson Mandela. I want to tell this to everybody through you. It is a great honour and a privilege to be here. I thank the organisation committee very much for inviting me.
See the link: http://news.kaosgl.com/item/2009/7/3/struggle-of-turkey-s-lgbt-movement-has-international-importance
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/
July 09, 2009 – hyd.org.tr
Refugee support program
Unsafe Haven: The Security Challenges Facing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Turkey
“All refugees have problems in Turkey. However, I believe that some problems are very unique to our situation. Many LGBT refugees have no one to turn to. Refugees who fled their countries because of their political activism often can turn to their political parties for support. Refugees who fled for religious reasons can turn to their religious communities. Some refugees can turn to their families in their home country for support. Many of us left everything behind. We have been cut off from our communities, our families in our countries and have no one to turn to.”
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals are among the most vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees in Turkey today. Having escaped persecution in their countries of origin, they arrive in Turkey to confront significant new challenges to their safety, security and protection.
This report is based on in-depth interviews with 46 LGBT asylum seekers and refugees living in Turkey, most of whom are Iranian. Their testimonials shed light on serious gaps in their protection, including violent harassment from local community members and other refugees, a lack of sufficient police protection, identity-based barriers to housing, employment, social services and education, and invasive questioning during asylum procedures. The report also sets out specific, practical recommendations to stakeholders to ensure that Turkey’s LGBT asylum seekers and refugees are safeguarded from violence and harassment and provided equal access to their social and economic rights.
You can download the report through this link:
July 20, 2009 – Edge Boston
For Gay Iranian Refugees, a Matter of Life or Death
by Joseph Erbentraut, Edge Great Lakes Regional Editor
Note: This is the second of two parts, the first, on the election revolt, was on Edge in June.
The international media clamor surrounding last month’s Iranian election, which saw the contentious re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad result in weeks of protests, demonstrations and violence, may have died down, but the unstable atmosphere lives on for residents of the Islamic republic. They continue to face major restrictions on free speech and threats to their safety if they choose to speak out. And they will not soon forget the street violence that resulted in the death, imprisonment and harassment of many protesters, activists and journalists–all part of the worst unrest the country has seen in thirty years.
This is particularly true for gay and lesbian Iranians, both those who remain inside the country and those who have escaped. They are familiar with oppressive treatment from their government, one which continues to outlaw homosexuality and crack down against any outward display of queerness. The first story June 30, 2009,) examined the environment facing the Iranian queer community, particularly in light of the government’s attempts to silence any post-election voices of dissent.
Building from that story, we now take a look at the climate facing queer Iranians who have fled the country with the hopes of seeking asylum in the West. Forced, in many cases, to leave behind their families, friends and the culture of their blood, their dreams of living in freedom still face a number of challenges.
When gay Iranian refugees and asylum seekers leave, they are sent to live temporarily to a number of a different places, though most end up in small Turkish towns known as "satellite cities," far from the larger cities like Ankara or Istanbul. They file a request to be granted official refugee status with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in order to legally move West, and then they wait. In many cases, that waiting period can last up to three years, a time during which employment is difficult to find and harassment is not unusual.
"[The refugees] get stuck in Turkey for this red tape process for years – one, two or more and you can never figure out why some peoples’ process moves faster than others. They live in limbo," shared Tim Murphy, a journalist for Out Magazine who has covered the region extensively. "The atmosphere is very conservative; it’s a bizarre, unwelcoming twilight zone. You have no idea when you’ll finally be able to settle and exhale."
A report released last month jointly by the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly’s Turkey Refugee Advocacy and Support Program and the Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration (ORAM) outlined some of the challenges facing LGBT refugees in the country.
"[They] are subject to a particularly caustic mix of marginalization in key areas of life, preventing them from obtaining assistance or employment, and depriving them of even the most basic security during their lengthy stay," read the report, based on interviews with 46 mostly Iranian LGBT asylum seekers and refugees. "Most live out their time in Turkey in destitution and desperation."
Refugee influx creates crisis
The report also noted that recent years have seen higher numbers of LGBT asylum seekers in Turkey, in addition to a generally higher influx of migrants leaving Africa or Asia for Europe or North America. According to sources interviewed for this story, the increased rate of asylum seekers is problematic for a number of reasons.
Hossein Alizadeh, communications coordinator for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, recently returned from Turkey, where he was investigating the atmosphere facing queer asylum seekers. He was troubled by what he saw, noting "disappointment and frustration" among many of the people he spoke with.
According to Alizadeh, Turkey called only 3,000 refugees home as recently as 2003, before the Iraqi invasion. Today, that number is nearly 20,000, an estimated 150 of whom identify as LGBT. "There are still refugees coming from Iran, and we get more and more coming in every time there is a political development in one country," he shared. "As more come in, the chance of the refugees finding a host country get slimmer and slimmer."
Another fear among LGBT rights activists working on the issue is that an influx of more gay refugees could result in an increased safety risk for the community. Already this year, ten transgender and gay people have been murdered within the country’s borders, the result of both the conservative environment and limited police protection. "Turkey doesn’t like refugees," said Scott Long, director of Human Rights Watch’s LGBT Rights Program. "They have to huddle, are subject to violence, are harassed and are accused of being devil worshippers. In some ways, it replicates their experience in Iran. The more of them there are, the more susceptible they will be."
A bittersweet choice
Arsham Parsi left his home of Iran to live in Turkey in 2005, when he discovered the police were seeking him out for his early efforts to organize and network with fellow Iranian gay activists. He stayed there for just over a year before seeking asylum in Toronto, Canada.
"The Iranian queer community who escapes to other countries have no other choice but to go through this process," explained Parsi, who is now executive director of the IRanian Queer Railroad (IRQR), an organization which provides support to gay Iranian refugees. "I had lots of problems [in Turkey], but I had no choice. It’s about death or life, choosing between bad and worse."
Parsi echoed the sentiments of the report released by the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly and ORAM that major changes needed to be made to the UNHCR’s method of processing and abjudicating refugee status for gay Iranian applicants. He is currently writing an open letter urging the organization to speed up their process. He hopes that other Western groups will sign on with their cause. A similar campaign launched by IRQR earlier this year successfully expediated country assignment for a number of gay refugees.
"We need international lobbying with UNHCR," Parsi said, noting that he is contact with Iranian refugees in a number of other nations also having difficulty. "Everyone knows they are dealing with lots of refugees and they have limited resources and staff, but the important issue is that Iranian queers are particularly vulnerable. They have to process their cases urgently because they are still facing discrimination."
The challenge to the international community
Fearing danger both in their abandoned homeland and in their temporary locations, queer Iranian refugees are indeed left in a quandary. They cannot return home, where it is estimated that thousands of gays and lesbians have been killed since 1979 and daily violence and intimidation continue, but their future remains shrouded in uncertainty.
Activists on the issue hope that LGBT and human rights organizations worldwide come to the aid of queer Iranian refugees, creating an international effort to prevent continued threats on personal safety.
"Significant steps must be taken to make LGBT refugees and asylum seekers safer in Turkey and in many other places throughout the world," said Neil Grungras, ORAM executive director. "The violence and abuses will diminish only when all responsible parties begin giving the problem the intensive and serious attention it deserves."
"It’s an international challenge for the Iranian queer community," Parsi said "Where can we live freely and have our rights respected? Most [Western nations] will say that Iran is violating rights, but they should also respect those who escape from Iranian torture."
Joseph covers news, arts and entertainment in the Windy City.
28 July 2009 – Kaos GL
Human Rights Violations Against LGBT Individuals inTurkey in 2008
Issued BY LGBT Rights Platform
The human rights violations against LGBT individuals committed by the police in Turkey are monitored and reported by the LGBT Rights Platform consisting of six LGBT organizations in Turkey. The LGBT Rights Platform also prepares reports about the attacks of civil people against LGBT individuals. The human rights violations monitored and reported by the Platform in 2008 occurred in Ankara, Aydin, Diyarbakir, Eskisehir, Istanbul, Izmir, Kayseri and Mugla. The Platform has also been working for the elimination of the existing barriers to the freedom of association of LGBT individuals in Turkey.
As a member of the LGBT Rights Platform, Lambdaistanbul LGBT Solidarity Association prepared 34 reports about the attacks of the police and civil people against LGBT individuals in 2008:
• 14 cases about police violence against LGBT individuals in public places such as streets, parks or bars
• 9 cases about police raid to transgender women’s houses and ill-treatment of the police there
• 8 cases about violence of civil people against LGBT individuals
• 1 case about the police who did not help a victim who was a transgender woman and who wanted to complain about the attack against her by two civil men
• 1 case about ill-treatment of military psychiatrists and psychologists against a gay man who wanted to take a medical report in order to not to make compulsory military service
• 1 case about discrimination against a transgender woman at a television program
The LGBT Rights Platform submits the reports about the human rights violations of the police to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey Human Rights Investigation Commission (T.B.M.M. Insan Haklarini Inceleme Komisyonu), Republic of Turkey Prime Ministry Human Rights Presidency (T.C. Basbakanlýk Insan Haklari Baskanligi), Provincial Human Rights Committee in Governorships (Valilik Ill insan Haklari Kurulu), and Human Rights District Committees (Insan Haklari Ilce Kurulu).
September 9, 2009 – PinkNews
Turkish man tried in absentia for ‘honour killing’ of gay son
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
A Turkish man accused of killing his gay son has gone on trial this week in Istanbul. Yahya Yildiz, 49, is on the run and is being tried in absentia for the crime of shooting his son Ahmet, 26, dead in June last year. Another man, thought to be a local resident, was also injured, reports news agency Sapa-dpa. He allegedly shot his son, after he revealed he was having a relationship with a man from Cologne, Germany.
Ahmet, who was training to be a physics teacher, had come out to his family but they were unhappy about his sexuality, the prosecution said. According to the prosecution, Yildiz had hired a car for the day of the killing, which was seen at a cafe on the Bosphorus strait where the killing took place. His mobile phone records placed him in the same area. Ahmet’s German-Turkish boyfriend, Ibrahim Can, has said that other people must have helped with the murder and they too should be prosecuted.
In July 2008, speaking exclusively to PinkNews.co.uk, he said: "Ahmet had been receiving threats for as long as I knew him. He told me this has been going on since his coming out a year ago. "When he came out to his parents, who had always suspected, they made him feel guilty about it." Can believes there is little chance of justice being reached in the case, saying homophobia in Turkey is "unbelievably bad".
September 26, 2009 – CNN
Turks mourn relative of Ottoman sultan
by Ivan Watson and Yesim Comert – CNN
Istanbul, Turkey (CNN) – More than 80 years after his family was ordered from the country, the grandson of one of the last Ottoman sultans was buried Saturday as hundreds of admirers looked on. Ertugrul Osman, grandson of Sultan Abdulhamid II and heir to the Ottoman throne, died this week in Istanbul of kidney failure at the age of 97, after having lived most of his life in exile in a humble third-floor walk-up apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Osman’s funeral in the garden of the mammoth Sultanahmet Mosque was attended by Turkish state ministers, artists and media glitterati.
They lined up to pay their respects to Osman’s widow, Zeynep Osman, herself a descendant of the royal family of Afghanistan. One woman pressed her forehead to Mrs. Osman’s hand in a traditional Turkish show of respect, saying "I’m just an ordinary person, but I would like to kiss your hand."
"His death marks the passing of an era," wrote Jason Goodwin, author of "Lords of the Horizons," which tells the history of the Ottoman Empire, in an e-mail to CNN. "Osman himself was born into a family that still ruled an empire stretching from the Balkans to the Indian Ocean. He was named after the founder of his dynasty, who lived seven centuries ago."
During annual campaigns at the peak of its power, the Ottoman Sultan’s army of Janissaries struck fear into the hearts of European monarchs. For 400 years, the Ottomans declared themselves the "caliphs" — spiritual leaders — of the Muslim world. But the empire declined during the 19th century, eventually suffering a humiliating defeat and partition at the hands of Allied armies during World War I. In 1922, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish Republic, sent the last Ottoman sultan packing aboard a British warship. Two years later, Ataturk banned the caliphate, declaring Turkey a secular state.
Ertugrul Osman, who had played as a boy in the imperial palaces of Istanbul, was sent with the rest of his family into exile. He lived for decades in Europe, then moved after World War II to the United States. Friends say he ran a successful mining business in Chile. They described Osman as a polyglot Renaissance man with a passion for politics and opera and a taste for evening cocktails. Over the years, Osman told reporters he had no interest in assuming the Ottoman throne. In the early 1990s, after more than half a century outside the country, Osman returned to Turkey at the invitation of a Turkish prime minister.
Friends say that, prior to getting a Turkish passport in 2004, he traveled using documents identifying him as an Ottoman citizen. The hundreds of mourners at Saturday’s funeral stunned other surviving members of the Ottoman royal family.
One man rushed Bulent Osman, a tall, elderly French-born nephew of the deceased, kissing his hand and crying in Turkish? "My prince, we are guilty for how we treated you!" "I am not a prince," Osman later explained to a reporter in French-accented English. "I am quite surprised. It is the first time I have seen such an outpouring." The royal family seems to be especially revered by devout muslim Turks, who see the sultan’s descendants as a link to the abolished Islamic caliphate.
"They are our grandfathers," said a young man named Fatih, who wore the long beard, turban and robes of a fundamentalist Islamic sect. "They glorified our religion and brought it to the highest level." The funeral was attended by an eclectic mix of mourners — stylishly dressed members of the royal family who grew up in Europe alongside fervent Islamists, some of whom pushed through the crowd ordering women to move to the back to pray. Hundreds of police officers blocked traffic as Osman was buried in a garden filled with the gravestones of Ottoman pashas and viziers, beside the ornate tombs of his grandfather Sultan Abdulhamid II and another ancestor, Sultan Mahmut II.
Osman’s death serves as a reminder of Turkey’s recent, yet often forgotten Ottoman history, said historian Jason Goodwin. "His funeral may be a catalyst for modern, republican Turkey to overcome its historical amnesia, and come to terms with its own past," Goodwin said.
October 9, 2009 – PinkNews
Turkey blocks access to gay websites
by Jessica Geen
Turkey has blocked two of its largest LGBT websites. Users of sites such as hadigayri.com and gabile.com are finding that instead of regular homepages, they are seeing messages stating that the site has been blocked by the Telecommunication Directorate. The newly-created body is permitted to shut down websites without a court order if it believes they violate the law. The administrators of the two websites say they do not contain any pornographic or criminal content. They had been accused of allowing prostitution.
Turkey banned YouTube one year ago and even briefly banned the Facebook game Farmville, on the grounds that it contained gambling. Legislation passed in 2007 allows it to block access to pornographic and obscene web content. Hadigayri.com and gabile.com were blocked on October 2nd. It is estimated that they have 225,000 users between them.
Ismael Alacaoglu, project coordinator at KAOS-GL, an Ankara-based gay group, told The Nation: "These sites are mainly used by people to meet each other and they give news about LGBT issues in Turkey. "We are concerned about them being blocked. It’s a kind of violence against freedom of expression. There are very few places in Turkey where gay people can gather and meet each other, and these two websites are among them."
An official from the Telecommunication Directorate said: "If the subject that is expressed constitutes a crime, measures are taken particularly to protect young people, minors and families against such negative content." He added: "The method applied in Turkey is also recommended and shown as an example by the EU to its member states; we can proudly say that we have a pioneering position in this field." The country is currently attempting to become a member of the European Union.
Although it is not illegal to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans in Turkey, discrimination practices and persecutions of LGBT people are commonplace. Hate crimes have risen dramatically, both in the form of attacks and murder and campaigners say the police and government have shown little responsive action.
Latest Anti-Gay Surge in Turkey Against Another LGBT Organization
Black Pink Triangle Association in Izmir is the fifth LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) organization that faces closure threat from the Turkish government. The first hearing will take place on February 19, 2010. The reason for closure threat is once again being against the law and morality. According to the information provided to the association, the Governors Office of the City of Izmir is demanding closure of the Black Pink Triangle Association.
Black Pink Triangle Association members stated that: "The prosecutor’s demand for closure of our association is clearly a violation of civil rights. Establishing an organization a constitutional right and they want to take that right from us.
When Black Pink Triangle Association was founded on February 20, 2009, all the necessary legal documentation was filed to the Governors Office. On May 26, 2009 the association received a notification from Governors Office requesting the organization to correct some of the mistakes on the application form. However the Governors Office also demanded correction of some of the founding statues of Black Pink Triangle Association claiming that the associations objections are against Turkish "moral values and family structure.
Although the mistakes in the application form were corrected, the Association refused to change the statues as per Governors request. They also stated that Kaos GL (an LGBT organization in Ankara) and Lambda Istanbul (an LGBT organization in Istanbul) have exact same statues and after long legal battles they were able to exist as legal and legitimate institutions.
On October 16, 2009, following the receipt of Black Pink Triangle Associations response, Governors Office filed a lawsuit against them and demanded closure of the institution. Black Pink Triangle Associations lawyer Ceylan Elif Ozsoy stated to Kaos GL that she found the action disturbing. She also pointed out the similar actions were taken against Kaos GL, Pink Life and Lambda Istanbul organizations and they failed.
Turkish authorities have targeted other LGBT organizations in the past as well. In September 2005, the Ankara Governors Office accused the Ankara-based group KAOS-GL of establishing an organization that is against the laws and principles of morality. Similarly, the Ankara Governors Office attempted in July 2006 to close the human rights group Pembe Hayat (Pink Life), which works with transgender people, claiming to prosecutors that the association opposed morality and family structure. In both cases, prosecutors dropped the charges.
In December 2006, the Ankara-based editor of Kaos GL, Turkey’s only magazine for LGBT people, 29-year-old gay activist Umut Guner, was indicted under a vague statute banning "obscene" material, and faced up to three years in prison. Authorities seized the magazine’s entire press run. Guner was acquitted later.
In another series of legal attacks on LGBT organizations and publications in Turkey, on May 29, 2008 a court in Istanbul, the nation’s largest city, ordered the dissolution of Lambda Istanbul. Founded in 1993, the group is Turkey’s oldest LGBT organization, and has organized Gay Pride marches in that city every year since 2003. On January 2009, the 7th Judicial Office of the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned the ruling of Istanbuls 3rd Civil Court of First Instance, which had decided to close down the Lambda Istanbul Association for a violation of general morals.
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 or refer to the web site
November 26, 2009 – The New York Times
Soul-Searching in Turkey After a Gay Man Is Killed
by Dan Bilefsky
Istanbul — For Ahmet Yildiz, a stocky and affable 26-year-old, the choice to live openly as a gay man proved deadly. Prosecutors say his own father hunted him down, traveling more than 600 miles from his hometown to shoot his son in an old neighborhood of Istanbul. Mr. Yildiz was killed 16 months ago, the victim of what sociologists say is the first gay honor killing in Turkey to surface publicly. He was shot five times as he left his apartment to buy ice cream. A witness said dozens of neighbors watched the killing from their windows, but refused to come forward. His body remained unclaimed by his family, a grievous fate under Muslim custom.
His father, Yahya Yildiz, whose trial in absentia began in September, is on the run and believed to be hiding in northern Iraq. The case, which has caused a bout of national soul-searching, has underlined the tensions between the secular modern Turkey of cross-dressing pop stars and a more traditionalist Turkey, in which conservative Islam increasingly holds sway. Ahmet Kaya, Ahmet Yildiz’s cousin, said Mr. Yildiz was the only son of a deeply religious and wealthy Kurdish family from Sanliurfa, in the predominantly Kurdish southeast.
Mr. Kaya said Mr. Yildiz, a straight-A physics student who had hoped to become a teacher, was tutoring fellow students so he could make extra money to live independently. But by coming out as gay in a patriarchal tribal family, he had become the ultimate affront to both religious and filial honor, even with parents who adored him. “Ahmet’s father had warned him to return to their village and to see a doctor and imam in order to cure him of his homosexuality and get married, but Ahmet refused,” Mr. Kaya said. “Ahmet loved his family more than anything else and he was tortured about disappointing them. But in the end, he decided to be who he was.”
That clash of values permeates Turkish society. While Turkey’s aspiration to join the European Union is pushing the Muslim-inspired government to accept and even promote civil liberties for women and homosexuals, some traditionalists remain ill at ease with a permissive attitude toward sexuality and gender roles. Until recently, so-called honor killings have been largely confined to women, who face being killed by male relatives for perceived grievances ranging from consensual sex outside of marriage to stealing a glance at a boy. A recent government survey estimated that one person dies every week in Istanbul as a result of honor killings, while the United Nations estimates the practice globally claims as many as 5,000 lives a year. In Turkey, relatives convicted in such killings are subject to life sentences.
A sociologist who studies honor killings, Mazhar Bagli, at Dicle University in Diyarbakir, the largest city in the southeast, noted that tribal Kurdish families that kill daughters perceived to have dishonored them publicize the murders to help cleanse their shame. But he said gay honor killings remained underground because a homosexual not only brought shame to his family, but also tainted the concept of male identity upon which the community’s social structure depended. “Until now, gay honor killings have been invisible because homosexuality is taboo,” he said.
Gay rights groups argue that there is an increasingly open homophobia in Turkey. The military, which is the guardian of Turkey’s secular state, regards homosexuality as a disorder. Last year, a local Istanbul court ruled in favor of disbanding the offices of Lambda, the country’s leading gay rights group, after a complaint that it offended public morality. (The decision was later overturned by a higher court.) Firat Soyle, a human rights lawyer for Lambda, who was advising Mr. Yildiz before his death, said that three months before the murder, Mr. Yildiz had filed a complaint at the local prosecutor’s office that he was receiving death threats from his family. Mr. Soyle said the prosecutor’s office had refused to investigate or provide Mr. Yildiz with protection. The local police and prosecutors declined to comment on the allegation because the case was continuing.
The murder has divided Mr. Yildiz’s neighbors in Uskudar, an old Ottoman district on the Bosporus in Istanbul where secular and religious Turks live side by side. Ummuhan Darama, a neighbor of Mr. Yildiz, was shot in the ankle during the attack and has filed criminal charges against his father. She said that the police had visited her in the hospital after the episode, urging her to drop the charges and to avoid becoming involved in what they called a “dirty crime.”
Ms. Darama, a religious Muslim who wears a gold satin head scarf, said she was the only one among her neighbors willing to testify. “The police and local religious officials are trying to protect the killer because they think homosexuality is a sin,” she said. “But in Islam killing is an even bigger sin, and no one but Allah has the right to decide between life and death. Ahmet was a nice, gentle boy and he didn’t deserve to die.” But Kemal, 55, a Kurdish man newly arrived to the district from the southeast who declined to give his last name, said he would disown his son if he found out he was gay. “I would kick him out of the house and he would no longer be my son,” he said, fingering his prayer beads.
Even as some gay groups have sought to blame encroaching Islamic conservatism for Mr. Yildiz’s death, others argue that Turkish society is actually becoming more sexually liberated. Nilufer Narli, a sociologist who has studied gender issues, noted that gay clubs and gay bars have proliferated in big cities like Istanbul. She said homosexuality in Turkey had been tolerated since Ottoman times. One of Turkey’s most celebrated singers is Bulent Ersoy, a transsexual, who was banned by the military government in the 1980s but has since become more popular as a woman than she was as a man.
“It is a cliché that Turkey is homophobic,” Ms. Narli said. “There has been a rise in religious conservatism, but at the same time, because of globalization, people are more accepting now of different values than they have ever been.” That acceptance, however, has not always filtered down to Turkey’s religious heartland, with sometimes deadly consequences. Didar Erdal, a 23-year-old gay man from Mr. Yildiz’s hometown, recently fled Istanbul for the Netherlands out of fear that his own family was hunting him.
Mr. Erdal said his family had learned he was gay last month after he applied for an exemption from military service on the grounds of his sexuality. He said his father had gone “crazy” and ordered him home, where the tribe’s elders would decide his fate. “I know all too well,” Mr. Erdal said, “what the tradition demands must happen to me.”