Friday, 13 July 2007

Turkish LGBTT Group Faces Closure in Istanbul

Below is a press statement about attempts to close one of the leading Turkish LGBTT groups (Lambda Istanbul) in Istanbul. This petition is signed by a number of human rights groups in Turkey.


We are asking: Is it immoral to be organized?

Stating that "Not only heterosexuals live in this society!", Turkey's lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transvestite and transsexual (LGBTT) associations are trying to benefit from their freedom of speech in order to fight against the discrimination based on sexual orientation and sexual identity. Turkish LGBTT people are against denial, marginalisation, stigmatisation and violence; they are seeking recognition of their existence in society.

Since 2005, civil groups and associations that apply to gain NGO (non-governmental) status were always confronted with the similar types of obstructions. Attempt to establish “Kaos GL” wanted to be rejected with a claim that "an immoral association cannot be founded". However on October 12 2005, they won their first victory when prosecutors rejected an official demand to shut down a newly-formed LGBTT association.

Now “Lambda Istanbul” faces the same threat of being closed down.

The Turkish Civil Code states that associations against law and morality cannot be established. Because Lambda Istanbul’s title has the words “lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transvestite and transsexual” in it, this association's title and purposes were found to be against the Turkish Civil Code," said the governor's letter sent to public prosecutors and the group, Lambda Istanbul.

The first trial will be held on July 19th, Thursday at 10:00 am.

On January 29, 2004 Turkey's Parliamentary Justice Commission voted to alter the 'discrimination' clause in the Penal Code to include ‘discrimination based on sexual orientation’ as a crime. Turkish LGBT activists praised the legislation that would result in criminal charges against a person who refuses anyone service, housing or employment on the basis of sexual orientation. If the law had passed, Turkey could have became the first predominantly Muslim country to pass such a law.

Although "sexism" and "discrimination against sexual orientation" are different issues of facts (aspects), the Minister of Justice Cemil Cicek claimed that they would express similar things and demanded that the expression "sexual orientation" should be taken out of the main paragraph concerning "discrimination".

Therefore on July 6, 2004 The Parliamentary Justice Commission took up the discrimination clause and decided to replace it with the discrimination clause that exists in the Constitution. According to the Article No.10 of the Turkish Constitution, discrimination based on language, race, skin color, gender, political opinion, religion, denomination and similar reasons is prohibited but it does not directly refer to sexual orientation.

Criteria and conventions must be binding for everybody and everywhere!

We want to remind that the Republic's Chief Prosecutor in Ankara rejected an official demand to shut down a newly-formed LGBTT association (Kaos GL) in Ankara in 2005. The prosecutor said in his ruling that the American Psychiatric Association did not rate homosexuality as a disorder and the words "gay" and "lesbian" were widely used in daily life and scientific research. He also put some international laws into consideration such as: the EU's political criteria, the Accession Partnership Document, the European Convention on Human Rights and supporting international conventions on human rights:

We also remind that both LGBTT associations "Lambdaistanbul," and "Kaos GL," are founded with the same objectives and are working in the frame of the law. We demand to fairness and have the same criteria and conventions in the city of Istanbul as well.

Even before registering to gain a legal NGO status, Lambdaistanbul has been an active organization in the past.

We, as members of below-mentioned Turkish associations that fight for human rights and freedom, are declaring to the public that we will continue to support Lambdaistanbul and its ideals and together resist the discriminatory practices that we face.

Main petitioners:

Kaos Gay-Lesbian Cultural Research and Solidarity Association

Pembe Hayat Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transvestite and Transsexual Solidarity Association

TPC Women Platform


Ankara University Gender Studies Group

Ankara Women Platform

“Say Stop! to Racism and Nationalism” Initiative

Kaos GL Ýzmir

Kaosist Homosexual Non-Governmental Initiative

MorEl Eskisehir LGBTT Organisation

*via Kaos GL


artmika said...

Gays in Turkey jostling for more rights

Associated Press
Originally published July 15, 2007

ANKARA, Turkey // In the 1980s and 1990s, Turkish police routinely raided gay bars, detained transvestites and banned homosexual conferences and festivals.

In May, in a sign of how the state has loosened up, gay activists held forums on several university campuses to discuss their rights and the discrimination they still face. Some delegates came from Norway and Sweden, and discussion topics included homophobia, the history of homosexuality and gay life on campuses.

Gays in Turkey say they lack legal protections and face social stigma in a Muslim nation with a secular tradition of government that has implemented broad reforms in its bid to join the European Union - but remains heavily influenced by conservative and religious values. For the most part, they face less pressure than in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries where Islamic codes are enforced with more rigor.

But Turkey's homosexuals are jostling for more rights in a crowded field.

The historical feud between Turks and Armenians, as well as the concerns of ethnic Kurds and minority Christians, attract more international attention and pressure for change on the Turkish government.

"There are so many problems in Turkey," Ali Erol, a member of the gay rights group Kaos GL, said in an interview in his office in Ankara, the Turkish capital. "It looks as though gay rights are put down below in the list of things to be taken care of."

In March, the chief editor of the group's magazine, Kaos GL, was acquitted of charges that he had illegally published pornography in a July 2006 issue after a judge noted that copies were seized before they were put on sale. The editor, Umut Guner, could have faced several years in jail if convicted.

The issue that got the magazine in trouble showed two images of men in explicit sexual poses, beside an article that editors described as an analysis of issues relating to pornography. The magazine first published in 1994, and became legal when it secured a license five years later. It comes out every two month and has a circulation of up to 1,000.

In recent years, Turkey reworked its penal code to bring it into line with European standards. The new version does not specifically ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, although the issue was discussed at the draft stage.

Justice Ministry officials had said that laws barring discrimination on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, religion and political views were enough to protect its citizens.

"There are some 'hate crime' articles in the criminal code, but they are not used appropriately," said Levent Korkut, head of Amnesty International's operations in Turkey. "Impunity is a problem in this area."

He noted that even some Turks who describe themselves as liberals say: "We don't want to protect these people."

Gay sex is not a crime in Turkey, and some clubs and cinemas in big cities openly cater to homosexuals. Gay and lesbian societies exist at several universities. But the vast majority of homosexuals remain discreet in a country where liberal views have yet to make inroads in rural areas and many urban settings. Municipalities have some leeway to introduce laws safeguarding "morality," which gay activists view as a potential threat to their freedom.

Some gays, notably poet Murathan Mungan and the late singer Zeki Muren, achieved celebrity status and openly acknowledged their sexual orientation. Similarly, historians and novelists have referred to a degree of tolerance for gay sex among some sectors of the elite during the Ottoman Empire centuries ago.

Yet, for many, being homosexual is an exercise in deception. One gay man, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he was distraught years ago because high school classmates kept calling him ibne, a derogatory word for gay in Turkish.

The man, now a university student, said he avoids physical contact with his boyfriend when they are in public and passes him off as a close friend. He said he is often mocked if he wears an article of clothing that people think is feminine.

Unable to find regular jobs, many transvestites and transsexuals work as prostitutes, an often-dangerous profession that has led to the murders of some at the hands of clients.

Some deadly "hate crimes" were never publicized because police did not reveal the sexual orientation of the victims, according to gay activists. In some cases, they said, gays who were harassed or physically harmed because of their orientation did not report the incident or go to court because they wanted to avoid scrutiny.

The European Union has funded gay groups in Turkey, which sometimes coordinate with the Turkish Ministry of Health and other government agencies. Kaos GL has links to Lambda Istanbul, a gay group in Turkey's biggest city, and hosted an "international anti-homophobia" meeting on university campuses in Ankara nearly two months ago.

"We want to share and learn the experiences of all gays and lesbians who struggle against homophobia in the Middle East, Balkans, Europe and the other parts of the world," the group said in a statement. About 20 participants came from other countries, and Erol said after the meetings: "We have now moved beyond the borders."

Kaos GL paid tribute to Hrant Dink, an ethnic Armenian journalist who was allegedly killed by extremist nationalists in January, by printing a somber image of him on the back cover of a recent issue.

"Those people who murdered Hrant Dink do not like us either," Erol said.


artmika said...

here is the latest announcement by LambdaIstanbul:

The first trial against LambdaIstanbul Solidarity Association is on July 19 2007!

LambdaIstanbul Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transvestite and Transsexual Solidarity Association will be on trial soon. Governor of Istanbul has appealed to the court to disband the association, arguing that the association's name and objectives are offensive to the Turkish moral values and its family structure. Although the attorney generalship declined the governorship's appeal, the higher court decided to open the case to trial. For the first time in Turkey, the legal court will decide whether a LGBTT association will be forced to shut down.

Currently there are four registered LGBTT associations in different cities in Turkey. During their initial processes of their establishment, each association was opposed by their own governorships. However, the attorney generalships in all cases declined the appeals to court. Istanbul's governorship has gone further by appealing to the higher court to open the case to close LambdaIstanbul LGBTT Solidarity Association.

Homosexuality in Turkey is not legally considered a crime. Transgender people may have sex-change operations with the approval of the state, and correct the gender identification on their official IDs accordingly.
However different laws and regulations that refer to 'general morality' are still used against the LGBTT people. Although such laws and regulations are not originally made to regulate LGBTT people's actions and rights, they are manipulated in ways that control and limit their everyday lives. Such uses inhibit them from demanding their rights, especially in circumstances when they are fired from their jobs due to homophobia or when the state and its police fine them randomly. The court case to close the association will present a significant example of such irregular uses of the law against the LGBTT people in Turkey.

The first trial will be held on July 19, 2007 Thursday at 10:00 am in Beyoglu Central Court of Justice III (Beyoglu 3. Asliye Hukuk Mahkemesi). We invite all LGBTT people of Turkey and everyone who truly believes in
democracy to meet in front of the courthouse prior to the trial to protest. We invite everyone to seek our rights to freedom of association recognized by European Convention of Human Rights of Freedom.

Date: July 19, 2007
Time: 10:00
Place: Beyoglu Central Court of Justice III


artmika said...

Turkey LGBT news update: Bülent Ersoy, Lambda Istanbul, EU report, UN statement, PEN Turkey