Sunday, 28 December 2008

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

1. Famous transsexual Turkish singer Bülent Ersoy (I wrote about her case in one of my earlier posts) has been acquitted of charges of criticising mandatory military service in Turkey. The decision was made on grounds of freedom of speech during a court hearing:
The law firm of Muhittin Yuzuak says Friday that their client, singer Bulent Ersoy, was acquitted during a hearing Thursday on grounds of freedom of speech. Ersoy is one of Turkey’s best-loved singers.

Ersoy has acknowledged saying on television that if she had children she would not want them to join the army to battle Kurdish rebels who are fighting for self-rule.
The European Union, which Turkey wants to join, is pressing the nation to do away with laws that stifle free expression.

Under EU pressure, Turkey amended a law in April that barred the denigration of Turkish identity and institutions. But human rights groups say the changes did not go far enough.
Bianet also reported the case:
Famous transsexual singer Bülent Ersoy is acquitted of the accusation of “alienating people from military service”, which she faced for her words during a TV show that if she had a son she would not send him to the war with the PKK in the east.
2. Court overturns shutdown of Istanbul-based Turkish gay rights group Lambda Istanbul (via Kaos):
Turkey's Supreme Court on Nov. 27 overturned a decision to dissolve the gay group Lambda Istanbul.

A lower court had agreed with city officials who claimed the organization was unlawful, immoral and against family values.

“Finally, justice has arrived,” Lambda said in an English-language statement. “We are stronger now with the overturn of the decision to close down Lambda Istanbul LGBTT Solidarity Association. As people who face violence, who get expelled from our jobs, who are excluded and isolated, who are denied their legal rights, our voices will now multiply; and as the LGBTT movement we will be louder when we shout out our right to equality.”

“Decisions influenced by prejudices will remain inevitable, and inequality, discrimination and intense human rights violations will prevail as long as ‘sexual orientation' and ‘gender identity' are not added to the equality clause of the constitution,” the group said.

Lambda has been in existence since 1993 and has been officially registered for two years. The group continued to operate during the appeals process.
3. Previously, the EU Commission issued a report on Turkey reflecting the state with the LGBT rights specifically mentioning Lambda Istanbul case and more, including the rejection of registration of the Turkish Armenian Business Development Council:
The registration of the Turkish Armenian Business Development Council was rejected by the Governorate of Istanbul, without clear legal grounds. Following a case brought by the Istanbul Governorate, an Istanbul court decided in May to close down a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual (LGBTT) association. The Istanbul Governorate is accusing Amnesty International (AI) of illegal money collection. The competent Istanbul Administrative Court heard the case and decided in favor of AI. The Governor has appealed the case before the Council of State.
4. Regarding the UN statement against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, a statement issued by a LGBT Rights Platform composed of various LGBT organizations and initiatives in Turkey called for Turkish government to endorse it. LGBT rights groups specifically noted that “The Turkish government is one of the only candidates to European Union that has declined to support” the groundbreaking UN statement.

Following the UN statement, Turkish Hurriyet newspaper said that “Turkey breaks company with EU in gay vote”.
In an atmosphere where Turkey is being criticized for the slow pace of its EU reforms, the country refuses to sign a declaration calling all states to take steps to stop the criminalization of homosexuality, contradicting its commitments to the EU in promoting human rights. […]

"It’s very frustrating for Turks who wish the state to become a member of the EU. Turkey’s position with regard to this issue is more important than Cyprus to us," an EU ambassador told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review after it became clear that Ankara declined to join the 27 EU countries who endorsed the groundbreaking initiative. […]

"Turkey is the only country among the candidate members of the EU that refused to sign the declaration," said Barış Sulu, head of Ankara-based Pembe Hayat, one of the leading Turkish lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT, association. "We want the government to protect and encourage everyone to protect human rights for everyone without discriminating the sexual identity or sexual tendencies," Sulu added.

Homosexuality is not a crime according to Turkish laws. However, "we are not defined in the Turkish constitution’s prohibition of discrimination or the social and civil rights," said Ozan Gezmiş, an activist from the MorEl Eskişehir LGBT group. "We are ignored and ignorance is the utmost violence," Gezmiş said.

"Turkey should vote for human rights on this issue, if it regards itself as a European country. But, we all know this is Turkey’s contradiction, where it tries to be European while on the other hand, acting parallel to Islam countries," Pelin Kalkan said, speaking on behalf of Ankara-based Kaos GL, another leading Turkish LGBT organization.
5. And the latest news. PEN Turkey calls the government to recognise the rights of LGBT people.
Tarık Günersel, President of PEN Turkey, called upon the government and the public to take action to respect the rights of the homosexuals.

Reminding that 64 countries signed the decision to end making homosexualism a crime at the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Günersel said, “The rights of the homosexuals are a part of the human rights that cannot be ignored.”

Sayin “The Turkish government must realize, accept and confirm this fact”, the President of the PEN Turkey said, “It is much better to be the 65th than the 165th.”

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