Maha was a final-year trainee at a police academy in Basra, southeast Iraq, when her phone went missing. It was summer 2011. Only 17, she was nervous about telling her parents, though not especially worried. Only when she was summoned to the dean’s office three days later did she realize she was in danger. A dozen or so sheets of white paper were neatly arranged on the dean’s desk. One by one, he turned them over to reveal print-outs of intimate photos taken from Maha’s phone. In some she was naked, nestled in the arms of a man whose face remains just out of shot. In others, she wears makeup stolen from her mother’s dresser. Female sexuality remains tightly surveilled in much of Iraq, but Maha’s predicament was altogether more complicated: a transgender woman, Maha was still a man in the eyes of her family and the state.
The law prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status, but the government did not enforce these prohibitions effectively. Government officials used discriminatory language toward opposition groups such as protesters, women, Alevis, Kurds, and other minorities. The constitution allows measures to advance gender equality as... Expand
The law prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status, but the government did not enforce these prohibitions effectively. Government officials used discriminatory language toward opposition groups such as protesters, women, Alevis, Kurds, and other minorities. The constitution allows measures to advance gender equality as well as measures to benefit children, seniors, persons with disabilities, widows, and veterans, without violating the constitutional prohibition against discrimination.
On March 3, the parliament approved a law known as the Democratization Package that introduced an article on hate speech or injurious acts related to language, race, nationality, color, gender, disability, political opinion, philosophical belief, religion, or sectarian differences. Perpetrators of these acts may be punished by up to three years in prison. While observers considered the legislation a positive step, they noted its categories did not match OSCE’s recommendations because ethnic identity, sexual orientation, sexual identity, age, and profession were not included. Consequently civil society organizations asserted the grounds for punishing discrimination and hate in the law remained too limited and excluded major offences that may be motivated by discrimination and/or hate, especially failing to protect the most vulnerable groups, including women, persons with disabilities, LGBT individuals, Roma, and religious minorities.
While the law does not explicitly discriminate against LGBT individuals, references in the law relating to “offenses against public morality,” “protection of the family,” and “unnatural sexual behavior” sometimes served as a basis for discrimination by employers and abuse by police. LGBT prostitutes reported that police detained them to extract payoffs. The law provides that “no association may be founded for purposes against law and morality.” Authorities applied this law in attempts to shut down or limit the activities of NGOs working on LGBT matters, and the TIB blocked LGBT social websites. For example, the website Grindr, blocked in August 2013, remained blocked during the year.
LGBT individuals continued to suffer discrimination, intimidation, and violent crimes. The NGO KAOS-GL reported that between 2010 and June 2014, there were at least 41 reported hate murders of individuals known to self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
KAOS-GL also reported that social protection was withheld from LGBT individuals due to the failure of the Ministry of Family and Social Policies and the Ministry of Labor to acknowledge the existence of LGBT individuals. KAOS-GL reported that neither ministry would engage with LGBT groups or consider the rights of LGBT persons or their need for services and protection.
LGBT advocates accused the courts and prosecutors of creating an environment of impunity for attacks on transgender persons in prostitution. Human rights attorneys reported that police and prosecutors frequently failed to pursue violence against transgender persons aggressively. They often did not arrest suspects or hold them in pretrial detention, as was common with other defendants. When arrests were made, defendants could claim “unjustifiable provocation” under the penal code and request a reduced sentence. That code states that punishment “will be reduced if the perpetrator commits a crime under the influence of rage or strong, sudden passion caused by a wrongful act.” Judges routinely applied the law to reduce the sentences of those who killed LGBT individuals. For example, on February 26, a court reduced the sentence of a man who killed a transgender woman from life imprisonment to 18 years under the “unjust provocation” provision. According to the verdict, the “unjust act” was the victim’s “being a transvestite.” Courts of appeal upheld these verdicts based, in part, on the “immoral nature” of the victim.
On April 21, two transgender women were assaulted in the district of Tarlabasi in Istanbul. One woman, Nalan, was injured and her companion, 21-year-old Cagla, died. Another transgender woman recounted the attack and reported that police and ambulance staff refused to touch the dead body, so the victim’s friends were forced to carry her.
There were active LGBT organizations in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Adana, Eskisehir, and Diyarbakir, and unofficial groups in smaller cities and on university campuses. Groups reported harassment by police and government authorities. Many university groups in small cities complained that rectors had denied them permission to organize. On June 18, the administration of Mardin Artuklu University canceled a “queer and architecture” workshop for a graduate class due to threats that included hate speech.
LGBT organizations reported the government used regular and detailed auditing to create administrative burdens and threaten the possibility of large fines. They also reported challenges finding office space to rent due to discrimination from landlords.
LGBT individuals faced discrimination in employment. The law includes a clause that allows for dismissal if a government employee is found “to act in a shameful and embarrassing way unfit for the position of a civil servant,” and other statutes criminalize the vague practice of unchastity. In March an LGBT police officer in Gaziantep was fired and charged with the crime of “unchastity.” The administrative court rejected the officer’s appeal to annul the decision.
Source: U.S. Department of State's  Human Rights Report
Kaos GL Association, Lambdaistanbul LGBTT Solidarity Association, Purplehand Eskisehir LGBTT Initiative, Pink Life LGBTT Solidarity Association, Piramid LGBTT Diyarbakir Initiative, Black Pink Triangle Izmir Association submission to United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (2009): Discrimination and Violence Against Women on Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Social Policies Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Studies Association (SPoD), Kaos GL Association submission to United Nations Human Rights Committee (2012): Human Rights Violations of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) People in Turkey: A Shadow Report
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Kaos GL Association, LGBTI News Turkey submission to Universal Periodic Review (2014): Human Rights Violations of LGBT Individuals in TurkeyContract
Turkey has fined a television channel for showing a music video by Pink that featured “erotic dance figures of a homosexual nature”, a ruling made by its television watchdog showed. Broadcaster AS TV was fined by the Turkish Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTUK) over the video for “Secrets”, which it said “featured erotic dance figures of a homosexual nature” and was shown during hours when children and young people could watch and be negatively influenced. The television channel was fined 17,000 Turkish liras for the clip. AS TV is a local television channel broadcasting in the industrial western city of Bursa.
The chairman of a youth branch of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) chaired by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan threatened to kill famous Turkish fashion designer Barbaros Şansal, who is known for his vocal stance against President Erdoğan, according to a report by online news outlet Artı Gerçek. An activist for Turkey’s LGBT community, 60-year-old Şansal was expelled from Turkish-run northern Cyprus in 2017 following a social media post denouncing violence and corruption in Turkey. He was attacked by a mob on arrival in Turkey and arrested on charges of “inciting hatred among the public.” Fatih Yakupoğlu, chairman of the AKP’s Kandilli-Kuleli youth branch in İstanbul, insulted Şansal on Twitter before threatening to “bathe himself” in the blood of the designer. Yakupoğlu’s Twitter account has since been suspended.
In a country where anti-gay violence is often excused as unjust provocation, a fatal shooting has raised fresh fears. Simge Avcı loved practical jokes, says her roommate Bahar, recalling how her friend would giggle after pretending to spill the contents of an empty teapot on her startled victims. Bahar (not her real name), 25, had lived with Avcı for seven years in Samsun, a small, sleepy city on the Black Sea coast of Turkey. On 13 July, the roommates went out for a long breakfast with Avcı’s boyfriend, Mecit Sezer, and her mother. They chatted as they ate and later went to a local pool to combat the sweltering heat. “It was a normal day,” says Bahar. The group parted company at about 7pm. Less than five hours later, Avcı was shot in the stomach and died. Sezer, her boyfriend of six months, has been arrested, but not charged. Sezer has reportedly claimed that Avcı “insulted his manhood”.
Turkey has ruled out a return to the Eurovision Song Contest until the show bans LGBT+ contestants. The country was a staple at the pan-European music contest from 1975 up until 2012, when it abruptly withdrew citing disagreements with the rules. In 2013, Finland’s entry Krista Siegfrids kissed a female backing dancer on stage as an equal marriage protest during her track Marry Me, which allegedly promted Turkey to scrap all broadcasts of the competition entirely. Turkey has ruled out a return ever since, and this week TV bosses again confirmed the country would not be participating in 2019. Ibrahim Eren, who runs Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT), cited the show’s 2014 winner Conchita Wurst – an Austrian drag artist – as inappropriate to be broadcast on TV.
Turkey has the highest transgender murder rate in Europe. The violence transgender people face often goes unpunished as the police is reluctant to investigate these cases and to help them. The transgender community is worried for its safety as recently re-elected President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his socially-conservative party, the AKP, have expressed anti-LGBT views and refuse to put LGBT rights on the agenda. “I wanted and tried to kill myself so many times but didn’t die, so I thought there is life in me and I chose the name Hayat (‘life’ in Turkish). I was born again,’” says Hayat Celik.
Homophobic leaflets blaming the “British deep state” for “forcing” people into homosexuality have reportedly been distributed in Turkey. The anti-gay notices which allegedly say “homosexuality is despicableness and can be turned away by convincement” were given to people sitting in the town of Alsancak, Izmir, according to Turkish news site Bianet. Other leaflets were also reportedly spread in different cities in the same time period. Posters which allegedly read “homosexuality is perversion”, were dropped in mail boxes and across the city of Ankara on the same day (Friday July 20), the news site reported. According to Pembe Hayat (Pink Life in English), a Turkish LGBT group, the leaflets alleged that homosexuals are supported by “British deep state” and that homosexuals are “sexual perverts.”
As dusk approached on Sunday, the streets filled with smiling faces that sparkled with glitter, along with ululating pop music and drums. All around, rainbow flags fluttered in the sky as the crowd gathered. “Don’t be quiet, don’t shut up, shout, homosexuals exist,” they shouted On both sides of the peaceful, joyful crowd stood lines of police in riot gear, waiting with their shields add batons, the tension building. An estimated 1,000 protesters advocating gay rights clashed with Turkish security forces in Istanbul in an attempt to defy a ban on the annual LGBT Pride Parade. At least 11 people were reported arrested, according to lawyers and activists, as police fired teargas along the city’s most famous commercial street.
The Ankara Governor’s Office has banned the movie screening event of a communist LGBTgroup which was to be held in the capital city on June 28, citing the ongoing state of emergency in the country as a reason for the ban. The office said such events can “incite hatred and enmity” among different fractions of the society, from which “danger” can arise. The ban came after the Ankara Communist LGBTs community announced they would screen the 2014 British LGBT-related historical comedy-drama film “Pride” at the Nazım Hikmet Cultural Center in the city’s Çankaya district at 7:30 p.m. on June 28. “It has been evaluated that the events could incite hatred and enmity among different groups of people based on class, racial, religious and sectarian differences,” the office said.
Teens draped in rainbow flags, trans activists waving banners, same-sex couples holding hands: every year, usually in the closing days of June, these are the scenes taking place in Istanbul, Turkey. But, for the last three years, these scenes have been interrupted by violence; by police brutality in the form of rubber bullets, tear gas and riot shields rammed ruthlessly against tearful, sometimes bloodied victims just trying to celebrate their identities. This year, these brutal attacks look set to repeat themselves as, once again, LGBT+ activists are gearing up to defy the demands of an authoritarian government and take to the streets.
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