Northern Syria’s Kurds are establishing direct democracy and a gender revolution. Why are we arming jihadist-linked Turkey? “It’s like Spain in 1936.” Those are the words of Alexander Norton, a charismatic 31-year-old railway worker from east London, as Turkish forces besiege the Kurdish city of Afrin. Following in the tradition of Britain’s courageous International Brigades eight decades earlier, Norton has risked his life to fight Isis alongside Kurdish freedom fighters in Kurdish Syria. As you read this, a secular democracy that celebrates women’s rights is under attack, including by Turkish-aligned troops who have sung al-Qaida songs and threatened to cut off the heads of their “atheist” victims. When any woman says her husband forbids her from attending meetings, a group of women will instead descend on their home, leaving him with little choice. “This is a huge social revolution,” says Paula Lamont, the Kurdistan Solidarity Campaign’s co-chair. “Attitudes to gay rights and women’s rights have been totally changed in a matter of years.”
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
Kıvılcım Arat, a Turkish LGBTI activist, is entering the third day of a hunger strike to expose human rights violations committed against Diren Coşkun, a transgender woman who has been held in pre-trial detention in Tekirdağ prison. According to the T24 news portal, Coşkun launched a hunger strike after she was denied surgery by the Tekirdağ prison management on Jan 25. Arat, who is a member of Lambdaistanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association, has joined the hunger strike on Monday.
As the situation for LGBT people continues to improve in the West, a more concerning picture is emerging globally. While 2017 has been a breakthrough year for gay people in Germany, Austria, Malta and Australia, it has also been a year characterised by brutal crackdowns across the world. Human rights monitors warned earlier this year that authorities in Chechnya, an autonomous region within Russia, had orchestrated a violent ‘purge’ of the gay community.
In the month since the governor of Ankara indefinitely banned all public LGBTQ events, claiming that such events were contrary to public morality and carried public safety risks, LGBTQ activists have been forced to choose between silence and harassment or arrest. LGBTQ groups Pembe Hayat (Pink Life) and KAOS GL filed a lawsuit against the governor’s office last month. Istanbul-based activist Gorkem Ulumeric, who helped organize a campaign called LGBTI Yasaklarını Geri Cekin, or Reverse the LGBTI Ban, told ThinkProgress that he believes the court will overturn the ban. Ulumeric warned the reversal would take time, but if the judicial process drags on, he said, he is worried the ban could expand.
Turkish gay rights groups said Wednesday they would take legal action against a controversial ban on all LGBTI cultural events in Ankara that was announced this month. The Ankara governor's office on November 19 issued the ban to "maintain public order", arguing LGBTI events are likely to "provoke reactions within certain segments" of society.
On Nov. 18, the Ankara Governor’s Office issued a statement announcing an effective ban on all public events related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues, including all films, exhibitions, and demonstrations. Security concerns and “public sensitivities” were cited as major reasons for the ban. The wide-ranging bans imposed by the Ankara Governor’s Office are just one part of increasing pressure on LGBT groups in Turkey in recent years, resulting in the curtailing of citizens’ fundamental individual freedoms.
The Turkish capital Ankara has banned all gay festivals, screenings, forums and exhibitions on security grounds. The governor's office said on Sunday that it also wanted to protect public order and sensitivities. Homosexuality is legal in Turkey but activists say homophobia is rampant. ["From Saturday] 18 November until further notice, all film and theatre events, screenings, panels, colloquium, exhibitions, etc... have been banned," the city administration said on its website.
Authorities in Turkey’s capital banned a German gay film festival on Wednesday, the day before it was due to start, citing public safety and terrorism risks. Four movies by German directors were scheduled for screening as part of the festival, which was planned for Nov. 16-17 in Ankara. “Considering that the content could incite grudges and enmity towards a part of society... and the intelligence reports that terror organisations are seeking to attack dissident groups or individuals, it is evaluated that this film screening could be provocative and draw reactions,” the Ankara governor’s office said in a statement. Organisers Pink Life QueerFest said on Wednesday the festival had been attacked on social media. “Suggesting that these screenings could be provocative or targeted by terror groups only goes to legitimise those people and institutions that produce hate speech towards us and see our existence as a threat,” they said in a statement.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish President, has lashed out at a scheme to give gay people more representation in the country. The politician, who took up office in 2014, was thought to be referring to a scheme by a County Council in the Nilufer district of the western city of Bursa. As well as having a quota for LGBT candidates in elections, the council also has similar requirements for women and disabled people. In a televised speech Erdogan said the move was against the nation’s values, in what was thought to be a political attack.
Elif Shafak explained in her speech she previously ‘never had the courage to say in a public space that I was bisexual.’ The revolutionary power of diverse thought was the title of her talk. It was part of a TEDGlobal even in New York City in September. Shafak used her speech to remind people of the ‘ beauty of cosmopolitanism and the beauty of diversity.’ She described herself as an ‘Istanbulite’, but then continued to explain she also feels attached to ‘the Balkans, the Aegean, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, the Levant.’
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