Annual Review 2011
A coalition of human rights organisations protested against the removal of the ground of sexual orientation from the anti-discrimination articles in the Draft Proposal on Combating Discrimination and Equality, and the Draft Proposal on Foreigners and International Protection, which introduces provisions on asylum seekers and refugees. Both proposals were pending at the end of 2011.
Bias motivated speech
In a speech at the end of the year, Minister of Interior İdris Naim Şahin included homosexuality as an example of “all sorts of immorality, indecency and inhuman situation.” Various LGBT organisations reacted to the Minister’s speech, highlighting that LGBT individuals face discrimination, violence and murder in Turkey, and that by making such statements, the Minister, and therefore the government, provide support to those who engage in such hatred. The organisations highlighted the particularly precarious situation of trans people in Turkey who have been murdered, as well as ill-treated and tortured by the police. LGBT organisations called for the Minister’s resignation and an apology from him and the government to the LGBT population of Turkey.
Bias motivated violence
- LGBT human rights NGOs filed a criminal complaint following the rape and assault of a transsexual woman in her home by a known assailant who followed a particular pattern of violence. The attacker had previously raped and robbed various other transsexual women and gay men; after the attacks, he threatened them with his return and more assaults if they moved away from the area or did not answer the door to him. The organisations involved in the complaint called for the prosecution of the individual in the known attacks. They also called for a definition of hate crime in the Penal Code to protect LGBT people, and for the inclusion of sexual identity, sexual orientation and gender identity in the anti-discrimination and equality bill.
- In August, in an opinion piece published in Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News, Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, specifically highlighted violence (including physical attacks and killings) as well as police harassment towards the LGBT community in the country. In his piece, the Commissioner stated that governments “need to pursue legislative reforms and social change to enable LGBT persons to fully enjoy universally recognised human rights,” and pointed out that more determination and political will are needed if change is to be achieved.
- Kaos GL gathered information about bias motivated violence against members of the LGBT community in 2011. It reported the murders of one lesbian, six trans women and two gay men as well as four incidents of wounding with harmful devices and guns. Pink Life also reported at least 30 cases of severe violence against trans women. Some incidents involved multiple victims, and there were two incidents of non-fatal lynchings and two separate cases of rape. In several cases, the suspects were caught and specifically gave homophobic or transphobic reasons for the violence. These are some of the reported cases but LGBT organisations in Turkey are well aware that violence is very under reported.
- In May, the Council of Europe adopted the Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence during the Turkish Presidency in Istanbul. Turkey signed the Convention and is expected to ratify it in 2012.
The Court case of football referee Halil İbrahim Dinçdağ, who is suing the Turkish Football Federation for pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages following his dismissal, continued in 2011. Mr Dinçdağ’s suit is based on the claim that he was fi red for being gay, and that the Federation passed information about his sexual orientation to the media without his consent.
Equality and non-discrimination
- In March, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on Turkey’s progress towards membership in the European Union. It urged Turkey “to ensure that equality, regardless of sex [...] or sexual orientation, is guaranteed by the law and eff ectively enforced.” In the resolution, the Members of the European Parliament denounced ongoing murders of trans people, and condemned the removal of gender and sexual orientation from the draft anti-discrimination law.
- Sexual identity was removed from the draft Law on Combating Discrimination and Equality Committee. The amendment was criticised as a move away from the protection of the LGBT community in Turkey. At the end of 2011, the bill was still with the Justice Commission with no known date for it to be tabled before Parliament.
- In September, the Minister of Family and Social Policy, Fatma Şahin, had a meeting with civil society organisations to discuss violence against women, making this the first time the LGBT community had been indirectly represented at a meeting organised by the government. The Minister encouraged Members of Parliament to positively consider a proposal from Pink Life Association to ban discrimination against LGBT people in the new Constitution which the Parliament is scheduled to draft in the coming legislative year. However, she also tempered expectations within the LGBT community by emphasising that she is the “Minister of a conservative democratic party” and that her inclusion of LGBT issues is contingent upon them not “compromising the family structure.”
Freedom of assembly
Pride Week in Istanbul took place under the theme of Taboos and laws, and included workshops, panels, films and social events. The organisers commented on the difficulty involved in organising such an event with limited funds and a lack of support from the authorities and venues; nonetheless, the Turkish Gay Pride Parade which closed the week was attended by several thousand people and helped the organisers in their aim to increase visibility of LGBT people as they continue to work for improved rights and greater social acceptance for the country’s LGBT community.
Freedom of expression
- In 2011, KAOS GL approached the Turkish Telecommunications Directorate (TİB) to address the fact that LGBT internet sites were being blocked in the country. The TİB subsequently provided the organisation with an official document stating that officially registered LGBT sites cannot be on a list of banned sites. Since then, when the organisation learns about blocked LGBT website, it produces the official TİB document and the site is unblocked. However, there are still problems where web access is subject to general filters; for example, access to the sites using the word ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ can only be obtained if someone is notified and then able to produce the TİB letter to the service provider. Unblocking sites for users of internet cafes, university portals and all the other sources of internet access is therefore dependant on individuals reporting each block.
- In the Turkish Grand National Assembly, access to LGBT organisation websites is blocked, and Members of Parliament wishing to access sites need to make a specific request to be allowed to do so. Aylin Nazlıaka, Ankara deputy of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), tabled a formal question asking why this block was in place, suggesting it was unconstitutional, and that it reinforced discrimination against the LGBT community. No reply has yet been tabled. Access to the Kaos GL website is now available in the National Assembly.
Human rights defenders
- Participants from over a dozen countries from the region attended the Regional Network against Homophobia which took place within the scope of the International Meeting Against Homophobia.
- Under the auspices of the 6th International Meeting Against Homophobia, various events took place from March to April in several cities across Turkey. In May, over a three week period many social, cultural and academic events were organised. The event began on 1 May, intentionally linking the fi ght for the rights of LGBT people with the fight for workers’ rights, and ended on 22 May with the March Against Homophobia and Transphobia in Ankara which for the fi rst time was attended by Iranian LGBT refugees who were granted asylum in Turkey.
- Zenne, a film based on the story of Ahmet Yıldız, a young gay man who was murdered in 2008, won a variety of prizes and was screened at Pink Life Queerfest, Turkey’s first international LGBT fi lm festival in Ankara. The film addresses sexual orientation in relation to traditions, family, state and the military, and won five Golden Oranges at Turkey’s Golden Orange Film Festival.
Participation in public/political life
Two trans women stood in the General Election, one for the CHP, and another for the Justice and Development Party (AKP), both mainstream parties. While neither candidate faced problems in getting nominated, they were not elected.
Police and law enforcement
The prosecution of three trans human rights defenders for resisting the police continued. The three Pink Life human rights defenders had refused to be taken to the police station without good reason after they were stopped as part of a traffic check. The police officers involved did not appear at various hearings despite being compelled to do so by a previous court order. Nonetheless the three were convicted for “resisting police officers in the execution of their duty” and for “revilement.” One of the women was sentenced to 5 months with immediate effect, the second was sentenced to 6 months suspended for 5 years, and the third woman was sentenced to a year suspended for 5 years. The first accused entered an appeal and at the end of 2011, the High Court had not yet given a ruling. The three human rights defenders had also filed complaints against police offi cers for ill-treatment at the police station but there was no further action on that complaint which arose out of the same series of events for which the trans individuals were convicted.