When IGLHRC honored Turkish parliamentarian Dr. Binnaz Toprak and activist Yasemin Öz with our annual human rights awards in May, we could not have predicted the turbulent events that would ensue there in the weeks to come.
While Dr. Toprak and Yasemin visited the U.S., we held meetings with the Turkish Ambassador to the UN, with foreign ministry officials from 11 countries, and with State Department officials and Members of Congress.
As the two described how 90% of people surveyed in Turkey report that they don’t want LGBT people as neighbors, their audiences listened rapt and asked what action they could take. “Prejudice does not just disappear,” replied Dr. Toprak. “We need support for public programs, outreach, and government initiatives.”
Remarkably, stakeholders in Turkey praised them for their LGBT rights commitment, and one of the national papers, Hürriyet, ran an in-depth interview.
On May 29, just as the demonstrations in Taksim Square broke out, partially as a result of this attention, Dr. Toprak took the parliamentary floor to again speak in favor of LGBT rights. This seemed like the impossible coming true! We’d been told that LGBT rights were buried under 8,000 “real” policy issues.
From that moment, it seems the impossible—good and bad—hasn’t stopped.
In early June, as police violence escalated against peaceful protestors fighting repression and IGLHRC called upon the Government of Turkey to end the use of force, Yasemin wrote, “We fear being placed in police custody. The annual Istanbul Pride march is coming. God knows what will happen.”
By July 8, things had worsened. Police tried unsuccessfully to enter the office of Lambda Istanbul LBGTT Solidarity Association and two activists from the LGBT Block of the Taksim Solidarity Platform were detained.
Despite a month of tear gas and water cannon attacks, Turkey’s activists successfully held their annual pride celebrations. On June 23, a peaceful Trans Pride attended by 10,000 took place in Istanbul. On June 30, an unprecedented 100,000 marched undisturbed by police at the 11th Istanbul Pride. (Pictured above, Dr. Toprak and Yasemin at Pride.)
To our friends in Turkey—Dr. Toprak, Yasemin, and so many others—we again honor your vision and bravery as you fight for a better world, for LGBT people and all of our neighbors.
In warmth and solidarity,
Published on July 18, 2013 | OutRight Action International an LGBT human rights organization