Human Rights Coalition Calls for Government Response to Rising Threats and Harassment of LGBTI People in Turkey

For Immediate Release

Friday, July 10, 2015
Contact: Suzanne Trimel, 212-633-4150, strimel@iglhrc.org

(ISTANBUL) - A coalition of Turkish and international human rights organizations today strongly criticized the Turkish government for failing to protect the safety and security of LGBTI individuals, who are facing rising threats and harassment, including death threats and the reported sexual assault of a community leader.

The Kaos GL Association; the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Association (ILGA); LGBTI News Turkey, and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) jointly called on the government of Turkey to immediately take appropriate administrative and legal measures to protect LGBTI individuals and to guarantee their rights to free speech and peaceful assembly.

The new wave of anti-LGBTI harassment in Turkey began days after the government informed the U.N. Human Rights Council it rejects recommendations to protect LGBTI rights in Turkey, arguing that this community enjoys full legal protection against discrimination and abuse under the Constitution.

Over the past few weeks, the LGBTI movement in Turkey has found itself under increasing pressure both from the government and vigilante groups. On Sunday, June 28, the police in Istanbul cancelled the annual June Pride parade without prior notice, and used indiscriminate force against people gathered to attend the event.

Source: Kaos GL, “AKP’nin nefret siyaseti katliam çağrısına dönüştü” (“Turkey ruling party AKP’s politics of hatred has finally turned into a massacre call”)

Over the past week, a group called the “Young Islamic Defense” posted signs around Ankara, the Turkish capital, calling for the murder of LGBTI individuals. The signs, decorated with images from a previous gay pride event in Istanbul, read, “If you see someone engaged in the dirty business of the tribe of Lot [a common way in Islamic traditions to refer to gays and lesbians], kill the fail and mef'ul [doer and done] both.” The hateful banner, visibly posted across the Turkish capital, were reminiscent of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s comments on June 1, when he told a group of NGO representatives that homosexuals “caused the destruction of the tribe of Lot.”

This week, a leading Turkish LGBTI activist, Kemal Ördek, was sexually assaulted at home in Ankara during a home invasion. When Kemal, the founder and current head of Red Umbrella Sexual Health and Human Rights Association (Kırmızı Şemsiye), went to the police to report the assault, they overheard an officer at the police station saying, “Enough with this tribe of Lot.” Another police officer, who was recording Kemal’s statement, told them: “You were not raped, how are you coming up with all this?”

Although homosexuality is not criminalized in Turkey, Turkish laws fall short when it comes to explicitly banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. International bodies, in addition to domestic organizations, have called on the Turkish government to enact such laws.

At Turkey’s most recent Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the United Nations Human Rights Council, in January this year, 12 recommendations were made to Turkey pertaining to the human rights of LGBTI individuals. These included a recommendation to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and to collect and publish data on hate or bias-driven crimes related to sexual orientation and gender identity. Conspicuously, the same recommendations pertaining to LGBTI individuals were made to Turkey during its first UPR five years ago. While Turkey tacitly accepted the recommendations about anti-discrimination laws, saying they were already in effect, it rejected the call to collect and publish data of incidents of discrimination and violence.

”The collective pressure from Turkish and international civil society organizations demanding guarantees for the human rights of all people living in Turkey, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, is increasing dramatically and quickly. However, the Turkish government must act now to build on this momentum by explicitly banning discrimination and hate crimes against individuals based on sexual orientation or gender identity as well as publish comprehensive data of all cases of violence based on these categories.” the coalition of LGBTI organizations stated.

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