LGBTI People Gain Ground on Rights Advocacy in Turkish Parliamentary Elections

IGLHRC welcomes the results of the June 7 parliamentary election in Turkey, which has seated an unprecedented 22 outspoken advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) rights.

For Immediate Release

June 10, 2015

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, 212-430-6018, strimel@iglhrc or
Hossein Alizadeh, 212-430-6016 halizadeh@iglhrc.org

(New York)- The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) welcomes the results of the June 7 parliamentary election in Turkey, which has seated an unprecedented 22 outspoken advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) rights. These new members of Parliament are allies of the LGBTI community who have signed a pledge to support LGBTI rights.

“The fact that Turkey’s population has elected 22 acknowledged advocates for LGBTI rights is a tremendous victory,” said Hossein Alizadeh, a program coordinator for IGLHRC, which works closely with LGBTI partner organizations in Turkey. “It is particularly important in a political landscape that recently has been quite conservative and where some high-level politicians have rejected even basic rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity."

While Turkey does not criminalize same-sex sexual relationships, and LGBTI groups are allowed to operate legally, social discrimination and rights violations against individuals suspected of being gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual, or who otherwise do not conform to prevailing gender norms, are a regular occurrence in the country. The authorities have so far ignored demands from international bodies, including the United Nations and the European Union, to recognize rights and protect LGBTI people against discrimination and abuse based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

In the months leading up to the election, LGBTI organizations and activists across Turkey came together to launch a national campaign entitled “LGBTI in the Parliament” (Mecliste LGBTİ), urging parliamentary candidates to sign a pledge to support LGBTI rights in Turkey. In total, 64 candidates signed the pledge in the days leading up to the June 7 election. Twenty-two of those who signed the pledge were elected as members of Parliament. Seven of those who publically committed to LGBTI rights are from the liberal Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and 15 of them represent the secularist Republican’s People Party (CHP) from across the country.

“Despite former Prime Minister Davutoglu and current President Erdoğan’s public statements against the involvement of LGBTI organizations in the election campaign, including the candidacy of Baris Sulu, a LGBTI rights activist from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the election results proved that homophobic and transphobic statements do not have any negative impacts on the voting behavior of the constituents.” said Volkan Yilmaz, the head of the Executive Board of the Social Policies, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Studies Association (SPoD), one of Turkey’s leading LGBTI organizations. Yilmaz added, “Thanks to the ‘LGBTI in the Parliament’ campaign as well as the efforts of LGBTI rights activists in different political parties, we have now at least 22 MPs in the new Parliament who have declared their commitment to LGBTI rights.”

Two days before the election at a campaign rally, for example, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said homosexuals were the “representatives of sedition.”

In Sunday’s election, the main opposition group, the secularist Republican’s People Party secured 132 votes in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (the Turkish Parliament), while in a landslide victory, the liberal Peoples’ Democratic Party succeeded in occupying 82 seats in the Parliament. HDP has a long history of supporting LGBTI rights in Turkey, with the leader of the party, Selahattin Demirtas, an open advocate for LGBT rights, both during this election and back in August 2014, when he ran as one of the three contenders for the Presidential election. In recent years, CHP has also been vocal in supporting equal rights and protections for the LGBTI community, with the leader of the party, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, recently supporting same-sex partnership, arguing that “nobody can interfere with anybody’s [private] life.”

###