Recognition of an Organization and the Loss of a Leader

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The Black Pink Triangle Izmir LGBTT Association represents the LGBTT community in Izmir, the third biggest city in the republic of Turkey. Soon after its establishment in the fall 2009, the newly formed group was sued by the local government on the ground that the organization violated the Turkish morality law by defending the rights of queer poeple. This is despite the fact that the Turkish law does not ban homosexuality, and other LGBTT groups like Kaos GL and Lambda Istanbul are legally registered and operate in that country.

In November 2009, IGLHRC wrote a letter to the Turkish Government requesting that officials expedite the registration of Siyah Pembe Üçgen LGBTT Derneği (Black Pink Triangle LGBTT Association) and clarify that LGBTT people enjoy the full rights of citizens provided by the Turkish Constitution.

On 27 April 2010, one of the organization’s founding members was murdered with a gunshot to the back of the head in what appears to be a serial killing. On 30 April 2010, a judge ruled in favor of Black Pink's registration, reiterating the right of LGBT people in Turkey to form and operate organizations. Elif Ceylan Ozsoy is a member of the Izmir Bar Association, an LGBT activist, and the legal counsel to the newly established queer group Black Pink Triangle in Izmir. Here, Elif discusses these recent developments in Turkey.

protest in izmirPhoto courtesy of Black Pink Triangle and Izmiramarg

The establishment of the Black Pink Triangle Izmir LGBTT Association (Siyah Pembe Üçgen Izmir LGBTT Derneği) was inspired by the prior work of local queer groups Pink Triangle Izmir and Kaos GL Izmir. Based on the experience of our two predecessors, the LGBTT community in Izmir decided to establish a legally registered association. In February of 2009, on the day when Baki Kosar, a Kurdish gay journalist, was killed in a hate crime, Black Pink filed for legal registration as an NGO with the Governor of Izmir by submitting the required paperwork, including its charter. Since a report prepared by the Ministry of the Interior found Black Pink's charter to be in violation of Turkey’s public morality and family structure, the Governor of Izmir demanded that Black Pink change the second article of its charter, which outlines the organization’s goals. Black Pink refused to change its goals based on two factors: firstly, that other Turkish LGBT groups, with the same goals as Black Pink in their charter, succeeded in winning legal challenges brought against them by local governments, and secondly, that Turkish law says everyone – including LGBT people – have the right to form associations.

After Black Pink's refusal to amend its charter, the Governor of Izmir asked the Public Prosecutor to close down the group. The Public Prosecutor filed an action on 16 October 2009, and the court hearing – which was originally scheduled for 9 February – was postponed to 20 April so the letters sent from Human Rights First, RFSL, and the European Parliament's Intergroup on LGBT Rights could be translated.

Black Pink submitted its brief along with a report drafted by Allison Jernow of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), which argued for the right to be free from discrimination and against the use of public morality as a permissible limitation in the Black Pink case. At the same time, IGLHRC sent a letter of protest to the President of Turkey and the Ministry of Justice, criticizing the action. Amnesty International also monitored the case, and sent representatives to be present at the hearings. We would like to thank all our international partners for their solidarity work.

The 20 April hearing was postponed to 30 April. While we were preparing for that hearing, on 27 April, Black Pink's first member Azra was brutally murdered by a serial killer who has targeted women in the past. Although the population of male-to-female trans people is much smaller than the number of biologically-born female residents of Izmir, discrimination and unsafe living standards have made transwomen more vulnerable than other citizens. We feel that it was not just a coincidence that Azra, a transgender woman, was targeted; victimizing her was easier as well. We blame arbitrary police practices such as banning transgender women from socializing and working in their neighborhood, since forcing trans people into unsafe areas of the city has turned them into soft targets. Furthermore, the lawsuit by the Governor of Izmir has forced Black Pink to spend all its energy and efforts on the case rather than its goals to protect the community. On 28 April, Feminist-Iz and Black Pink organized a silent protest and a candle light vigil to honor Azra and two other victims. 80 people attended the protest, where transwomen were holding Azra's photo along with those of two other female victims.

See photos of the protest »

Azra, the first member of Black Pink, was killed just as Black Pink was finally brought before the court. Eventually, on the third hearing, the judge announced the decision in favor of Black Pink with these words: “Like other citizens, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender people have a right to create associations. For this reason, the case is dismissed.”

Black Pink has thus experienced two contradictory events in one week; the loss of one of its founding members as well as its formal recognition as an organization. Black Pink dedicates its legal victory to the memory of Azra. We will start operating as a registered group to end hate crimes and discrimination. We will have a long and difficult journey ahead of us, but know that fighting for respect for our communities is as important now as ever.

Rest in peace, Azra.