Turkey: Protect LGBT People from Violence and Discrimination


For more information, please contact Hossein Alizadeh, IGLHRC Regional Program Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa at halizadeh@iglhrc.org

In Turkey, where the nation is debating a new constitution, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups are working around the clock to persuade their government to include protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

This is a landmark opportunity. In the last 3 years alone, upwards of 40 LGBT people in Turkey have been murdered. And so, LGBT activists have made their demands for protection known loud and clear to Parliament’s Constitutional Reconciliation Committee.

However, sources close to the Turkish Parliament believe that the debate on LGBT rights will soon end. Now, it’s full steam ahead, with LGBT activists in Turkey launching ambitious campaigns nationally and internationally.

Here's how you can help: send a letter drafted by SPoD -- a leading LGBT group in Turkey -- to the Turkish parliament in support of a constitution that protects everyone in Turkey, regardless of who they are or how they love.

Dear Distinguished Members of the Parliament of Turkey,

I am writing this letter to you in order to draw your attention to the importance of prohibiting all kinds of discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation in the new civilian constitution of Turkey.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals in Turkey are facing violence as well as discrimination in various spheres of life on a daily basis and do not have any legal safeguards that could protect them against violence and all forms of discrimination.

I welcome the positive political atmosphere that has emerged under the government of the Justice and Development Party as the Government was motivated to adopt international human rights standards into the Turkish law, especially as part of Turkey’s accession to European Union.

Unfortunately, I am informed that this positive atmosphere seems to come to an end and the Government has become increasingly conservative with respect to the political demands concerning not only LGBT rights but also many other individual rights such as freedom of expression, labor rights or women’s rights.

I am informed that Turkey is experiencing a historic process of writing its first civilian constitution. Since the launch of this process, I acknowledge that the LGBT organizations of Turkey have been committed to constructively contributing to this historic process without taking a step back from the righteous demands of the LGBT citizens.

I observe that the LGBT organizations of Turkey have been voicing their common demand for a constitutional article that would prohibit all kinds of discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation for more than a decade. I am informed that despite positive comments made by different MPs with respect to our common demand; unfortunately, this demand has not resonated at the political level yet.

I appreciate that the LGBT organizations of Turkey consider this new constitution-making process as a vital opportunity to establish legal guarantees to protect LGBT individuals’ right to live in dignity and against all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

I would like to remind you that the denial of the rights of LGBT citizens in Turkey clearly will not be in compliance with international human rights conventions and decisions of European Court of Human Rights including the Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence which Turkey is a party. In addition, the European Commission’s Annual Progress Reports on Turkey have repeatedly drawn attention to hate murders against LGBT individuals and different forms of discrimination faced by LGBT citizens in the domains of military service, housing, health care, education and employment. Finally, I would like to remind you of the Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on measures to combat discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in 2010 that Turkish government should kindly address through the adoption of necessary measures.

Lastly, I would like to draw your attention to the following facts collected from annual reports of international human rights organizations and European Commission’s progress reports for Turkey that demonstrates why LGBT individuals are urgently in need of a specific constitutional guarantee in order to pursue their lives in dignity:

  • In the last 3 years, Turkey has witnessed over 40 documented hate murders against LGBT individuals.
  • The High Court’s recent ruling declared homosexual sex as “unnatural sexual behavior” that would lead to the criminalization of homosexuality.
  • Discrimination against LGBT individuals in employment is common. For instance, Turkey's first openly gay football referee Mr. Halil İbrahim Dinçdağ was forced to leave his job by Turkish Football Federation because he had been excused from his compulsory military service on account of his homosexuality, which was documented in a medical report (The Amnesty International’s Report titled “Not an Illness nor a Crime: LGBT People in Turkey Demand Equality published in 2011).
  • Bullying of LGBT children and youth at all levels of educational system is rampant (The Amnesty International’s Report titled “Not an Illness nor a Crime: LGBT People in Turkey Demand Equality published in 2011).
  • Censorship on LGBT individuals in media is common. LGBT individuals are rendered invisible in popular media (The Amnesty International’s Report titled “Not an Illness nor a Crime: LGBT People in Turkey Demand Equality published in 2011).
  • LGBT asylum seekers and refugees are discriminated against in Turkey (Helsinki Citizens' Assembly and Organization for Refuge Asylum and Migration’s report titled Unsafe Haven: The Security Challenges Facing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Turkey published in 2009)

In light of these facts, I strongly believe that it is crucial for the LGBT citizens to have their rights protected in the new Constitution of Turkey. I ask for your kind support for the LGBT organizations’ demands in the new Constitution process.

LGBT rights are human rights. I firmly believe that we should all work in solidarity with each other to make LGBT rights apart of our national laws and implement international human rights conventions in our home countries in order to make freedom and equality a reality for all people in the world.

Yours Sincerely,