“It is the responsibility of all the parties in Parliament to ensure that any new constitutional reforms in Turkey outlaws discrimination on grounds of sexuality or gender identity,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s researcher on Turkey.
Entitled “Not an illness, nor a crime; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT, people in Turkey demand equality", the report cited interviews with people who faced discrimination from officials in health services, education, housing and the workplace in a country where there are no provisions to prevent it.
The report is based on research carried out by Amnesty International, or AI, delegates in January and February in five cities across Turkey – Ankara, Diyarbakır, Eskişehir, Istanbul and İzmir.
Individual case information indicated in the report is based on 70 interviews with the individuals concerned, NGOs or groups working with the individuals, plus their friends and supporters, court documents and other official documentation.
One of the stunning cases mentioned in the report was the murder of Ahmet Yıldız. The 26-year-old openly gay man living with his partner in Istanbul was shot dead on July 15, 2008, in what many believe to be an “honor killing.”
Gardner told the Hürriyet Daily News over the phone, that despite the complaint, the criminal investigation was not carried out effectively, which allowed the father, the main suspect, to flee from the country without questioning.
“The pervasive prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Turkey and the fear of ostracism and attacks, means that many feel compelled to conceal their sexual orientation – even from their families,” the report argued.
Gardner said that even during their interviews, they experienced many challenges such as concerns about revealing their identity.
New parliament should take responsibility
The report said homophobic statements by government officials have encouraged discrimination against individuals. It reminded people of the statement from Aliye Kavaf, the state minister responsible for women and family, who said, “Homosexuality is a biological disorder and should be treated.” In calling the new government to respect and protect LGBT rights through words and actions, Gardner said the new constitution should involve an effective protection for those who suffered from discrimination.
“We have confidence in the new Parliament, which includes some new names focused on LGBT rights such as independent deputies supported by the Peace and Democracy Party [BDP], Sırrı Süreyya Önder and Sebahat Tuncel; Republican People Party [CHP] deputies Sezgin Tanrıkulu, Aykan Erdemir, Aylin Nazlıaka, Melda Onur and Şafak Pavey; and another independent deputy Ertuğrul Kürkçü,” Gardner said.
“When the government was calling everyone from different circles for unity, LGBT organizations were ignored,” Ali Erol, one of the co-founders of Ankara based LGBT organization Kaos GL told the Hürriyet Daily News.
According to Erol, the Parliament, despite considering many drafts for the EU harmonization process, never took a step for the LGBT issue.
Melda Onur, previously elected as a CHP deputy in the 2011 elections, told Hürriyet Daily News, that all people should be considered equal by the law regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. “These people are paying their taxes and supporting the Turkish economy, “Onur said.
“Do the officials know what is happening in other people’s bedrooms?” she asked.
LGBT are targets of hate crimes
Referring to the interviews conducted by AI and the documents of LGBT organizations, the report said many transgender women are also the most likely target of hate crimes; yet the issue remains largely ignored by the authorities.
Transgender women are often forced into illegal sex work, where they are additionally harassed by law enforcement officials, because many cannot find a job.
Arbitrary fines issued by police officers against transgender women going about their daily lives amount to systematic harassment and an unwarranted punishment due to their gender identity. Those who challenge this practice can face threats and violence from them, according to the report.
“Many hate crimes are not reported; and even when they are, such acts are not often registered as crimes. The motivation for the crime is routinely not investigated,” the report said.
The report said the state should cooperate with LGBT groups to build an institutional and legislative framework to respect, protect and promote the right to live free from discrimination.
ÇAĞLA PINAR TUNÇEL
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News