20/05/2021 | Writer: Hatice Demir
An LGBTI+ gives their statement in a room because they have posted their own photo on April 23rd. Everyone in the room is aware of the absurdity of the situation. I say, “We understand”. We understand, you understand. Everyone understands everything very well…
Get used to it, we are everywhere, Illustration: Gizem Karagöz / Stock image for KaosGL.org
There are some tiny signals that make you feel like there are some things in life that are out of the routine. One of them for me is the time that friend, who usually doesn't call without texting "are you available?" rings your phone for a long time without asking first.
The caller is a close friend that I've known for about 10 years, when we met, they were in high school and I was in college, and now its been a long time since our college graduations. A friend that squabbles, resents and reconciles with me; a friend of mine, who I laughed and cried a lot with, who I fought side by side to build a better world, an LGBTI+ rights advocate... "The police came to the door, I had to go to Vatan police station for a statement. I said I have meetings, I can't come. I barely convinced them to go the next day," they say. I say did you find out what was it about. "I posted a picture of myself as a baby, and I wrote ‘LGBTI+ children do exist’. So an investigation is issued on the grounds of obscenity." I'm not surprised, but I have a chill on my back. "I'm 1.5-2 years old, in the photo, how could it be obscene, and it’s my own photo, how could such a thing happen?", they say.
One of the most difficult questions for lawyers in 21st century Turkey: how could such a thing happen? As a lawyer, it's very possible the answer for the question is "no way" if you take a look at the legislation, but if you are monitoring the news or working in the field, you know that our legal system can be summarized as "never say never".
After a few phone calls that involve some laughs and a bit of a curse on fate, we decide to go to Vatan Police Station in the morning along with a colleague who is advocating for another of my friend's cases.
Prior to the statement, we're having a coffee and a cigarette in the canteen and talking about LGBTI+ kids. "The LGBTI+ children do exist", is one of the social media campaigns of 2020. It was a reference to the Human Rights Comment of 2 October 2014, titled "LGBTI children have the right to safety and equality", published by the Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe, of which Turkey is a founding member. You may recall at the time that many LGBTI+ supported this campaign launched on April 23rd to emphasize that children also have sexual identities, therefore have sexual rights and cannot be bullied. So how did this story get us to the gates of Vatan Police Station?
We go to the cybercrimes bureau and talk to the police officer at the door. We're telling the officer my friend's (client's) name and identification number. After a few calls, the officer says, "Nobody from here went to someone's house by that name yesterday". Believing that a clue would illuminate things, I say, "the LGBTI+ thing." The answer "Heee, okay, I know" comes quickly, the officer immediately remembers.
Let me warn you: What is coming is coming...
A police officer takes us to the unit where the statement will be written. We're about to enter a room. When I raise my head, I see the sign on the door, "Online anti-sexual abuse bureau," and the punchline of the story comes.
Walks into a room with "Online anti-sexual abuse bureau" written on the door and gives a statement
A 2-year-old photo
Of their own
On April 23rd National Sovereignty and Children's Day.
I feel a huge rage and shame rising from my toes to my brain. I'm trying to stay calm. "Don't be silly, you're a lawyer, you're 30 years old, you've got another colleague and a client with you, you can't kick around here, you can't light a cigarette either. Wait, calm down..." I'm telling myself.
Of course, it is a case that begins with a presidential hotline complaint, which normally has to be declined right away without even taking a statement; and we're sure it got to this stage just because it had LGBTI+ in it. Everyone in the room is aware of the absurdity of the situation. In order to control my anger, I ask questions such as, "Do Instagram moms or dads have complaints like that?," "Soon they'll ban diaper ads, babies are naked there, if it's the issue is obscenity it is obscene too." I don't know whom should I talk with, or the one that I need to talk is not in that room. Nevermind... The goal is not to start a dialogue anyway... My friend jokes, "Well, then I'll report my mom who took this picture." I'm leaning over their shoulder and say: I think we should report our mothers for having queer children! We're laughing... Then one of the people in the room says, "Sometimes there are complaints about families putting up photos of their children while having a circumcision, but they are being denied without even taking a statement, and I don't understand why this happened." I can't keep myself any longer: We understand, I say. We understand, you understand. Everyone understands everything very well…
We have left after the statement.
As a lawyer who has been doing LGBTI+ activism for many years, working for an LGBTI+ association, providing legal advice, i.e. as a lawyer that has heard about many cases involving LGBTI+'s in some way, I feel like it hurts more than ever. First, I think I was so outraged because the person who allegedly posted their own photo as a baby with "LGBTI+ children do exist" and committed the crime of "obscenity through children" was my close friend. And then I realize that's not the only thing. Like many of my colleagues who work in this field, I have unfortunately walked with many of my friends together to the police station and the courthouse. Even in the last few years alone; after the pride marches, after the Bayram street raid, after the Boğaziçi smear campaign... I would have lost the count if I were to make a list.
But this time, it crushes me to realize that our existence is directly attributed to shame.
This case will be a disgrace to the legal world, as the many accusations we have been subjected to. We will continue to fight, even if sometimes we get very angry and frustrated. Because we're right, so there's no other way, we're going to win.
I drop this article to here just to say "oh those times were hard but it's over now..." when I find and read this article a few years later. Let the reader feel wholehearted, it will all pass, we will stay here...
*The articles at KaosGL.org Gökkuşağı Forumu (Rainbow Forum) are under the responsibility of their authors. The fact that the articles are published at KaosGL.org does not mean that the opinions at the articles necessarily reflect the opinions of KaosGL.org.
Translation: Yiğit E. Korkmaz
Tags: human rights