03/04/2014 | Writer: Ömer Akpınar

I’m sure you’ve already heard about what’s been going on in my country. Gezi Park protests, corruption scandals, bans on (is anything left?)...

Hi! My name is Omer. I live in Turkey. And I am a queer activist. I’m sure you’ve already heard about what’s been going on in my country. Gezi Park protests, corruption scandals, bans on (is anything left?)...
 
In a country where making any criticism of the government is deemed the biggest blasphemy, it feels insecure if not insane to continue to fight for what you believe in (sorry, it is not religion).
 
But I want to take you to two weeks ago when Kaos GL hosted LGBT activists from 16 different countries in Ankara. That was for the 5th Regional Network Meeting. The region, you ask? It is the Balkans, South Caucasia, Middle East and North Africa (maybe I should add Turkey as well because it is always difficult to put it in only one region – and yes, as Turks we have some identification problems).
 
Me on far right
 
The Network was founded so as to bring LGBT activists of the region together whose problems quite differ from that of, say, Western Europe or North America. Homophobia and transphobia is very much intertwined with militarism, nationalism and religious extremism in our region. As most of the time security becomes our foremost concern, we decided to have trainings on that with support of Urgent Action Fund and Frontline Defenders.
 
Let me be frank with you. Training on “security” was not the most exciting thing I could imagine. I picked the digital one because I wanted to keep my guard up against cyber haters and also, I thought “what can they talk about in the other training – personal security?” which turned out to be a great lack of imagination.
 
Our trainers taught us how to make an easy-to-remember password that takes trillions (no, it was some other word with many more zeros) years to crack and protect private information (and even how to hide our webcams). We were joking like this is a kind of training that all those corrupt politicians should have attended. I must also say that I felt so cool to find out that many people in Turkey discovered Tor browser after the internet bans which I already had on my lap top thanks to the digital security training.
 
Luckily, we had a bit of the other training as well. They seemed to be having more fun with all that massages and meditation. I was struck by the fact that many activists suffer from sleeping problems and other “activism side-effects”. Trainers of this part made us realize that if we are not good, all that good stuff we have been all doing do not make any good. That was a worthy reminder for the sustainability of our activism. Celebrate your work, enjoy yourself!
 
Ironically enough, there were huge protests in Ankara during our meeting. After being shot by a tear gas capsule at Gezi Park protests, 15-year-old Berkin Elvan passed away after being in coma for 268 days. People were very angry as the police killed people and no justice had come so far. Many of our guests even experienced the “taste of tear gas” in Ankara and got angry at police brutality which wasn’t totally new to the people of our region.
 
I must say that those 4 days was a great experience for me to understand once again that we are stronger with each other. Our network got stronger with the great knowledge that each guest brought together with themselves. And for me, security took a totally new meaning: solidarity.

Tags: life
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