30/12/2020 | Writer: Kaos GL

Outcome report of “The Exit from the Tunnel of Hate: Remembering the Hope” panel is out!

“Covid-19 is not Feared as Much as the ‘Other’” Kaos GL - News Portal for LGBTI+

While the Covid-19 pandemic tested humanity with a life-or-death experience, in countries where right-wing populism is active, this experience introduced brand new problems to societies already struggling with various problems. The tendency of autocratic dynamics to use the pandemic as a means to further restrict the democratic space in countries where hostility against LGBTI+'s began to be institutionalized such as Turkey; where public authorities loudly voicing hate speech against "others", filled the stay-at-home days with anxiety for all the marginalized others, primarily for the LGBTI+'s.

As an outcome of the urge to remind the empowering aspect of the hope, Kaos GL Association organized the panel “The Exit from the Tunnel of Hate: Remembering the Hope” in memory of Hrant Dink on December 5, emphasizing the driving power of solidarity against the increasing hate speech during the darkness of pandemic days, and discussed what can be done against hate.

In the panel where poet and writer Karin Karakaşlı discussed the reflections of hate on human life and the ways out; Mona Taheri, refugee LGBTI + rights activist from Radio Rangin Kaman, discussed the hate against refugees and LGBTI+'s. Following İdil Engindeniz, who presented the report of Kaos GL, "How the Diyanet's Hate Speech Reflected on the Media" focusing on the increasing hate speech during the pandemic, Att. Kerem Dikmen addressed hate speech and hate crimes in a legal context.

In the online panel facilitated by Yıldız Tar, a Q&A session took place after the presentations.

During the opening remarks, Yıldız Tar reminded that the hate against LGBTI+'s continues in the pandemic, “They are saying that we are all on the same ship. However, even if we were on the same ship, some of us are working in the captain's cabin while others are working in the bottom of the ship. Every time I hear this analogy, I remember the movie Titanic. The camera was shooting a cis-hetero romance while those in the lowest chambers were dying. We are expected to watch the cis-hetero romance that is acceptable for the camera and forget about the trans women of Bayram Street who were subjected to raids and left homeless."

Then the first speaker, Karin Karakaşlı, recalling the "Tales of One Thousand and One Nights" and Şehrazat, "Since I live this neverending hate speech and murder spree like an eternal night, I got even more confused during the pandemic. In a period where everything repeats itself over and over again, hate remains intact in its race against the pandemic, losing nothing of its essence. Despite all this, the life-changing power of struggle stories like Şehrazat in the Tales of One Thousand and One Nights is the only thing we have left with.”

Referring to storytelling and its transformative power, Karakaşlı said, “Hrant was such a storyteller. Do not underestimate the tales, these tales are the only way to express the truth. Suddenly your presence is perceived as the most dangerous weapon and you have to be silenced. You will dynamite the very foundations of the hate” and continued as follows:

“We are fighting an intertwined network of endless hate. At first, there was a logical optimistic expectation that this creature called the human being would collectively shake off the pandemic and seek some social changes. The same is true for the state apparatus. They do not stay idle. We saw the wheels of the system coming right on us with all the noise. Our lives are discarded, we do not worth the same with them. There is a situation where social stratification is on extremes, where every state turns more or less quickly to what they have. The unwavering truth is that everyone needs a scapegoat.

“The stories are being emptied-out, state repression and extremist groups are becoming more powerful… Foundation for xenophobia and racism is being built on an abundance. Corona is not feared as much as the 'other'. Although it sounds romantic, being a good person is not a characteristic of being human. One does not be good out of the blue, it takes effort to be good.

“Hate is the weapon of fascist, totalitarian regimes. The process of scapegoating is elaborately instilled… The finely tuned demonization, the legitimization of violence and then the mechanism of impunity. Nonliability so that the consecution can continue. Hrant, who fell directly victim to a hate crime, exposed these mechanisms throughout his life and death. "

Then Mona Taheri from the Rangin Kaman Radio conveyed the experiences of refugee LGBTI+'s in Turkey saying "Being refugee is not a choice, its the result". Reminding the death sentences in Iran, Taheri continued as follows:

"Many people know about Iran, but taking refuge in Turkey does not make a huge difference. The same things that we've talked about are happening in Turkey too, and things are worsening. Recently, a trans woman friend of ours working in the textile industry in Denizli has experienced sexual harassment, her boss said 'I will do whatever I want' and when she tells him that she is going to call the police, the boss hits her with a wooden bat and injures her. The police say, 'I don't recommend you to file a complaint, it can happen to anyone.' Those who are subjected to hate speech and xenophobia are told 'if you complain bad things will happen to you'. It is very common not to rent houses citing the smell of food, and many are thinking that the coronavirus came from Iran.

“Refugees and especially LGBTI+ refugees are the first group to be expelled. Contacting them is especially hard due to coronavirus for those who are working with them. It is much more difficult to help them because of the pandemic. As a foreigner, it is difficult to even warn a citizen not wearing a mask. Hate and discrimination can be fatal. "

Following Taheri, Tar said, “Not being able to even warn people about the mask is the summary of being a refugee and a queer. Because there are people waiting in line to put you back into your place. And especially regarding LGBTI+ refugees, each of us needs to think about the moments when we become the perpetrators, check our privileges and create an environment of solidarity” and gave the floor to İdil Engindeniz.

İdil Engindeniz, who prepared the "How Was The Diyanet's Khutbah Reflected on the Media?" report, explained the debates in the print media which are invoked by the Diyanet's khutbah. Reminding that the report is based on media monitoring data from April 19 to May 20, 2020, Engindeniz said:

“We have observed that two not often discussed LGBTI+ related issues to become the subject of the public debates after the statements of senior political and official authorities. One of these two issues was the Netflix series Love 101, which is launched on a paid platform, and the other was the statements of the Chairperson of Diyanet (Religious Affairs Administration of Turkey), Ali Erbaş, who see homosexuality and "adultery" as elements to be fought against. These issues were also addressed within the scope of the Istanbul Convention and multiple bar association discussions, which are the other two contentious issues, and were used as proof of the "danger" of the Istanbul Convention towards society and the "unacceptable attitude" of the bar associations and their "uncontrollability".

“We see that they are discussing the issue through baseless, speculative arguments. conspiracy theories can be created and easily circulated on an artificial notion of "enemy" and anyone, really or allegedly, related to it. We see that the media is acting with the motive of creating instant, negative and strong emotions instead of rationalism."

After Engindeniz's speech Tar said “At the moment I read this report, the post-truth period came to my mind. The part of how this hate speech is constructed and by which connections is disclosing the attack on the truth. The new trend is to bend the reality to the opposite of reality and use it in hate campaigns. At this point, talking about freedom of expression becomes even more important" and gave the floor to Kerem Dikmen.

Att. Kerem Dikmen of Kaos GL explained the legal dimension in the context of hate speech and its relation to freedom of expression. Stating the states' obligation to restrict hate speech, Dikmen said, “Hate speech cannot be addressed within the scope of freedom of expression. As a matter of fact, the resolutions of the European Court of Human Rights indicate this. More precisely, hate speech is not a notion included in the freedom of speech. Hate speech cannot benefit from the protection of freedom of expression."

Reminding that hate speech is a violation of a group's rights, Dikmen continued as follows:

“Although there is no international consensus on the definition of hate, this lack of consensus does not apply to members of Council of Europe system because the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers has recommendations on the concept of hate, and although it does not provide concrete definitions, decisions of the European Court of Human Rights constitutes a basis on what should be qualified as hate.

“In other words, even if the hate speech against LGBTI+'s does not present any immediate danger, if the call for violence does not find a response among the masses, even if it does not cause an increase in crimes against LGBTI+'s, hate speech is not considered within the scope of freedom of expression. At this point, there is a strict distinction between "speech" and "hate speech" and unless there is a definition as "freedom of hate speech" in the ECHR, hate speech will not be able to include in the freedom of expression.

“The fact that hate speech is not addressed within the scope of freedom of expression is closely related to the motivation for realizing the ideal of “peace and justice in the world”which is included in the introduction of the ECHR. Therefore, states are obliged to ensure both the freedom of expression of individuals and the protection of other rights listed in the convention. As long as the Convention and the Constitutions give individuals the right to "demand respect for their private life" (ECHR 8) and prohibit discrimination (ECHR 14), hate expressions against lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and other identities will not be included in the freedom of expression.”

Click here for the full report.

Tags: human rights, media