17/05/2012 | Writer: Kaos GL

A workshop related to the rights and healthcare challenges experienced by LGBT refugees in Turkey was held in cooperation with KAOS-GL and Amnesty International on May 10th.

Under the framework of the activities being held this month for the International Meeting against Homophobia, Amnesty International (AI) and KAOS-GL jointly organized a forum to discuss discrimination, violence, and equal health care access experienced by LGBT refugees in Turkey. The meeting was held on May 10th at the “Aylak Yaşam Kültür Evi” in Ankara.
This workshop was the culmination of a series of visits to the satellite cities of Eskişehir (April 23th), Nevşehir (April 25th), Kayseri (April 29th), and Isparta (May 3rd), where around 50 LGBT asylum seekers and refugees came together to discuss the aforementioned challenges in their respective cities. These visits were jointly organized by KAOS-GL, the Iranian Queer Organization (Canada), and Heartland Alliance (USA).
The meeting counted with the participation of several civil society organizations such as the Human Resource Development Foundation (İKGV), The Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV), Van Women’s Association (VAKAD), The Iranian Queer Organization (IRQO), The Positive Living Association, and the Helsinki Citizen’s Assembly, which engaged into a dynamic discussion based on the information gathered during the visits.
“Lack of legal framework to defend migrants and refugees’ rights”
Among the most relevant topics in discussion, the lack of specific legal definitions for the protection of LGBT refugees was a recurrent issue throughout the forum.
According to KAOS-GL’s lawyer Hayriye Hara,“a lack of rights definition places a limit on the support we can provide”. For example, the lack of Turkish citizenship excludes this group from accessing the social security system and therefore being denied their right to universal healthcare.
Additionally, medical staff in satellite cities where refugees are located seem not to be aware on new procedures established for the LGBT community. This, in addition to social stigma, language barrier, and even refusal to provide services, deters many of the refugees to approach a medical center only until severe emergency cases arise.
According to the president of the Positive Living Association -Nejat Ünlü-, the refusal of the government to assist HIV positive refugees with medication “is a way of killing them indirectly especially when full blown AIDS starts”. The Positive Living Association tries to accommodate as many patients as possible with the provision of medication and social services for HIV positive individuals.
Ms. Saghi Ghahraman from the Iranian Queer Organization in Canada, placed emphasis on the sexual harassment experienced by many trans-women refugees, which leaves not only physical but also emotional scars in these individuals. “Sexual harassment and the torture experienced throughout their time in Turkey, affects them to adjust to a new life in a new country like Canada”, she stated. “We must find ways to help them to help them adjust and not leave it up to them”.    
Plans for the future
Among the many initiatives being developed to support this community, Mr. Nejat Ünlü’s association is currently working to set up a network of physicians that would provide free health care services to HIV positive individuals, including refugees.
Additionally, the participant civil organizations discussed the possible events to be held on June 20th, which is recognized as the international refugee day.      

Tags: human rights