20/09/2005 | Writer: KAOS GL

Turkish authorities have moved to close down the country's first gay rights association, triggering outrage among activists that EU-hopeful Ankara is still flouting basic human rights.

The Ankara governor's office has rejected an application by the KAOS Gay and Lesbian Cultural Research and Solidarity Association to be formally registered on the grounds that "associations against law and morality cannot be established."

The notice, sent to the group and made available to AFP Tuesday, also said that an Ankara court had been asked to dissolve the association. "This decision shows that nothing has changed in the official mentality despite the laws adopted in the EU process" aimed at strengthening civil society, KAOS secretary-general Ali Erol told AFP.

"We are speaking here about a very basic right -- the right of gay and lesbian citizens to organize," he said. "This is a tragic contradiction."

Erol explained that KAOS would take their case to the European Court of Human Rights if the Turkish courts heeded the governor's request.

The International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) denounced the move against KAOS and pledged support for the group.

"If the situation is not rectified, Turkish officials will have no grounds to argue that Turkey has fulfilled all conditions (on human rights and democracy) and that the EU is still discriminating against the country," Kursad Kahramanoglu, ILGA's Turkish co-head, told AFP.

"The governor should apologize to KAOS in the shortest possible time," he said. "I hope this decision will be retracted."

Prejudice against homosexuals remains strong in Turkey, even though same-sex relationships have never been criminalized as in other Muslim countries and homosexuals today figure among the country's top celebrities.

Activists say most of them risk their jobs if they disclose their sexual identity and there are no laws to protect their rights.

The Turkish army, they complain, is the only force in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to consider homosexuality a psycho-social disorder, and the police are notoriously harsh with transsexuals and transvestites.

KAOS has functioned as an informal group since 1994, publishing a magazine and organizing activities for the gay community, which has become increasingly outspoken in recent years.

Tags: human rights