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Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Turkey's Gay Problem

turkey flagImage by NeonMan via Flickr
Source: change.org

When the country isn't busy policing the world to make sure that no one recognizes the Armenian genocide, Turkey has its hands full fulfilling a reputation as a toxic place for LGBT people. In the last year alone, there has been an increased campaign of discrimination and violence toward transgender people, a clamp down on LGBT rights organizations, and a father accused of murdering his gay son in broad daylight as an honor killing.

All that combined made 2009, and certainly the first part of 2010, a rather violent and brutal place for LGBT rights. And human rights groups aren't standing idly by watching.

Amnesty International called on Turkish authorities yesterday to tone down the homophobia, in the wake of recent litigation filed in the country to close down an LGBT rights organization known as the Black Pink Triangle Association. The organization becomes the fifth LGBT rights organization threatened with closure at the hands of Turkish authorities.

Amnesty is calling this a sustained campaign by Turkey's legal system to shut down LGBT voices. They call is "judicial harassment." Meanwhile the world just looks on and wonders why Turkey can't get its act together.

The closure of Black Pink Triangle is again just the latest in a wave of homophobia and transphobia. In November, a father killed his 26-year-old son in the middle of the street because the son was gay. Known as an honor killing, the practice is fairly widespread in Turkey. Most of the killings target women who "shame" their families, but at least one academic says that there are numerous honor killings targeting queer people, though they happen mostly underground.

And Human Rights Watch last year reported the murder of a prominent transgender human rights activist, Ebru Soykan. Ebru was stabbed and killed at home by an assailant, contributing to what Human Rights Watch called "a continuing climate of violence based on gender identity" in the country.

All of that combined has added Turkey to the list of global hot spots -- Jamaica, Uganda, Malawi among them -- where LGBT people faced a dramatic uptick in violence in the past year. A spokesperson for the Black Pink Triangle Association said that to combat homophobia, LGBT people need to be able to organize.

"The only way for LGBT people to resist the oppression, isolation and marginalization in social life due to their sexual orientation and gender identity is through solidarity and coming together," the organization said.

Now the only question is whether Turkey will allow them, or whether it'll use litigation and legal arm-twisting to prevent the freedom of assembly and expression.
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