By Emir Çelik
The "2011 Conference on Human Rights and Freedom of Expression" held last week in Istanbul. Michael Cashman, British LGBT rights advocator and member of the European Parliament, spoke on LGBT rights in Turkey, Europe and worldwide in the event entitled "Think of it, the foreigner is you: Defending Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Individuals (LGBT)".
In the discussion on 15 January, Cashman pointed to policies of the "Thatcher Government" that he struggled against in the past and said that LGBT demonstrations were obstructed in various European countries. According to the rights defender, comparable situations are still prevailing nowadays in countries like Poland and Lithuania.
Cashman argued, "We may not become lazy. LGBT people demonstrated in Warsaw even though they were not allowed to. While the super-rich American Christians would like to wipe out homosexuality, African LGBT individuals picked up the struggle. It sparks hope that even the Constitutional Court of Uganda as one of the most homophobic countries gave a decision in favour of LGBT individuals".
Cashman also mentioned the closure of the Rainbow LGBT Association in Bursa (north-western Turkey) in the beginning of January. "It was closed but the heads of the organization keep up their struggle with a new association", he said and continued:
"It is unacceptable that five of our transgender friends in Ankara were exposed to oppression because of their identity. The only thing they did was driving a car. The legal struggle is still going on; they will win because they are on the right track with their struggle for human rights. A struggle for equality is a struggle for all of us".Cashman emphasized that the attitude that "LGBT individuals should hide in order to be successful" was a wrong approach. "What does it mean for LGBT individuals if they cannot express who they are and if they cannot establish a family the way they want? It leads to a double life with double standards and paves the way to double misery", he warned.
"We have been erased from history anyways; we have to cheat in order to be successful - There is a horrible message to be passed to the young LGBT individuals: Their love is dirty, their lives are second class. Their self confidence continually dwindles and with that momentum the young lives are erased".
"If a man sells his soul, what happens even if he achieves all his successes? This is what the state, the law and the people are waiting for to happen to the LGBT individuals. What life can they lead if people cannot benefit from equality?"
"People are against [homosexuality]; in some countries it is even a crime and people are sentenced to death. Many transgender individuals were killed in Turkey and are still being killed. Two young people in Iran were hung because they loved each other. We cannot find places to rent because we are lesbian or gay", Cashman indicated.
"Access to correct information is being restricted intentionally. We are not part of a reasonable discussion. But we stand up despite centuries of disinformation and we demand our right to life".