Cablegate: Turkey: Lgbt Organizations Overcoming Challenges

DE RUEHAK #1683/01 3241537
P 201537Z NOV 09




E.O. 12958: N/A

B. 08 ISTANBUL 452

ANKARA 00001683 001.2 OF 002

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender
(LGBT) organizations in Turkey identify the major problems
facing the LGBT community as restrictions on freedom of
expression, unfair implementation of Turkish laws, and
systematic abuse by security forces. Both formal and
informal LGBT organizations exist in cities across the
country, although coordination between them is minimal.
Societal discrimination is pervasive, and transgender
individuals face the biggest problems. Despite these
challenges, however, LGBT community leaders in Turkey are
diverse and active. END SUMMARY.

Groups Exist Across the Country

2. (SBU) LGBT organizations, both formal and informal, are
present in many cities across Turkey, from large metropolitan
Istanbul in the West to the small, provincial town of Van in
the East. There are two groups in Ankara, Pembe Hayat ("Pink
Life") and KAOS GL, that work on the issues of LGBT
individuals and show strong leadership and organization. Of
these, KAOS GL focuses strongly on the gay and lesbian
communities and publishes a monthly magazine to raise issues
of concern, while Pembe Hayat focuses on the needs of the
transgender community. Both organizations work together to
create yearly LGBT-rights reports. Lambda Istanbul works
with LGBT issues as well, and receives heavy funding from
foreign organizations, especially from Europe, although it
seems to suffer from a lack of strong leadership and
organization. Other groups in the country have complained
that Lambda does not coordinate with them, focusing only on
Istanbul-specific issues while ignoring the greater needs of
the LGBT community in the rest of the country. Lambda, for
its part, considers itself the representative of the LGBT
community in Turkey to the rest of the world. Other LGBT
groups are located in Izmir, Eskisehir, Diyarbakir, and Van.

Challenges Abound

3. (SBU) The Izmir-based Siyah-Pembe Ucgen (Pink-Black
Triangle) works with the LGBT community in Izmir and
surrounding areas. It works closely with the local chapter
of the Human Rights Foundation in fighting against abuse by
security forces, especially of transgender individuals. The
group has run into problems with registration as an official
organization with the government of Izmir, which claims that
the association should be closed because it works "against
public morality." KAOS GL reported similar challenges when
it first registered, but has not had problems since. Lambda
Istanbul has been closed numerous times for similar reasons
(REF B). The Izmir Prosecutor opened a case against
Siyah-Pembe Ucgen in November; the first hearing will be in
February 2010.

4. (SBU) Most groups reported a serious lack of inter-group
cooperation and coordination. Although most of the groups
work on the same issues, they do not work together on issues
of national significance. Much of this seems to be
personality based; people from one organization do not get
along with others and the work of the organizations suffers.
Another issue is that most of the groups focus strongly on
individual cases of infringements on the rights of LGBT
individuals, distracting them from working on broader
underlying conditions that contribute to the prevalence of
incidents of discrimination.

5. (SBU) All of the organizations explained that in Turkey
LGBT individuals often face extreme social pressure to keep
their identities hidden from family, friends, and work
colleagues. The consequences of these social pressures for
organizations is low attendance at meetings and political
events due to fear of revealing LGBT identities at the work
place or in public life. One activist said, "so long as we
remain invisible, we are spared problems." KAOS GL reported
high attendance for sponsored night club parties, and low
attendance in public parades. Pembe Hayat alleged that
people in their organization had lost their jobs after coming
out as gay or lesbian -- transgender individuals would not
even receive an interview most of the time. Organizations in
Istanbul and Ankara report that 99 percent of transgender
women participate in sex work at some point in their lives
out of financial necessity.

Legal Obstacles Cause Problems

ANKARA 00001683 002.2 OF 002


6. (SBU) KAOS GL told us that one of their largest challenges
was addressing abuse of LGBT individuals by security forces.
Earlier in the year protestors threw stones at members of
KAOS GL when they were giving a press conference on LGBT
issues. When the police arrived at the location, they
reportedly stood by and did nothing. KAOS GL members asked
the police for help and the police told them that stone
throwing was just the "consequence of their actions."
Similar problems were reported by other groups involving the

7. (SBU) Izmir based Siyah-Pembe Ucgen told us that many of
their members had been prosecuted under Article 37 of the
Misdemeanor law which punishes individuals for violating
public morals. According to media reports, LGBT groups and
the Human Rights Association, Huseyin Capkin, former Izmir
police chief and current Istanbul Police Chief continues to
implement a "point system" to encourage police officers to
target transgendered individuals with fines, arrests, and
beatings. The police base this activity on violations of
"morals laws." Incidents documenting cases of arrests and
abuse of transgender women have been increasingly covered by
the media. Transgender women have reported numerous cases of
arrest and fines while walking on major streets in the
daytime and while occupied in routine tasks such as shopping
for groceries, in some cases being fined 59 Turkish Lira
several times in one day. A media report indicated that one
transgender woman in Istanbul was fined twice in the same
day, while at a hair salon and while grocery shopping. Pembe
Hayat explained to us that if transgender women (male to
female) resist the police they are generally charged with
"resisting arrest" as well.

8. (SBU) All the groups complained that gay men are precluded
from participation in compulsory military service for "health
reasons." However, in order to prove they are gay, men are
required to submit very explicit and embarrassing proof:
explicit photos of themselves in overt sexual positions, a
medical report from a doctor testifying to their
homosexuality, and an embarrassing interview with a military
doctor. This preclusion can have an effect on other parts of
their lives as well. On May 20, Halil Ibrahim Dincdag, a
soccer referee, was fired from his job because of his
self-identity as gay (REF A). According to the sport's
regulations, anyone who fails to complete his military
service for health reasons is unfit to perform as a referee.


9. (SBU) While diverse and healthy in numbers, Turkey's LGBT
community faces difficult challenges due to a lack of
organization and coordination and serious social pressures
compounded by anti-LGBT government policies. Police abuse
targeting LGBT individuals is systematic and widespread,
although there has been a higher amount of coverage of such
actions in the media recently. The good news is that the
people working in the various organizations across the
country are motivated and committed to making a difference
despite the challenges facing them as they forge ahead.
There is also increasing awareness of LGBT identity in
Turkish society. A few of Turkey's top entertainers are
transgendered and the widely-seen and critically acclaimed
film Gunesi Gordum ("I Saw the Sun") included a major subplot
discussing the plight of the transgendered in Istanbul. Post
will continue to work with these organizations to find ways
to strengthen their coordination and organizational
structures. A Pembe Hayat organizer described the situation
with a few words, "Our war is to love, and we will continue


"Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at http://www.intelink.s"

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