According to multiple reports, the country that once held the Pride parade known as the Muslim’s world’s largest has now turned its back on its LGBTQ population. Although homosexuality is legal in Turkey, discrimination and harassment are everyday occurrences.
Istanbul’s Pride March has been banned by the Istanbul’s Governor’s Office for four consecutive years, starting in 2015. The Governor’s Office cited security concerns and the need to uphold public order as the reasoning for the ban, reported Human Rights Watch.
Many LGBTQ people have protested this discriminating ban.
In July of this year, around a thousand people gathered in Istanbul for the Istanbul Pride March, despite the ban, according to the Telegraph.
The Telegraph reported that the use of rubber bullets and tear gas was utilized against some activists.
The organizers said in a press statement on Facebook before the march, “The governor cited the excuse of security in its decision to ban the march and in one word, this is comical. Our marches went on peacefully without being banned for 13 years.”
“We LGBTI+ are all here with our pride despite all vain attempts to prevent us and we do not recognize this ban,” they continued.
In 2017, Turkey banned all events by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and intersex rights group in its capital, Ankara, reported the Independent.
Harassment and discrimination of the LGBTQ community is common in Turkey, and, according to Amnesty USA, it’s reinforced by the government’s attitude towards LGBTQ individuals.
Amnesty USA reported that Turkish officials have described homosexuality as “a disease,” and the word “gay” has been blocked by a government-sponsored internet filter.
Institutionally, the Turkish court system is stacked against LGBTQ individuals. It’s particularly stacked against transgender women, who are already extremely vulnerable to violence.
The Guardian reported that under Turkish law, an “unjust provocation” can lower sentences.
Simge Avci, a 24-year-old trans woman, was allegedly murdered by her boyfriend of six months, Mecit Sezer.
Sezer claimed he did not know she was transgender and claimed that she “insulted his manhood” as evidence of an unjust provocation.
Unjust provocation claims made against LGBTQ victims are often successful in the courts.
In 2016, the body of gay Syrian refugee Muhammed Wisam Sankari was found beheaded and mutilated “beyond recognition,” reported the Guardian.
According to Bia Net, the original life sentence was reduced to fifteen years on the grounds of unjust provocation – that “the crime was committed during a fight and it was not clear who was responsible for the first unjust move,” – and good time conduct.
LGBTQ refugees that are stuck in Turkey face this discrimination as well.
The New Yorker told the story of Ali, a gay man from Iran who fled the country, where homosexuality is a crime punishable by death.
Ali said that there are somewhere between seven-to-eight-hundred LGBTQ refugees who are stuck in Turkey. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees facilities are said to be overwhelmed because of the Syrian refugee crisis, so the processing time to receive refugee status, which is required for resettlement, is estimated to extend from several weeks to a couple of years.
Ali and his partner were finally eligible for settlement in 2016, and there were only two countries they could go: Canada and the United States.
Canada had just announced its commitment to taking in more Syrian refugees, which meant no more from other countries, and Donald Trump had just become President, which meant a ban on refugees from high-risk countries. Iran is one of the countries on that list.
So, Ali, his partner, and the other eight hundred LGBTQ refugees are stuck in Turkey, and he says life has grown harder.
“We are fleeing homophobic and transphobic attacks, and we face them here… people are beaten up, raped, gang-raped,” he said.