Participants in the March Against Homophobia and Transphobia organized by Kaos GL on March 20, 2012, Ankara.

Turkish Activists Denounce Ban on LGBTI Events in Ankara

Human rights groups are up in arms after the Turkish capital city of Ankara imposed a ban on all LGBTI cultural events, Kareem Shaheen reports in The Guardian. The order came one week after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan described empowering gay people as being “against the values of our nation.” Activists have condemned the move as illegal and discriminatory.

Citing threats to “public order,” the Ankara governor’s office issued the ban on Sunday, November 19. It also released a statement declaring that it would restrict the presentation of films, plays, exhibitions, panels, and other events in an effort to protect “public order and public health and morals.” The office’s announcement comes just days after the government prevented a festival on German-language gay films from taking place.

This prohibitive measure is only the latest development in a series of attempts by the president’s Justice and Development (AK) party to curtail the activities of Turkey’s LGBTI rights movement. The annual Istanbul gay pride parade was canceled for the third year in a row, due to security concerns, and last week Erdoğan condemned his main political opposition bloc, the Republican People’s party (CHP), over a plan that would supposedly introduce a “gay quota” for employees in a local municipality.

“There can be no legitimate or legal grounds for such a wholesale ban that touches the core of rights,” said Pembe Hayat and Kaos GL, two Ankara-based LGBTI organizations, in a joint statement following the announcement of the measure, adding that the general and open-ended nature of the ban risks “criminalizing LGBTI existence.” Their statement continued: “With this announcement the civil administration is endangering public safety by turning LGBTIs and civil society organizations, who are an important part of the public, into targets instead of fulfilling its duty to ensure public security.”

Homosexuality was legalized in the Ottoman Empire during the mid-nineteenth century and has been legal since the creation of the modern Turkish republic in 1923. However, LGBTI individuals in the country frequently complain of being subject to a range of mistreatment, including harassment, abuse, and rape, as well as general animosity.