Kurds rarely make it onto the international media – and that’s even more so for Kurdish lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, yet they do exist have many stories to tell. So we travelled to the city of Diyarbakir in Eastern Turkey (or North Kurdistan), the centre of the Kurdish culture in the region.
Here you can hear people speaking proudly of themselves as being Kurdish, of their identity, culture and language. It is both ancient and modern, an oriental city enclosed by magnificent Roman walls and beyond the new Ofis district city beaming with social and cultural life. The Turkish military is always omnipresent, and mentioning Diyarbakir to most Turks in Istanbul will raise a few eyebrows and strike up negative images of street clashes, the PKK (the Kurdistan Workers’ Party which has been in an armed struggle with the Turkish state since 1984) and protests.
The LGBT community in Diyarbakir struggles for space and recognition and the local organisation, Hebûn does its best to help. There are no bars or cafes that are specifically aimed at gay or trans people. Instead the organisation formed small social groups to meet at members’ homes. This is done to avoid the frequent discrimination and harassment in the mixed venues. Hebûn aptly means ‘to reappear, to come back into existence and life’ in Kurdish, and this group indeed plays a vital function here.
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