Turkey's Violent Homophobia

Published: July 1, 2013

For a brief moment, Istanbul’s Taksim Square was transformed yesterday. The riot police, clouds of tear gas, and barricade-building protesters that characterized the past month’s unprecedented unrest were gone. Instead, a mass of rainbow flags, garish makeup, and neon clothing and face paint gleamed in the afternoon sunshine ahead of the city’s 10th LGBT pride march.

The atmosphere was festive. Despite that the demonstration was not legally sanctioned and there were frequent anti-government chants, uniformed police were almost nonexistent. Public reaction seemed to be almost overwhelmingly positive, and bystanders applauded the procession as it passed down ?stiklâl Avenue. Attendance, estimated at least 20,000, was among the largest in the march’s history and included three M.P.s from the Republican People’s Party, an opposition group.
 

It was an undeniable success, and organizers were justifiably delighted. But under any other circumstances, things might have been very different. Homosexual conduct between consenting adults is legal in Turkey, but far from accepted. Prejudice is widespread: 84 percent of Turkish people said gays or lesbians were among the groups they would least like living in their area, according to 2011 research conducted as part of the World Values Survey.
 

Intolerance often manifests itself as discrimination, abuse, and brutal violence. “It’s not just about equality. We have to fight for our right to live,” says Hassan Metehan Ozkan, a founder of the solidarity group LISTAG, which supports families of LGTB individuals in Istanbul.

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