A report recently published by Kaos GL, one of the oldest LGBTI+ rights groups in Turkey, has revealed that at least eight hate murders of LGBTI+ individuals took place in Turkey in 2021, while the right to freedom of expression was their most frequently violated right last year.
The report, titled “Against All Odds,” which was drafted by lawyer Kerem Dikmen based on rights violations reported in the press and through applications sent to Kaos GL and other nongovernmental organizations, is part of human rights monitoring studies carried out by Kaos GL since 2007 and details the situation of LGBTI+ rights in Turkey in 2021.
According to the report, eight hate murders targeting LGBTI+ individuals were reported last year; however, it is believed that this doesn’t reflect the true number and that the press had failed to report most of the hate murders.
Violations of LGBTI+ individuals’ right to freedom of expression comprised almost 30 percent of all types of violations of their rights in 2021, the report said, adding that the police also violated the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment of 12 people in at least seven incidents –- mostly during or after meetings and demonstrations -– that took place in Aydın, Çanakkale, Ankara, İstanbul and İzmir in the same period.
The report said the police or the Interior Ministry had failed to provide information as to whether judicial or administrative investigations were launched into the police officers who violated the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment as regards the LGBTI+ individuals in 2021.
Hundreds of LGBTI+s were taken into custody due to attending such rallies as pride marches, demonstrations at İstanbul’s Boğaziçi University, marches held on Women’s Day on March 8 and protests against Turkey’s withdrawal from the İstanbul Convention, and that ill-treatment and torture of LGBTI+ activists has become widespread, the report also stated.
A prolonged series of protests broke out at Boğaziçi after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appointed Melih Bulu, a founding member of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) Sarıyer district branch and former deputy chairman of the AKP’s İstanbul provincial chapter, as rector in early January.
Shortly after Bulu’s dismissal with a presidential decree in July, the university community demanded that a democratic election be held at the university to elect a new rector. However, Erdoğan on Aug. 20 appointed Naci İnci, a former deputy to Bulu, as the new rector, despite a 95 percent disapproval rating he received in polls held among the university community to determine possible rector candidates, and again prompting outrage among academics and students.
Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu called LGBTI+ people “perverts” in a tweet regarding Boğaziçi protests at the end of January, contributing to the smear campaigns that led to an increase in hate crimes targeting LGBTI+ individuals in 2021, according to the report.
Erdoğan also drew condemnation from Turks and the international community for withdrawing Turkey from the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention, an international accord designed to protect women’s rights and prevent domestic violence in societies, despite high statistics of violence targeting women in the country.
Although Erdoğan gave no formal reason for his decision, a top aide said the treaty’s references to gender-based abuses had been “hijacked by people attempting to normalize homosexuality” — legal in Turkey since Ottoman times.
The report further showed that musicians were exposed to performance bans because they were LGBTI+ in Konya, Diyarbakır, Gaziantep and Bursa in 2021.
“The failure of the state, with all persons and institutions, to provide an access to any right for LGBTI+s by turning them into a target; its efforts to wipe out the existing opportunities, and apart from these, the actions and remarks directly targeting LGBTI+s existence, are the most important signs of the mentioned regression [in LGBTI+ rights],” the report concluded.
It added that despite the “all-out attack” targeting LGBTI+s in Turkey, they continue to be a part of public opposition and the most dynamic group in the field of human rights.
Speaking to the Gazete Duvar news website about the 2021 report, Dikmen said systematic violations of LGBTI+ people’s rights had become more widespread last year compared to previous years, with the AKP government choosing to directly target their existence in addition to attempting to ban their rights.
Turkey was ranked 48th among 49 countries as regards the human rights of LGBT people, according to the 2021 Rainbow Europe Map published by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA)-Europe.
Homosexuality is not illegal in Turkey, but homophobia is widespread.
After a Pride March in İstanbul drew 100,000 people in 2014, the government responded by banning future such events in the city, citing security concerns.