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Turkey Plans to Segregate Gay Inmates, Angering Rights Groups

LGBT rights groups in Turkey are alarmed at government plans to create separate prisons for inmates who declare themselves gay, AFP reports:

TurkeyJustice Minister Bekir Bozdag announced at the weekend that plans were underway to construct separate prisons for openly gay inmates in a bid to "protect convicts" with different sexual orientations.

"Convicts who stated that they are gay will not mix with other convicts in the communal area or during social activities in the new prison facilities," Bozdag said in a written answer to a parliamentary question.

Rights groups say it will lead to profiling:

"This is a medieval-age practice. This kind of segregation is nothing but a punishment" said Murat Koylu, a spokesman for the Ankara-based gay rights group Kaos GL.

"Instead of creating public areas where people from all sexual orientations can live together, the government has once again chosen to ostracise homosexuals," he said.

"This will lead to the profiling of gay prisoners, as well as their families and the prison itself. How will the government be able to protect those prisoners who are not openly gay?"

The ministry counts a total of 79 LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) prisoners in Turkey -- but the number is thought to be much higher since most homosexuals hide their sexual identities while imprisoned.


Turkey Bans Twitter: Here's Why

Turkey

BY JACOB RESNECK / GlobalPost

It's hard not to see this as having to do with the audio files Twitter users are passing around involving the prime minister and a corruption investigation.

ErdoganISTANBUL — Turkey has blocked Twitter hours after the prime minister vowed he’d “eradicate” the popular social media site.

A controversial new internet law passed last month allows the country’s telecommunications authority to order content removed within hours without a court order.

On Thursday night, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed Twitter wasn’t complying with the new law, and told a rally of thousands that he’d bring the site down.

The press advisory of the Prime Ministry later in the night clarified Erdogan's statement, arguing that Twitter officials currently "ignore" some court rulings in Turkey, which order the social media platform to "remove some links" as per the complaints filed by Turkish citizens.

"[In Erdogan's speech] it is stated that as long as Twitter fails to change its attitude of ignoring court rulings and not doing what is necessary according to the law, technically, there might be no remedy but to block access in order to relieve our citizens," the statement said.

Reaction to the move — which came around midnight Friday local time — was swift. Major newspapers posted instructions offering simple technical workarounds to access the site.

“This is certainly a step backwards in terms of openness, transparency and the democratization process of Turkey,” said Yaman Akdeniz, a law professor at Bilgi University in Istanbul. “Restrictions on political speech and discourse of this scale is unacceptable in any country including in Turkey.”

Twitter representatives confirmed reports that the site had been disrupted.

“We're looking into this now,” said Twitter spokesman Nu Wexler. The company’s official account offered Turkish cell phone subscribers ways to send tweets via text message.

The cause of the ban is most certainly political as Turkey prepares for March 30 local elections, seen as a key test of power for the ruling Islamist-rooted AK Party, now in its 11th year of rule.

Anonymous users have been posting links to YouTube of audio recordings purporting to be wiretaps that expose rampant corruption within Erdogan's inner circle.

This follows a corruption scandal that erupted Dec. 17 that implicated three cabinet ministers as well as businessmen with close ties to the prime minister’s closest associates.

The government has responded to the accusations with mass purges of the police and judiciary as well as by ordering evidence destroyed. Erdogan has said the accusations are part of a plot hatched by a former ideological ally, Fethullah Gulen — a Pennsylvania-based Islamic cleric — whom he accuses of conspiring to bring down his government.

Twitter“It was just a matter of moment for Prime Minister Erdogan and his men to decide to ban Twitter,” said Erkan Saka, an outspoken blogger and communications lecturer at Bilgi University in Istanbul. “Twitter remains the main channel for freedom of expression and dissemination of corruption file leaks.” 

Cyber law experts say the ban on Twitter is reminiscent of the YouTube ban that lasted for 18 months from 2008-2010.

“Certainly this is politically motivated just prior to the local elections,” Akdeniz said. “I suspect the decisions were issued prior to the PM's speech but they were only executed subsequent to his speech.”

Some of the alleged leaked wiretaps appeared to record Erdogan himself instructing media companies to censor coverage of last spring’s Gezi Park protests. Such censorship — during the protests CNN Türk famously showed a documentary on penguins in Antarctica in place of the news — is another reason why Twitter has been an important tool for Turkish citizens to share information, unrestricted, in real time. Several media companies during Erdogan’s tenure as prime minister have been fined or taken over by companies close to the government.

The recently passed internet law was panned by press freedom groups, including the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, which warned it would have a chilling effect on free speech. The Turkish government claimed that the law was meant to protect children and the privacy of individuals.

Right now, the warnings from CPJ and other press freedom groups are looking prescient.

“CPJ urges the Turkish government to immediately unblock Twitter, and to respect the press freedom and free expression rights of its citizens,” said Geoffrey King, the group's internet advocacy coordinator, late Thursday.


Thanksgiving PSA - Turkeys Are Badass: VIDEO

Badass turkeys

As you and your family prepare to carve into a 20lb bird this Thanksgiving, Buzzfeed wants you to remember that turkeys are badasses.

In a short video presentation they will inform you of interesting facts like that t-rexes and velociraptors also have wishbones, the bird is known as the "fire chicken" in China, and that wild turkeys can fly up to 55 miles per hour.

You can watch the video and learn all about the awesomeness of Benjamin Franklin's favorite bird AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Thanksgiving PSA - Turkeys Are Badass: VIDEO" »


First Ever Openly Gay Mayoral Candidate in Turkey Launches Campaign

Can Cavusoglu is Turkey's first gay mayoral candidate, ANSA reports:

CavusogluA Turkish man who studied in the United States is aiming to become the first open member of Turkey's LGBT community to hold public office when he runs to become mayor of a small town on Turkey's Black Sea coast, as daily Hurriyet reports. Can Cavusoglu has said he will run in Giresun's district of Bulancak in the March 2014 local elections in a bid to become the first-ever openly homosexual mayor in the country, while declaring himself a "gay, activist, writer, thinker, painter, humanist and women rights activist."

The 43-year-old, who was born in Istanbul, has looked to win votes by saying only he can bring American investment to the town thanks to his connections with the U.S., according to a written campaign bid released yesterday.

Said Cavusoglu, who is running as an independent: "The international values I possess, the representation skills and governmental accounting can be found only in a few people."


LGBT Groups and the Protests in Turkey: Photos, Video, and an Interview with a Filmmaker

Istanbul
(dimiter kenarov)

The resistance against Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government in Istanbul's Taksim Square has inspired some of the largest and most violent demonstrations there in years. The protests, revealing a simmering discontent with growing authoritarianism and fueled by the proposed demolition of the city's Gezi Park, have brought together many of Istanbul's minority groups, including LGBTs.

Bulgarian journalist Dimiter Kenarov agreed to share some of his photos on Towleroad (you can see others here).

I'm also sharing a translation of a caption of the photo above by a Facebook user, Lachezar Georgiev:

"This is a photograph by the independent Bulgarian journalist Dimiter Kenarov, who is reporting on the events in Taksim Square in Istanbul. At the protests people are shouting "Taip (Erdogan's nickname) -- faggot," "son of a whore," "he runs like a woman."

In response... stickers and slogans like the one in the photo have appeared, on which is written "Do not insult (curse/swear at) gays, women and prostitutes, we are all here together." Because prostitutes were the first who rushed into the streets through the night to help people who had been beaten by the police. The gay community were the first at the protests. Women are on the front lines against the police."

Turkey2I also spoke last week with Mehmet Binay, a filmmaker who is currently in Istanbul working on a feature film, and did this brief interview with him.

Binay co-directed the 2012 film Zenne Dancer, about Ahmet Yildiz, a 26-year-old gay Turkish man who lived proudly and openly in Istanbul and was shot to death leaving a cafe near the Bosphorus Strait, the victim of an 'honor killing' by his own family. I wrote more about Zenne here.

What is the extent of the participation of the Turkish LGBT community in the protests?

Turkish LGBT have been taking part in the protests to a large degree as this is a protest against an ever growing authoritarian government.

How large, how many people from the LGBT community are participating in the protests

I couldn't say that. Perhaps 5-10% of the protesters.

What does the LGBT community believe it will gain from the protests?

The LGBT community has been suffering socially, legally and politically in Turkey. A more democratic government could help the LGBT's to get their rights, recognition and legal protection against hate speech and acts.

What is the reaction from other groups involved in the protests to the inclusion of LGBT groups?

Very welcome. Gezi movement has united people regardless of their sexual identity, political affiliation or religious practices.

What is the situation in general for gay people in Turkey and Istanbul?

Istanbul has been attracting a large LGBT community for the last 10 years. It has become easier to live out and proud in Istanbul and other cities like Ankara and Izmir recently. However, life is still very difficult for transgender and transsexuals even in cities like Istanbul where they are being mobbed (bashed) in neighbourhoods.

How has Erdogan's government behaved toward LGBT people? What policies has he put in place or taken away?

Erdogan said in 2000's that LGBT's should get their rights as well. He hasn't behaved supportively after he came to power. A recent AKParti minister for family affairs called gays "sick." There are dozens of gays and transgender people that were murdered by their families or others. No serious legal action has been noticed in terms of justice. AKParti also rejected calls from the opposition to recognise LGBT's in the new constitution which could give them legal protection from hate speech.

How long do you expect the protests to last and what is the goal?

The goal has become to criticise the government's authoritarian stance and PM Erdogan's mentality of not listening to his own people.

***

I'm also posting a video (about the whole movement, not just LGBTs) AFTER THE JUMP which is the best primer on what is happening in Istanbul that I have seen to date. It was produced by VICE.

Watch it, AFTER THE JUMP...

2_istanbul
(dimiter kenarov)

Continue reading "LGBT Groups and the Protests in Turkey: Photos, Video, and an Interview with a Filmmaker" »


Catch Up on the Demonstrations in Turkey in 7 Minutes: VIDEO

Turkey

IF you haven't been following the demonstrations in Turkey, or are aware of the uprising against the government underway at the moment but not in on some of the details, here's a great video that will get you caught up.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

The resistance against Erdogan's government are some of the largest demonstrations in years, and have brought together many of Istanbul's minority groups, including LGBTs.

The Guardian:

Resting in the shade of a tree next to a stand manned by the LGBT activists of Lambda Istanbul, 29-year-old consultant Onur Aygünes said that for the first time he felt as if there was real momentum behind a larger political movement: "My friends and I felt increasingly oppressed in Turkey, but this is very inspiring. Most of the people here have never been politically active."

Aygünes, who has participated in rallies such as the Istanbul Gay Pride or Mayday demonstrations, believes the excessive police violence used in the square was counter-productive, bringing more and more people onto the streets, rather than deterring them. "I  have been teargassed for the first time here, and all it did was to make me more determined."

Turkey2

Continue reading "Catch Up on the Demonstrations in Turkey in 7 Minutes: VIDEO" »


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