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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 4 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 14
Pro-Gay mayors elected in Turkey
Section One
ALL STORIES
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Pro-Gay mayors elected in Turkey

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Four pro-Gay candidates have been elected in Turkey's municipal elections held March 30.

In all, more than 3,000 mayoral positions were up for grabs, with the Islamist Justice and Development Party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan taking more than 1,750.

Forty candidates from left-wing opposition parties signed on to the LGBT rights platform issued by the Social Policies, Gender Identity, and Sexual Orientation Studies Association (SPOD). The platform commits signers to protect and improve LGBT rights, to partner with LGBT associations, and to promote anti-discrimination measures.

Founded in 2011, SPOD 'advocates full equality for LGBT individuals in Turkey with a special emphasis on social and economic rights and works for the elimination of all forms of discrimination including discrimination based on gender identity, sexual orientation and gender expression,' its website says.

'SPOD works for the development of rights-based social policy that contributes to the full equality of LGBT individuals. SPOD's activities cover a wide range of social policy domains including labor market, social services, education, elderly care, healthcare, housing, and income poverty alleviation.'

Of the winning candidates, three representing districts of Istanbul, Turkey's largest city, and one from Mersin, had signed SPOD's platform.

The three Istanbul winners represent the center-left Republican People's Party (known by its Turkish initials as CHP), and the new Mersin mayor comes from the leftist Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).

CHP claims to be the political heir of modern Turkey's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and is rigidly secularist, in contrast to Erdogan's Islamist government. It is based among Turkey's westernized middle classes, government workers, and military officers.

BDP has strong ties with non-Turkish minority communities like the Kurds, as well as with feminists and other nontraditional groups.

The Prime Minister's Justice and Development Party, or AKP, is based among rural voters in Turkey's interior provinces, and among the urban poor. Although Erdogan was widely accused of corruption and abuse of power, AKP elected well over half of its candidates.

Same-sex relations have been legal in Turkey since 1858, but the LGBT community has no other legal protections. Istanbul has a large LGBT community - which played a prominent role in the Gezi Park riots last spring and summer - but life for LGBT Turks in the interior of the country can be harsh.

On March 31, in fact, a Turkish court convicted a man of manslaughter for shooting his Gay son and dumping his body by the side of a road. The victim's uncles were also convicted in what was said to be an 'honor killing.'

On hearing the verdict, the victim's mother reportedly screamed 'If he were Gay, I would have killed him with my own hands. You have shamed us.'

In 2011, an Amnesty International report charged the Turkish government with ignoring harassment and discrimination against the country's LGBT community.

'[H]omophobic statements by government officials have encouraged discrimination against individuals,' the report's lead researcher said at the time.

As a candidate for Prime Minister in 2003, Erdogan said that 'it is essential that LGBT's human rights be protected before the law.' Recently, however, he asserted that Turkish public opinion 'is not ready' for laws protecting the LGBT community.

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