HRW: End Ankara Ban on LGBTI Events

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The ban in Turkey’s capital Ankara on public events focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) issues should be immediately lifted, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a written statement  today (February 14).

Saying that the ban violates fundamental rights, HRW also made a video regarding the issue:

The ban was originally imposed in November 2017 for an indefinite period under Turkey’s state of emergency, but even though emergency rule ended in July 2018, the Ankara governor’s office has not lifted the ban, HRW underpinned.

“Arbitrary bans stigmatize LGBTI people”

Hugh Williamson, the Europe and Central Asia director at HRW, said, “The Ankara governor should immediately end his ban on public events organized by the LGBTI community and their allies. The Ankara authorities have a duty to protect the rights of LGBTI groups and imposing such arbitrary bans is an outrageous effort to further stigmatize and marginalize LGBTI people.”

“It is the only ban of its kind”

HRW made the following remarks in its statement:

  • Turkey’s government imposed numerous bans on public assemblies during the state of emergency, but such a total and apparently indefinite ban is unique.
  • LGBTI groups told Human Rights Watch that the Ankara governor’s ban came about after an anti-LGBTI social media campaign on Twitter targeting a screening event organized by the German Embassy and the transgender rights group Pink Life LGBTT Solidarity Association (Pink Life) in Ankara.
  • A week earlier, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had criticized the Republican People’s Party, the largest opposition party in parliament, for a requirement to include LGBTI candidates in one local municipality, calling it immoral, outrageous, and a war against national values.

“Governor’s office remained silent”

  • The Ankara ban violates Turkey’s international obligations to respect and protect rights to equality before the law and freedom of peaceful expression and association, which are also protected under the Turkish Constitution. As a party to the European Convention on Human Rights, Turkey is obligated to take necessary measures to enable peaceful assemblies to take place.
  • Kaos and Pink Life have appealed the ban in court. None of these organizations have received any response to their requests for an appointment with the governor’s office.
  • The ban violates that obligation, among many others. The European Court of Human Rights has without exception found in dozens of cases that bans on LGBTI marches, whether on grounds of morals, health, or security, violate the convention. Addressing laws that seek to prevent public discussion of LGBTI issues as the Ankara ban does, the court has said that “above all by adopting such laws the authorities reinforce stigma and prejudice and encourage homophobia, which is incompatible with the notions of equality, pluralism and tolerance inherent in a democratic society.

HRW told the following regarding the ban:

One of the first events affected by the ban was Pink Life’s three-day Transgender Day of Remembrance program, scheduled for November 18-20, 2017.

The Ankara governor’s alleged justification for the ban are “social sensitivities,” the risk of LGBTI events “inciting hatred and enmity,” and a “clear and imminent risk to public security” that allegedly necessitates the ban to “prevent crimes being committed,” “protect public health and morality,” and “protect other people’s rights and freedoms.” Human Rights Watch rejects such claims as wholly unfounded. They reflect an anti-LGBTI bias and fail to establish a legitimate purpose or need for the ban, as required under international law.

On January 21, 2019, Human Rights Watch wrote to the Ankara governor seeking comments on the continuing ban but at this writing had not received a response.