BANNED ACTIVITIES IN 1993
International Gay Group Berlin wanted to spread the thought of open and self-determined life and it planned to organize a Christopher Street Day festival in various countries. In 1992, it organized "Lesbian and Gay Pride Day" celebration activities in Petersburg, for the first time in Russia with the partnership of a local committee. Next year, the Turkish Chairman of International Gay Group Berlin, Selman Arikboga¤a proposed to celebrate a similar event in Turkey, for the first time in a country influenced by Islam.
The idea was special that Istanbul, which is already linked with Berlin in a partnership could throw a bridge into other Islamic countries. International Gay Group Berlin called for Turkish participation and support of"Gökkusagi Group" for the celebration of the "Christopher Street Day"with international contribution and with ensuring a considerable amount of media attention in Istanbul. "Gay Times International" sent a fax to the Organization Committee telling their support for the festival.In January 1993, Selman Arikboga participated in I.Turkish AIDS Conference as the member of Berlin Health Senate. He got an oral acceptance from the Health Minister, the Mayor and the Governor of Istanbul for a possible future event. After the proposal, a committee to organize an international gay and lesbian celebration "Sexual Freedom Activities" for the Christopher Street Day in July 2-4,1993 was formed to organize in Istanbul.
Heribert Mürmann, a member of International Gay Group Berlin Executive Committee came to Istanbul in 3rd of February, 1993 and preparations began. Berlin Senate of Culture and German AIDS Foundation gave financial support. Istanbul joined the event to encourage Turkish lesbians and gays to a more open and self-confident life. They hoped that their efforts would extend for building up a Turkish Homosexual Organization and a homosexual magazine which will be the first of its kind in the country.The aim of the committee was declared as bringing Turkish homosexuals together into a community bearing its identity and strength and enforcing the acceptance of equal rights and respect in the society. Their ultimate desire was to be an interacting part of the international community hence social pressures did not enable them to gather in associations. Moreover, these kind of activities were seen necessary for the communication of homo-and heterosexuals.
Another purpose via activities was to create an opportunity to introduce homosexuals who are minorities in respect to their sexual tendencies in society. The secrecy attached to homosexuals causes them to isolate from society and only because of that they could be misused by some people. These activities were also considered as an opportunity to establish personal acquaintance between Germans, Turks and Turks living in Germany. Therefore, another aim of the festival was to form a firm basis for their solidarity.
Content of the Activities The opening session was to be held at "Dünya Sinemasi" at 8 PM on the2nd of July 1993. The entrance was only by invitation and no press was allowed. "Sexual Freedom Activities" in Istanbul was planned to take place over three days and include symposiums, workshops about social and political themes, social activities and parties. Symposiums were planned to held in order to correct the impression of homosexuality in the Turkish public by public relations. The workshop was organized to include topics such as AIDS and the international collaboration between lesbians and gays. MPs from Germany, social scientists, writers and musicians would give speeches. In addition to them, representatives of a large number of organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), Deutsche AIDS Hilfe, COC- the Dutch National Organization for Lesbians and Gays and the Turkish Feminist Association were arranged to come together. The contents of the meetings were cultural and scientific. All who care about lesbian and gay rights were called actively support this event.
Everything was organized to reach success of the event and make it the start of a influential lesbian and gay movement in Turkey. The Prohibition of the Activities Authorities in Istanbul canceled this international gathering which was scheduled to take place in support of lesbian and gay human rights. 28 foreign delegates to this gathering were arrested and forcibly deported deported in 3rd of July, 1993. Cem Özipek, who had been involved in organizing the event, has been put into prison. A delegation of lesbians and gays from Berlin have already arrived in Istanbul in 2nd of July. They learnt that workshops and cultural activities were canceled due to a bombing threat by Islamic Fundamentalists.The reason in cancellation was declared that it is found against common societal values and norms. It was canceled to prevent a reaction that could threat security.
So, according to Gathering and Demonstration Law Article no. 2911, there was found a possibility of events that could destroy public order. Therefore, "Sexual Freedom Activities" were banned by the authorities. German Consulate protested the execution of some controls in lesbian and gay pubs in Istanbul and actions of police to shut them. Germany demanded Turkish state to set Cem Özipek free and to end with police raids to lesbian and gay pubs. Claudia Roth, MP of the Green Party in Germany wanted to bring the issue into discussion of European Parliament. The Congress of the United States sent a letter to the President of Turkey and strongly protested the action taken by the authorities. It asked Turkish President to investigate the case and to take immediate action to secure the release of Cem Özipek. Consequently, even the preparation of "Sexual Freedom Activities" can be evaluated to add the success of the homosexuality movement in Turkey.
Lambda Istanbul is the largest queer group in Turkey . It is established in Istanbul where the number of homosexuals who are aware of their identity and where we can talk about a gay subculture. It was formed by a small number of gays and lesbians as a result of a police ban on Christopher Street Day celebrations in 1993. After that ban, people who worked for the festival founded Lambda. The aims of the group were described as To reach to homosexuals who have not yet made their coming out process and help them.To establish solidarity within the gay community.To fight with the prejudice of the media and society. To help gays in Turkey to develop their identity and work for equality and liberation.
Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and also heterosexual people can join the group. Though open to everyone, majority of members are gay. The most of the attendants are young, urban and from middle class with a relative higher education. This fact supports the idea that people who solved their economic problems are more likely to be a member of a gay group. The reason for that is that the direct target of homophobia are male homosexuals and males have more social and financial possibilities with which they can develop their sexual identities easier.
Group meetings are open for everyone and consists of two parts.Tthe first part is for general talking and discussions. Then after a short break, we organize and speak about our acitivities. It is possible for anyone to join this par of the meetings, too. Because the group has to occupy itself with different areas of work, it is composed of working groups that consist of two or three members . We work on specific issues and inform the whole group about the issue.These working groups are formed according to the needs of the day. For example, the "Habitat" working group was formed to prepare the booth and to represent Lambda in Habitat and was abolished later. However there are permanent working groups. These are Magazine working group that prepares the bi-monthly magazine of Lambda. Health working group has prepared a brochure about AIDS and homosexuality that gay or straight, all people reading it will have a clearer image of homosexuality which would contribute to the acceptance of it.
Human rights working group that was designed to work with Human Rights Association in Istanbul. The relations with the association are better than they are. At the end of 80s, it was reluctant to associate itself with homosexuals. However, this attitude changed to a greater extent and the working group now is working on establishing a commission about human rights violations of sexual minorities. Working group of women studies. It is composed of gay and straight women who work on the problems of women as a whole. Although the members of this subgroup is the lesbian group Sappho.
A web page in which there are news from Turkey regarding the situation of homosexuals. We describe the overall picture for foreigners. There is also a detailed guide for gay people who want to visit Turkey. This page is the most comprehensive one about homosexuality in Turkey. Members also use Internet in order to communicate with foreign gay groups. At the beginning the group was small compared to the number of the members today. Especially after we were on TV during Habitat, the number of attendants would even reach a hundred. But the usual number is around 50.
BANNED ACTIVITIES IN 1995
Lambda decided to organize a "gay-lesbian activities" in 2-9 September 1995, a small replica of the 93 activities that were banned. A panel and a series of gay-lesbian films were ha.HABITAT II Habitat II conference was a great success for Lambda because it hired a booth in Habitat where many people who have never met gays (!) talked and discussed about homosexuality. The international relations developed in this conference and got in close touch with IGLHRC. After that event,people who attended Lambda increased because the attention of the Media was great.
THE RADIO SHOW
THE MAGAZINE 100% GL-CINS
100% GL which changed its name to "Cins" in February 1998 was Lambda`s own publication. Although magazine working group prepares it, every member could make a contribution by writing articles. The magazine contains articles, researches, translations and letters written by readers. Therefore, the magazine reflects the spectrum of opinions and people of our group.The magazine was an underground magazine and could not reach the majority of the gay community in Istanbul. The first issue was released in 1995. İn 1997 we decided to support the magazin KAOS GL of our friends in Ankara, instead of doing our own magazine. KAOS GL is a gay lesbian discussion magazine, open to a wide spectrum and mainly written by the readers themselves.
Freedom and Solidarity Party (ODP) is the one and only party which has an explicitly positive attitude towards gays in Turkey for Today. In its statute there are direct references about sexual minorities. "We must resist every pressure on different sexual choices.We must fight the discrimination and contempt directed on the people because of their differences." (The Statute of ÖDP: 30-31) These are direct references that can not be found in any other party's statute except Radical Democratic Green Party (RDYP). What differentiates ÖDP from RDYP is its strength and higher amount of its vote potential.