Alert Issued: January 15, 2010
In February 2010, a prominent LGBT rights organization in Turkey may be forced to shut down. The Turkish authorities have been publicly opposed to the organization’s work on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals.
The Black Pink Triangle Association of Izmir (Siyah Pembe Üçgen Izmir) is accused of acting illegally and against public morality by refusing to amend its official charter, which affirms the right of LGBT individuals to enjoy a life of peace and equality. Attempts to close gay rights organizations are not new in Turkey. Public officials have unsuccessfully challenged the activities of three groups in courts since 2005.
TAKE ACTION NOW to urge the presiding Judge to impartially adjudicate the motion to close the Black Pink Triangle Association of Izmir.
The Black Pink Triangle Association of Izmir (Siyah Pembe Üçgen Izmir), an organization that advocates for the rights of LGBT individuals in Turkey, presented its charter to the Governor of the Province of Izmir in February 2009 for registration. According to the charter, the organization aims to “support all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender men and women to adopt equality as a value, to realize their inner selves and to help bring peace and welfare by developing themselves.” In May 2009, Governor Mustafa Cahit Kirac asked the Black Pink Triangle Association to amend its charter on the grounds that it violated public morality and the structure of the traditional Turkish family. Following the organization’s refusal, the Public Prosecutor of Izmir filed a motion on October 16, 2009 to close the Black Pink Triangle Association of Izmir.
The closure of this organization on the grounds of public morality denies LGBT rights advocates the right to freedom of association and goes against Turkey’s obligations under international law. Freedom of association is guaranteed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), to which Turkey is a party.
In 2005 and 2006, the government of Ankara unsuccessfully tried to shut down two gay rights organizations, also citing the perceived threats to public morality and family values. In 2008, Turkey’s oldest LGBT rights group, Lambda Istanbul, was ordered to disband by a court in Istanbul-thankfully, the decision was successfully appealed and overturned by a higher court.
We are concerned that the Black Pink Triangle Association could be ordered to disband following an upcoming February hearing.
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Honorable Judge Mursel Ermis
Izmir 6th Civil Court of First Instance ,
Case Number :2009/474 E. Court House Bayrakli-Izmir
Dear Judge Ermis,
I write to ask that you conduct an impartial adjudication of the case 2009/474 E, in which the Public Prosecutor of Izmir requests to close down the Siyah Pembe Üçgen Izmir Association (Black Pink Triangle Association of Izmir). I believe that the charges against this organization are baseless, and a transparent and impartial investigation will help ensure that Turkish citizens are not denied the right to freedom of association. Furthermore, I am aware of and applaud recent court rulings that upheld the right of Turkish citizens to form associations. These rulings also reaffirmed the baseless nature of attempts to close down gay rights groups on the basis of being immoral or unlawful.
On October 16, 2009, the Public Prosecutor of Izmir filed a motion to disband the Siyah Pembe Üçgen Izmir Association on allegations that the organization’s charter contains provisions against public morality and the structure of the Turkish family. According to article 57 of the Turkish Civil Code, “every person has the right to form an association without obtaining prior consent.”
Previous attempts to question an LGBT organization’s official charter have been unsuccessful. Three gay rights organizations have faced similar legal challenges before being allowed to register. Charges against PinkLife and KaosGL were dismissed, and in January 2009 the Turkish Supreme Court of Appeals overturned a decision stating that Lambda Istanbul’s charter disturbed public morality and the Turkish family structure. In the ruling, the Court of Appeals declared that “no clause exists in our laws which prohibits lesbian, gay, bisexual, travesti and transsexual persons from assembly to form an association with aims of solidarity. As a result, it cannot be said that the defendant association’s aims are unlawful or immoral.”
Despite the precedent set by the Lambda Istanbul case, the Public Prosecutor of Izmir has ordered the closure of Siyah Pembe Üçgen Izmir Association on similar grounds. By continuing to deny registration to LGBT groups, the regional authorities are violating the right to freedom of association and preventing LGBT activists from continuing their valuable work that benefits the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals and the Turkish civil society as a whole.
I believe that an impartial adjudication of the case against the Siyah Pembe Üçgen Izmir Association will clear the Association of any wrongdoing and allow them to continue their important work. Such organizations play a valuable social and political role in their community and in civil society; illegitimate legal challenges not only prevent them from doing their work but also undermine Turkey’s international commitments to uphold norms of freedom of association.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. I will continue to closely monitor this situation.
Mustafa Cahit Kirac
Governor of Izmir
Minister of Justice
President Abdullah Gul
President of the Republic of Turkey