On the second of January the criminal court of Bursa, Turkey, ordered the closure of LGBT organization “RAINBOW.” This following a suit brought on by the Bursa municipality dating back to 2008. The Bursa municipality has been harassing “RAINBOW” since early 2007 complaining that the organization was engaging in “illegal activities” such as prostitution and have previously made claims that the organization in itself was “immoral.”
“RAINBOW” activists have already commented that the organization will appeal against the court decision. In addition they stated that they were prepared to found a new organization if the appeal would not be upheld. The organization will also continue working during the appeal procedure since “RAINBOW” is the only organization in Bursa working with and for LGBT people in the area.
Court cases brought against LGBT organizations are not uncommon in Turkey citing reasons like “fueling immorality,” “going against Turkish identity,” “housing illegal activities” and “violating values and family structures.” Lambda (Istanbul), Kaos GL (Ankara) and Black Pink Triangle (Izmir) being the three biggest LGBT organisations in Turkey have been consistently taken to court since 2005. But only through several years of uncertainty and appeals have they managed to win the court battles against shutting their down their work.
Turkey, being a member state of the Council of Europe and part of the United Nations, has signed both the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. These treaties protect the rights to freedom of organization and prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. The Turkish Parliamentary commission on Human Rights has pledged in the past to propose a bill to uphold these rights but has yet to act upon their promise. After these crackdowns on LGBT organizations this is proving to be pressing critical. We call upon the Turkish government to take all necessary measures to pass immediately the bill to uphold the aforementioned rights and cease harassment of LGBT people and organizations.
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Dan Littauer, who runs the Gay Middle East website that provides LGBT grass-roots news from the region, says that most his writers and editors must be very careful in the Middle East about revealing their identities, hence the use of pseudonyms.