03/05/2024 - 11:12

On October 27, we held our third Haklara Destek II network meeting titled “LGBTI+ Struggle and Visibility Strategies Against Organized Hatred” in Ankara with the participation of organizations active in the field of LGBTI+ rights.

Haklara Destek III. Ağ Toplantısı katılımcılarının topluca göründüğü fotoğraf


Besides the representatives from two LGBTI+ organizations from Lebanon, the meeting was attended by Haklara Destek organizations such as Altyazı Cinema Association (Altyazı Derneği), Cultural Research Center for Peace (Bakad), Association for Legal Support against Sexual Violence, HEVI LGBTI+ Association (Hak Eşitlik Varoluş İçin Lezbiyen Gay Biseksüel Transseksüel İnterseksüel Derneği), Association of Families and Friends of LGBTI+ in Turkey (LGBTI+ Aileleri ve Yakınları Derneği, Listag), Pink Life LGBTI Solidarity Association (Pembe Hayat LBGTI Dayanışma Derneği) and Social Policy, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Studies Association (Sosyal Politika, Cinsiyet Kimliği ve Cinsel Yönelim Çalışmaları Derneği, SPoD). Additionally, May 17 Association (17 Mayıs Derneği), Red Umbrella Association for Sexual Health and Human Rights (Kırmızı Şemşiye Cinsel Sağlık ve İnsan Hakları Derneği), Unikuir, and Kaos GL, based in Ankara, accepted our invitation and participated in the meeting

It was a hybrid meeting and the participants from Lebanon joined the panel online. Following the opening speeches of Alessandro Angius from the Delegation of the European Union to Turkey and Julia Bartmann from Heinrich Böll Stiftung, we did a short warm-up activity. With this warmup activity, facilitated by Hilal Başak Demirbaş from Hafıza Merkezi, we aimed to go beyond the standard method of introducing ourselves and our organizations.

After the warm-up activity, we moved on to a two-hours-long panel “LGBTI+ Rights Struggle and Visibility in Lebanon and Turkey”. A representative from the LGBTI+ organization called Helem, which means “to dream” in Arabic, a representative* from another Lebanese LGBTI+ organization, and Umut Güner from Kaos GL participated in the panel.

In the panel moderated by Balacan Ayar from Hafıza Merkezi, we discussed the methods organization employed to survive in repressive regimes based on their visibility activities. Both participants from Lebanon talked about the possible ways to be activists and continue organized struggle in a country like Lebanon, where homosexuality is criminalized. The panelists talked about the measures they have taken against the threat of being shut down, the frequent and sudden inspections, the increased police brutality, and the Islamist parties that target them. In so doing, they underlined the importance of maintaining a certain level of online visibility, doing regular risk analysis and strategy planning, and emphasized the urgency of the relentless struggle against discrimination with respect to overcoming prejudices. They also mentioned their efforts to develop relations not only through international and regional networks but also with the Arab and Lebanese diaspora. Additionally, Helem, as the oldest association founded by activists in the Arab world, pointed at the apartheid regime in Palestine, which resulted in a tendency among LGBTI+ people in Palestine to “hide” and “conceal” themselves in manifold ways and which caused identity problems due to discrimination.

We asked our third panelist Umut Güner, the director of Kaos GL, about the past and present of the Rainbow Association Against Discrimination. Umut began by telling us about the last 10-odd years of LGBTI+ struggle in Turkey and what has changed since the time when the association was acting as a coalition. Umut stated that this umbrella association consisting of LGBTI+ organizations was created to give organizations the opportunity to act together and improve their capacities. Umut also talked about the ways in which LGBTI+ organizations are uniting against increasing organized hate speech, and especially against constitutional amendment. In so doing, he emphasized that solidarity building is a labor-intensive process. Umut also emphasized the fact that LGBTI+ organizations are open to contact and cooperation with organizations working in other fields of rights. However, he added that, most often than not, the LGBTI+ organizations have been left alone, especially in recent years. He stated that the attitude which is ready to give up on the LGBTI+ organizations in the first instance harms LGBTI+s as well as the solidarity necessary in the struggle for rights. 


The last session of the day was a group work facilitated by Olcay Özer from Hafıza Merkezi. Before the network meeting, we had asked the organizations to come up with questions about the visibility strategies specific to the LGBTI+ movement. We organized an interactive group work that we designed together with the questions the organizations came up with and the topics that emerged during the meeting. The discussions we carried out during the group work focused on (1) media and LGBTI+ solidarity and collaborations, (2) counter-organizations and strategies, (3) international networks and organizations, and (4) street activism and digital activism. We came up with sub-questions to talk about and discuss the resources and the skills we have at our disposal to address these topics and what we can do in the short and medium terms.

We would like to thank two LGBTI+ organizations in Lebanon, one of which is Helem, for meeting with us and sharing their experiences despite all the difficulties, as well as all the organizations that participated in the meeting, Umut, and everyone who were invited.

* Due to security concerns the name of the organization and the participant are omitted.