The opposition’s saddening stance on the LGBTQI+ issue in Turkey

This article, which we published in two parts for Velvele English, was originally published on our Turkish page on April 10, 2023; it was translated into English by Mertcan Karakuş. We recommend you read the first part before continuing with the article below: “LGBTIQ+ as both subject and object of a vital election in Turkey”

Now, let’s talk about the opposition parties’ saddening stance on the LGBTQI+ issue. We can say that both the Millet Alliance’s restoration policy, which sets its main goal as restoring the parliamentary system, and the Emek ve Özgürlük Alliance that gathers around the HDP / the Yeşil Sol Party, which argues for building a new, democratic life, are extremely inadequate in determining and interpreting that LGBTQI+ people have been turned into a foundational enemy other figure in the gender regime which the ruling parties have been trying to create. The Millet Alliance members the CHP and the Deva Party’s approach to LGBTQI+ people is not far from a negative freedom conceptualization which is synonymous with not  interfering with anyone’s lifestyle. It lacks both taking positive action in order to eliminate discrimination against LGBTQI+ people and a viewpoint that includes acceptance of LGBTQI+ people’s demands of equal citizenship and recognition. On the other hand, we should underline that as the other members of the Millet Alliance, the Saadet Party and the Gelecek Party’s approach to LGBTQI+ is not so different from the Cumhur Alliance’s. Thus, it’s not a big surprise that they didn’t mention LGBTQI+ people at all in their ‘‘Shared Policy Consensus Text’’, which includes headlines of their future steps after they come to power. Let’s not ignore that the AKP and these two parties have same reflexes regarding the family and LGBTQI+ people; as we could deduct from Temel Karamollaoğlu’s (chairperson of the Saadet Party, who has been recently deemed as ‘‘wise leader’’) words: ‘‘We do not accept degeneration of the family concept. Two men, two women come together, say ‘we are family, too.’ Get out of here, how did you come up with this nonsense?’’ 

We could state that, at least at the discursive level, the opposition’s left-democratic block, which will enter the elections as the Emek ve Özgürlük Alliance, is one step ahead from the Millet Alliance. But their obstacle is not seeing the LGBTQI+ issue as a main social conflict that can secure total liberation. They are far from understanding that the rising wave of right populism/new fascism is trying to construct some sort of a eugenicist-racist violence regime on LGBTQI+ people not only in Turkey but across the globe. They are also unaware that this issue has a political economy, and that it has turned into a handy apparatus for culture wars and it has dimensions in power politics among international political agents albeit implicitly. However, it is time to understand that LGBTQI+ people are an important focal point of resistance against the global right’s fantasy, which comes in various colors, of a monistic society. In case of the HDP, which is the main member of the alliance and will enter the elections from the lists of the Yeşil Sol Party, even if it is mentioned on the agenda and the documents of the party; for a long while, there has been a visible withdrawal from LGBTQI+-inclusive policies, which had started during the Gezi Protests and had continued during the June 7, 2015 elections. Even if their responses to criticism on the declining visibility of LGBTQI+ people among the HDP ranks with pleading social sensitivity and attacks of the ruling parties are mostly on point, we should definitely consider whether they structurally confronted the heterosexist way of thinking or not. Because of these handicaps, neither the members of the Emek ve Özgürlük Alliance nor the left-socialist constructs out of the alliance could develop comprehensive policies up to this point. However, inspired by Lenin, we can benefit from recalling that the political struggle is as much inclusive and complicated as that ‘‘it would use all expressions of dissatisfaction, and plan on even the smallest particles of a reaction, even if they are just seeds yet.’’

LGBTQI+ politics as a necessity

At this point, I would like to initiate a discussion, which has confused me for a long time, regarding LGBTQI+ activists. We can not deny that independent LGBTQI+ organizations in Turkey have built up an enormous repertoire since 1990’s, they have created a space for LGBTQI+ visibility even at a glacial pace and they have carried out the LGBTQI+ struggle from its human rights beginnings to recent discussions on the LGBTQI+ political representation and to attempts in order to achieve this representation. In this respect, their independent existence is extremely valuable. But, since we agreed on the importance of LGBTQI+ people’s political representation, it is also crucial that these organizations go beyond getting LGBTQI+-friendly candidates sign  protocols from election to election and discussing whether token LGBTQI+ candidates are nominated or not. In my opinion, the number of the LGBTQI+ activists, who are inside the left-democratic political parties and in sync with the LGBTQI+ Movement and who will not only reflect the agenda of the movement to the parties, but also will develop their own unique discursive policies, should increase. In addition, LGBTQI+ activists should work for developing and empowering specific forms and mechanisms in the parties that they became members of.  As I stated before, organizations that identify as leftist, socialist, and democratic are not free from heterosexism / heteronormativity. While keeping precisely that in mind, it is important to consider those organizations as a combat zone for the LGBTQI+ liberation and to carry on with persistence and patience, without leaving the combat zone at the first heterosexist obstacle. 

In conclusion, I am not exaggerating when I say that the May 14 elections, considered fate-changing for the country, will be the moment that will affect LGBTQI+ people’s lives and rights in serious ways. The opposition’s victory, despite its inadequacies, flaws and mistakes, is vital in terms of breaking the Turkish-Islamic siege, giving democracy and freedom the green light, and eliminating the policies that aim to oppress LGBTQI+ people. But the opposition’s win won’t ‘‘open up the doors of heaven’’ to LGBTQI+ people single-handedly. Accordingly, the hard mission of welcoming the next era with a political understanding that is aware of the long way of wearing heterosexism out and with the proper battle practice is waiting for us.