FEATURED PEOPLE: Kaos GL - Championing gay rights in Turkey

This summer, we are highlighting the shortlisted candidates of the 2018 ECF Princess Margriet Award for Culture – all of whom fit our theme Courageous Citizens in their own right. Meet Turkey’s Kaos GL.

from Kaos GL’s special issue: Refugee LGBTIs. Illustration: Serpil Odabaşı

from Kaos GL’s special issue: Refugee LGBTIs. Illustration: Serpil Odabaşı

Kaos GL started its long journey thanks to a few enthusiastic lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people organising through small house meetings in the 1990s. Aiming to reach as many people as possible and to be the voice of LGBTIs whose rights and freedoms in Turkish society are severely curtailed, they started to publish the first volume of Kaos GL Magazine in 1994.

In 1999, Kaos GL opened the “Kaos Cultural Centre”, which held movie screenings, seminars, meetings and many other cultural activities including the first “gay library” consisting of the LGBTİ literature of the time. In 2005, Kaos GL was officially established as the first association based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Turkey.

After its institutionalisation, Kaos GL’s work became more systematic and professional in order to protect, enhance and mainstream LGBTI rights. Carrying out many activities in the fields of law, health, employment, housing, sport, family, media and culture with the experts and by using its own expertise, since then Kaos GL has continued its work to challenge the patriarchal and heterosexist system we live in and to introduce colourful “chaos” into society.

Cover of the Kaos GL Magazine, Issue #160, 2018

Cover of the Kaos GL Magazine, Issue #160, 2018

In recent years, Turkey has gone through a dramatic backlash with regards to human rights and democracy. Due to the on-going state of emergency and arbitrary government decrees, human rights defenders and any other opposition voices have become targets in many ways. Organisations have been shut down, human rights defenders have been arrested and police forces have been preventing any physical action.

Kaos GL has been carrying out its work under the risk of being closed down, like many other human rights organisations. In November 2017, Ankara’s Governorship indefinitely banned any public event organised by LGBTI organisations in Turkey’s capital on the grounds of protecting social sensitivities, public moralities, public health and the rights of others. Kaos GL took legal action to halt the decision, but due to the fact that these unlawful and discriminatory attitudes have continued in the justice system, LGBTI events are still banned in Ankara. In February, one of Kaos GL’s founders Ali Erol was detained due to his social media posts against war.

In spite of these bans and oppressions, Kaos GL continues to organise conferences, trainings and local anti-homophobia meetings in “other” cities, to publish daily news on any human rights issues – with a particular focus on LGBTIs – in KaosGL.org.

They also publish Kaos GL Magazine and Kaos Q+ periodically, to give legal and psychosocial consultancy to LGBTIs; they carry out consultancy activities and social events with LGBTI refugees in many different cities of Turkey; they monitor and report human rights violations and hate crimes against LGBTIs; they produce LGBTI literature; and they organise art and cultural activities such as the Future Queer Exhibition held in Istanbul and Berlin.

Find out more on the Kaos GL website