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Turkish activists fear Erdoğan will further restrict LGBTQ, intersex rights

Long-time president won re-election on Sunday



Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (Photo from Erdoğan's Twitter page)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday won re-election.

Erdoğan, a former Istanbul mayor who has governed Turkey since 2003, defeated Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu in the presidential election’s second round by a 52-48 percent margin. The Associated Press notes Erdoğan will remain in office until at least 2028.

Turkish authorities over the last decade have increasingly cracked down on LGBTQ and intersex activists in the country.

Police in 2015 used tear gas and water cannons against people who were about to participate in an Istanbul Pride march. Authorities in 2017 arrested nearly two dozen people who defied a ban on Pride events in the city.

Police in Ankara, the Turkish capital, on May 10, 2019, arrested 18 students and an academic who participated in a Pride march at the Middle East Technical University. They faced up to three years in prison, but a court in 2021 acquitted them. Police in 2022 violently broke up a Pride parade at the same Ankara university.

The State Department in 2021 criticized Turkey after police once again used tear gas to disperse Istanbul Pride march participants near the city’s Istiklal Avenue. Security forces last June arrested more than 370 people who tried to participate in another Istanbul Pride march.  

Fourteen Turkish LGBTQ and intersex rights organizations in a joint statement they issued ahead of Sunday’s election noted both Erdoğan and Kılıçdaroğlu “resorted to hate speech during the election process.”

“The election period is long and painful for all of us,” reads the joint statement the May 17 Association, SPoD (Social Policy, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Studies Association), Ankara Rainbow Families Association (GALADER), the Young Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans Intersex Youth Studies and Solidarity Association, the HEVI LGBTI+ Solidarity Association, Kaos GL, the Red Umbrella Association, Lambda Istanbul, LGBTI+ Families and Relatives Association, Mersin 7 Colors LGBT, Muamma, the Free Colors LGBTI+ Solidarity Association, the Pink Life LGBTI+ Solidarity Association and ÜniKuir issued. “The bitter pills we swallowed during the election are now overflowing the cup. Before the elections and during the first round of the elections, LGBTI+ people were often targeted and the focus of hate speech, while racism and refugee hostility also dominated in the second round.”

The statement also described the presidential election as a “referendum.”

“This election is a referendum on whether the 12th president’s rule will continue or not, whether the one-man regime in the country will come to an end or not,” it reads. “Yes, we will continue to be in the opposition regardless of the outcome. But this election is also the election of under which conditions and against whom we will oppose from now on.”

Media reports indicate Erdoğan in his victory speech criticized the Turkish opposition “for being pro-LGBT.”

One activist with whom the Washington Blade spoke on Monday said Erdoğan “unfortunately” won re-election.

“LGBTI activism in Turkey will be even more threatened,” said the activist.


Middle East

Tel Aviv authorities cancel Pride parade

‘This is not the time for celebrations’



Tel Aviv's 2023 Pride parade (Photo courtesy of Shlomi Yosef/Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality)

WDG is the Washington Blade’s media partner in Israel. This article originally ran on their website on Wednesday.

Tel Aviv-Yafo authorities on Wednesday announced the cancellation of Tel Aviv’s annual Pride parade.

The municipality said it will instead hold a rally as a sign of pride, hope, and freedom.

The decision was made after municipality representatives consulted with LGBTQ community organizations, LGBTQ party promoters and venue owners in the city. Possible alternatives to the Pride parade were discussed. 

Mayor Ron Huldai in a post he published expressed the self-evident reasons for making the change.

“This is not the time for celebrations,” Huldai wrote. “In coordination with the organizations of the LGBTQ community, we decided that this year, instead of the Pride parade, we will hold a rally in Tel Aviv-Yafo as a sign of pride, hope, and freedom. 132 of our sons and daughters are still kidnapped in Gaza, the circle of bereavement is expanding every day, and we are in one of the most difficult periods of the State of Israel.”

“Tel Aviv-Yafo is the home of the LGBTQ community, it was and always will be,” he added. “Out of our great commitment to the community, this year we decided to divert part of the budget intended for the production of the Pride parade in favor of the activities of the ‘LGBTQ Center’ in Tel Aviv-Yafo. We feel the pain of the entire country, and at the same time we do not stop for a moment the fight for equality and freedom — for everyone and everything. See you at the Pride parade in June 2025.”

The coalition of LGBTQ community organizations welcomed the decision.

“We welcome the decision of the Tel Aviv Municipality not to hold the Pride parade as usual this year,” they said. “In these difficult days, when we are all in pain and grieving and when many of our brothers and sisters are not at home, either as evacuees from their homes or kidnapped in Gaza, and our hearts are not whole until they return. It is true that the Pride events will undergo adjustments to the times.” 

“Since time immemorial, the Pride parade in Tel Aviv, in contrast to the other parades and events throughout the country, has been a celebration of freedom, love, and equal rights and now, in these difficult days, it is important to continue to fight for a free and tolerant future even if we avoid the celebration,” they added. “Participation in the various Pride events around the country is more important than ever and we call on all members and members of the gay community and everyone who believes in a liberal, freer, and more just society to get out of the house and take part both in the rally in Tel Aviv and in the various events for the fight for equality and tolerance across the country.”

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Middle East

Israeli Supreme Court rules country must allow two mothers on child’s birth certificate

LGBTQ activists praised the ruling



The Israeli Supreme Court (Photo by the Israeli Supreme Court; public domain)

WDG, the Washington Blade’s media partner in Israel, published this article on their website on Thursday.

Supreme Court judges on Thursday unanimously ruled that the Population Authority must register female couples as mothers on the birth certificates of their children they have together.

The decision was made following a petition submitted by nine female couples, mothers of children born through anonymous sperm donation. The panel of judges, headed by Supreme Court President Uzi Fogelman and Judges Ruth Ronen and Alex Stein, rejected the Population Authority’s claim that the birth certificate reflects only biological parentage and ruled that both the birth mother and her partner must be registered as the child’s parent.

“The exclusion of the non-biological parent from the birth certificate means a preference for the position of the biological parent over parenting based on other parents,” Fogelman wrote in the ruling. “In terms of substantive law, the parenting of both parents — the biological parent and the non-biological parent — is equal and it includes the same basket of parental rights and duties. I do not believe that when at the level of substantive law there is equality between the parents, there is room to distinguish between them at the level of registration in the birth certificate.”

Fogelman also referred to the interpretation that may be given to the lack of registration on the birth certificate as “an offensive message according to which we are dealing with relationships that are different in nature and essence: while biological parentage is ‘real’ parentage, non-biological parentage is inferior and suspect parentage, a kind of ‘conditional’ parentage.”

The ruling does not apply to male couples because the petition dealt with couples who conceived with the help of anonymous sperm donation.

The ruling was issued as part of a petition submitted around eight years ago by nine female couples, who claimed that not registering the non-biological mother on the birth certificate deprives the child of rights that include acquiring foreign citizenship and petitioned the Interior Ministry and the Population and Immigration Authority to issue their children amended birth certificates that include the names of both mothers.

The Population Authority refused the couples’ request on the grounds that the birth certificate is a document that reflects the biological parentage at the time of birth, and is not updated with the passage of time. The petitioners claimed that the Population Authority’s policy violates the right to family life and the right to equality, since it discriminates against same-sex couples. And as evidence, they pointed out that when it comes to heterosexual couples, the Interior Ministry issues them corrected birth certificates — even in cases of adoption by the spouse of the biological mother or in the case where sperm donation is used for the birth of the child.

Fogelman accepted the respondents’ position according to which the birth certificate was intended to document the identity of the child at the initial point in time of his life. Alongside this, he rejected the respondents’ position that the birth certificate was intended to reflect biological parentage.

“A birth certificate is one of the most important documents a person has. It confers a basket of rights and is also used for the purpose of regulating citizenship in foreign countries,” said attorneys Daniela Ya’akobi, Hagai Kalai and Achinoam Orbach, who represented the petitioners. “For all these years, the state has insisted on denying children of two mothers a birth certificate that reflects the reality of their lives. The judgment of the High Court of Justice put an end to ugly and unnecessary discrimination, which has no purpose and never had. It is a great victory, but no man needs or wants to win his country. The time has come for the state, on its own initiative, to allow full equality of rights for all its citizens, including LGBT people.”

Aguda Chair Hila Peer responded to the ruling.

“This is a historic day when our families are equal,” she said. “For years the Interior Ministry has refused to register proud mothers on the birth certificate and now, thanks to the High Court of Justice, we are taking a significant step towards equality.”

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Middle East

Sheila Weinberg becomes Israel’s first transgender council member

Former teacher elected in Kiryat Tivon on Feb. 27



Sheila Weinberg (Photo courtesy of Carmit Simhi-Rokah)

WDG is the Washington Blade’s media partner in Israel. WDG published this article on their website.

Sheila Weinberg on Feb. 27 wrote another chapter in LGBTQ history in Israel when she was elected as the country’s first transgender council member. 

Weinberg, the 65-year-old chair of the “Transiot Israel” association and a former teacher, was elected to the Kiryat Tivon Local Council after her “More to Tivon” list won 37.7 percent of the votes.

In the past she was a member of the LGBTQ Committee in Kiryat Tivon and in the last year she was active in the protest against the proposed judicial reforms. Weinberg has two children and a granddaughter. She started the process of affirming her gender about five years ago when she was 60 years old.

“Many people in Kiryat Tivon knew exactly who I was and about my past. It didn’t bother. It seems to me that in certain places it was helpful,” Weinberg told WDG. “The residents of Tivon decided clearly in favor of a liberal, pluralistic and democratic Tivon. I have been a member of Meretz for many years and in these elections we joined a single list with ‘Yesh Atid’ and ‘Our Tivon’ and ‘Hoze Hadash’ (‘New Contract’), a list whose prominent values are equality among all. On the list were the women who founded the LGBT Committee in Tivon that operates with full vigor.”

Despite the historic title as the first trans council member in Israel, Weinberg is not content with just being active in the issues of the LGBTQ community, and aims (to become involved with) the education portfolio in her locality.

“I intend to use this branding to operate in Tivon in two main areas: Education and the LGBT community. Naturally, I see myself as someone who has a well-founded view of education in Tivon and I would be happy to be incharge of the education in Tivon, alongside the LGBT community. I have been teaching all my life. I taught for 35 years in several places, including the University of Haifa, and since the war started I have also been replacing a teacher who went into the reserves voluntarily.

Furthermore, I think I got my foot in the door for trans girls and trans boys. I will of course also continue to act as the chairman of ‘Transiot Israel’ and at the same time promote the needs of our community, which in the Haifa and Tivon area suffers from a lack of people.

I think I can speak for girls whose life path was less paved than mine. For those girls and boys who were thrown out on the street, out of school, who suffer physical and verbal violence, who are discriminated against economically and socially. And most of all, I would love to hear from my friends in the community and my friends there what the priorities are, not necessarily in Tivon but in Tel Aviv and other places.”

Other candidates from the LGBTQ community won in other municipalities in Israel.

In Tel Aviv-Yafo, Chen Arieli and Moti Reif entered the council for another term, as well as Reut Nagar and Shahar Levy. Assaf Weiss will serve as a council member in Ramat Gan, lawyer Daniela Jacobi in the Ramat Hasharon Council and Ella Kaufman will serve another term on the Kadima Council.

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