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Turkey's ruling, opposition parties dismiss need for gay rights

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News | 11/2/2010 12:00:00 AM |

Rights for gays and lesbians in Turkey are not on the agenda of the ruling party or the main opposition, party representatives revealed Tuesday at a conference.

Rights for gays and lesbians in Turkey are not on the agenda of the ruling party or the main opposition, representatives of the parties revealed Tuesday in response to a question at an international conference.

The response from Republican People’s Party, or CHP, representative Süheyl Batum drew particular disdain from a lesbian member of the European Parliament group that organized the conference. The professor “sounded like he is from a former time” by talking about sexual-orientation rights as if they are a luxury, Ulrike Lunacek, a member of the Greens/European Free Alliance Group, or Greens/EFA, told the Daily News. "It was like the [early] communist times when women’s issues were of secondary importance."

Asked if his party would include sexual-orientation rights in its draft for a new constitution, Batum, who joined the CHP after its recent leadership change, said: “We would include [sexual-orientation rights] too, but Turkey has problems with union rights, freedom of the press.”

He added sarcastically that the CHP was to blame for the EU not knowing what the party is doing for the new constitution when EU representatives don’t follow the CHP's progress.

The issue was not high on the agenda of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, either. Bekir Bozdağ, vice president of the AKP’s group in Parliament, first said the AKP's stance on human rights was clear, but then had to accept that the leading administartion has not considered the issue at all.

“This matter has recently come onto Turkey’s agenda. We have not done anything yet to form a party policy on it,” Bozdağ said in response to the question posed to the Turkish political parties by Greens/EFA Group co-president Daniel Cohn-Bendit, better known as “Red Danny.”

The discussion occurred on the third day of the “Turkey in Europe” conference, the Enlarged Bureau Meeting of the Greens-EFA in Istanbul, during a morning gathering on the “Democratization process of Turkey in light of a new constitution.” The politicians, academics and representatives of nongovernmental organizations in attendance largely discussed the Sept. 12 referendum on constitutional reforms rather than the new constitution yet to be written.

Sebahat Tuncel, a deputy from the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, seemed to be the only politician ready for the question about gay rights. She said the pro-Kurdish party is against every kind of discrimination according to its bylaws and “pro-sexual freedoms.” Such an argument is only valid in a democratic country, the CHP’s Batum said.

The Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, was invited to the meeting but did not attend.

Asked by the Daily News what he thought of the answers he received to his question, Cohn-Bendit said he would repeat the answer he gave in a discussion with a Turkish newspaper three years ago: “The future of Turkey is Europe. Turkey’s biggest city is Istanbul; France’s is Paris and Germany’s is Berlin. The mayors of Paris and Berlin are homosexuals; the future of Istanbul is a homosexual mayor.”

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