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article imageGay rights groups take legal action over Ankara events ban

By AFP     Nov 29, 2017 in World

Turkish gay rights groups said Wednesday they would take legal action against a controversial ban on all LGBTI cultural events in Ankara that was announced this month.

The Ankara governor's office on November 19 issued the ban to "maintain public order", arguing LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex) events are likely to "provoke reactions within certain segments" of society.

Ankara-based gay rights group Kaos GL and Pink Life LGBT Solidarity Association said they were filing a complaint calling for the "illegal" ban to be lifted.

Pink Life lawyer Emrah Sahin said the ban, which affects films, theatre shows, screenings, exhibitions and other such events, was "political".

"It is necessary as soon as possible to put an end to this clear infringement of rights and to cancel this decision," he said, expressing hope that the move was the result of "individual error" rather than government policy.

Kerem Dikmen, legal counsel for Kaos GL, said it was "indisputably an attack on the freedom of LGBTI individuals to organise and express themselves", saying it effectively banned gay rights groups and removed their right to association as recognised by the constitution.

On Friday, authorities in Istanbul's Beyoglu district banned a day-long film festival showcasing short films on gay issues.

And in mid November, the Ankara governorate banned a festival of German-language gay films on the grounds it could incite hatred and risked provoking a terror attack.

The bans have raised concerns about freedom of expression for LGBTI individuals under the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Earlier this month, Erdogan took aim at a quota for gay representatives on a neighbourhood committee, criticising it as being at odds with the nation's values in a rare comment on such issues.

Homosexuality is legal in Turkey, but LGBTI individuals often complain of abuse and harassment.

The annual gay pride rally in Istanbul -- once the most important LGBTI gathering in a Muslim country in the region -- has been blocked by the authorities for three years, citing security grounds.

But such reasons are dismissed by activists who claim the government is seeking to impose its conservative morality on a diverse country and is undermining its secular tradition.

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