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LGBT Activists Take Legal Action Over Gay Events Ban in Ankara

Turkey’s leading gay rights groups will take a legal action against an indefinite ban on gay events in Ankara, signaling a further public showdown with the office of Ankara Governor who imposed the ban.

On Nov. 19, Ankara Governor’s office issued the ban to preserve the public order. In a statement, the office said LGBT events were likely to trigger “reactions within certain segments of society.”

After the move against German language gay films in Ankara, the governor’s office imposed an expanded version of prohibition for an indefinite period for all LGBT events in Turkey’s capital.

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 organize and express themselves,” saying it effectively banned gay rights groups and removed their right to association as recognized 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 LGBT individuals under the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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

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

The annual gay pride rally in Istanbul — once the most important LGBT 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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