Sacked for being gay in the Turkish Police Force

18.01.2014 - KAOS GL

Sacked for being gay in the Turkish Police Force
(Image by Photo: www.kaosgl.org)

Osman (28) was a senior policeman who has recently been expelled from his position due to his sexual orientation. He served with the police for 6 years.

Now he has filed a lawsuit to get his job back. He is looking forward to the trial day.

“I am a devout Muslim. I do my daily prayers. The fact that I am homosexual doesn’t mean that I will live without my religion. If a heterosexual couple can live within the borders of societal values, I must be able to do the same and hold my profession. The administration must be able to regard it as normal, too” said Osman.

Osman spoke about the process leading to his expulsion and its aftermath.

Why did you become a policeman?

I truly love my country and nation. I always longed to have a profession to serve them. Ever since I was a kid, I said I would become either a doctor or a man of law. Looking at it now, I wish I had become an advocate and defend people who are subjected to discrimination.

You started your career in 2006. Did you reveal your sexual orientation to anybody prior to that?

I wasn’t in gay circles. I knew myself, but I had different emotions. I was always postponing coming out due to my beliefs and social pressures. I started taking antidepressants. But I had to quit after antidepressants affected my adaptation and social life.

Then I travelled and met somebody in another city. I started sharing my issues with him. I wasn’t living my life explicitly. You don’t have such luxury in Turkey.

Did your co-workers find out about this relationship?

Yes but indirectly. I was assigned to the intelligence service. Somebody had warned them that I had “tendencies” towards men.

Then they started to tap my phone conversations, furthermore some of my co-workers in the intelligence department sent an email to the police authorities regarding my sexual orientation so that they would investigate me.

My phone rang one night around 10pm. It was my co-workers who wanted to meet me. When I came down, they told me that we needed to go to the police station without saying anything else.

Around 11 pm, they made me wait for 30 minutes by the office of some police chief. I will never forget it. Music by Hande Yener was playing inside the office. When they let me in, I also saw the vice police chief of investigations.

 

“Do you know why you are here? Can you guess?” they asked me initially. Then they started yelling and insulting me about my homosexuality. I didn’t do anything to deserve such a thing. I was successful in my profession.

They asked me about 4 or 5 others who might be gay. “Give these names in your statement as well,” they ordered. “I don’t know them. It is their private life,” I said. But I also told them that my sexual orientation was different.

They also detained one of my friends. He was in a pretty rough shape when I saw him as they had insulted and beat him up. They asked him questions about me.

Was he a police officer too?

No. He was a civilian. They also threatened him with revealing everything to his family. We didn’t have any sexual relationship, we were just friends sharing these issues.

How did they get hold of him?

They tapped our conversations. Then they detained him, saying that “there were allegations related to him”. My statement could have waited until morning. But they preferred to do it where they could also involve the investigations department. This is a breach of protocols.

I demanded a lawyer. “No lawyers will ever see this fiasco!” they said. I heard so many insults during my statement. But you can’t prove these. You are just left with the experience without punishment. That night, they also confiscated my pistol so that I wouldn’t harm myself. I got back home around 4 in the morning.

Two days later, the colleague who took my statement dropped by and showed me the report. He said there was a misunderstanding there. They had changed the name of the person who took the statement and the statement date because no such person exists. The Investigation Bureau only taps people and sends the information along to other bureaus.

The new report was signed by a commissioner from the Morality Bureau and registered in the daytime. They made me sign this.

15 days later, they transferred me to a mental hospital. I had to be examined by a councillor. I told them about my orientation. They showed me a definition in the code for Police Services Health Conditions Regulation. According to that there is nothing preventing me from performing my duties.

Even though the Turkish state tells me that I am “sick” for being homosexual, it also concludes that “I can perform my duties as long as I don’t tell anyone at work”.

What happened then?

After this effort yielded no results, they launched a disciplinary investigation against me. Two inspectors came.

They summoned a former colleague of mine. And he told them that he saw me going to a hotel with a man. Though I was living in secrecy, I was even afraid to face myself. They claimed that I went to a hotel with a man. Even if I did, who cares!

Then I started to speak up. I said I didn’t accept it in the beginning. When I was first assigned to the job, I had two girlfriends. I failed in both. I was in contradiction with myself and I wasn’t happy. I was living with two personas. “Either you will struggle or you will completely abandon this,” I said to myself. And I chose to struggle. “Because,” I said, “this is what I am.”

Inspectors sent me to the disciplinary council for charges related to “degrading the required professional pride outside work”. The council was composed of those who took my statement.

A normal case would end up with a 6-month promotion suspension but the council ruled that I committed a “shameful” crime. The case was sent to the Interior Ministry.

During the transfer, they were supposed to send the case with high confidentiality. But they made it so open that everybody learnt about it. Actually they indirectly forced me to resign by breaching confidentiality.

But I didn’t yield. I confronted everything by myself. Now that I am also in contact with LGBT organizations, I will take this case to the very end.

I had to experience this, but I don’t want any other state worker or LGBT person to experience this.

How did you get sacked from being a state worker?

When the case went to the ministry, I was summoned to make a statement. The first words of the assistant secretary were these: “I don’t call this a crime, son. Tell me what happened.”

The meeting was positive. But two months later, I found out that I was sacked as a state officer.

Indeed the decision violated Article 10 of the Constitution and Articles 8 and 14 of the European Declaration of Human Rights. In the meanwhile, we learned everything about the law.

Police officers are also men of law. I did more research after what I went through.

Normally, I should have faced a regular penalty according to the disciplinary code. But I received the harshest one. My file records are not below 90 out of 100. I didn’t face any investigations. In such cases, you are not supposed to receive the harshest penalty. They took it personally, this is what I went through.

I am a member of the International Police Association. I am urging IPA, international LGBT police organizations and the Istanbul Bar Association to follow my case. I am not asking for help from anyone, but I want them to follow the case. They need to check whether there is anything unlawful with the process.

Did anyone support you in the meanwhile?

Yes, I received support from several co-workers. “It is you today and maybe our children tomorrow,” they said. We are still in contact. All of them are heterosexual, married and with children.

 

Some co-workers supported me, others brought me trouble… I felt very upset when some of my very close co-workers didn’t support me. They didn’t even pick up the phone.

I was upset the most by the counter statement of a co-worker who has actually been one of my closest friends since childhood.

What do you mean by Hizmet Movement?

There is a very sharp distinction in the police department. Those who are a part of the “Hizmet Movement” and those not. [Gulenist movement in the police]

Did you attend their religious talks for this reason?

No. I used to attend their meetings just because of my beliefs. I found peace when I was there. I had a situation [homosexuality] but I am doing well, thank God. I used to find peace amid all the uncertainties I was facing due to my sexual orientation. Therefore I was in the movement.

You were expelled from work. What do you do now? How do you make a living?

I am helping a local business. As a matter of fact, my finances are so tight right now. My brother is helping me out.

Is your family aware of what’s going on?

Only my older brother knows about it. Others don’t even have a clue. I told them that I took a break from work because of illness. They have no idea, I don’t want to lose them either.

After all this, do you still want to work as a policeman?

I don’t know whether I will continue or not, but my right must be given back to me. They damaged my dignity. I was so ashamed that I couldn’t even say a last goodbye to anybody.

I would like to win the case and resign by myself if necessary. To get there, I took exams, I had an education history. I worked hard to get there.

Most polls say that police officers either want to quit their jobs or commit suicide. Did you ever feel like this?

Yes, there were moments when I felt like that. Have you ever seen any police officers who have a hobby, have a course or go to therapy? No.

When you look closely, you also see that police officers have problems in their relationships because they work 24/7. On top of that, you have pressures from supervisors and other cells in the organization. Police officers are on the edge.

We know that police issue fines to LGBT people even when they are subjected to violence. How is your experience with that?

When I first started in the profession and I didn’t admit my identity, we admitted a trans woman to the police station. She had blood all over her arms…

 

Some co-workers were teasing her. I was angry. They were going to put her into the cell. I said no. I took her to our resting room and made her coffee. I also assisted her at the forensics. Her first words were: “For the first time, a policeman has treated me like a human-being.”

Again, we have a state problem here. If the state employs these people, nobody will be forced into prostitution. Nobody is happy with what they are doing anyway. But the government needs to pave the way for them.

Nobody deserves to be discriminated regardless of religion, race, language, sexual orientation.

Have you ever been confronted by police after leaving your job?

Yes. But I don’t like it at all. It only reminds me of the night that I was interrogated.

Lately, I have been to a courthouse as a normal citizen. Private security searched me with their fingers. They don’t even have the right to do that. I am sure LGBT people also suffer from this sort of search by police officers.

How did you connect with LGBT organizations? Did you get in touch with any groups before your dismissal?

When I was a police officer, I used to check out Lambda’s activities on the net. Not on my IP though, I used to go to an internet cafe.

I made a thorough research after being sacked. I was wondering whether I should continue my struggle alone or whether there were others like me. Finally, I contacted an organization. They put me in contact with their lawyers. When I saw their sincerity, my courage was boosted.

Have you ever attended a Gay Pride?

No. But I will be there next year.

The original article can be found on the kaosgl.org website here: http://kaosgl.org/page.php?id=15515

Categories: Europe, Human Rights, Interviews
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