Human Rights / Labour

Turkish Dismissed Gay Police Officer Speaks Up

Friday, January 3, 2014
A senior policeman in Turkey named Osman (28) has recently been expelled from post due to his sexual orientation.
Osman (28) is a senior policeman who has recently been expelled from post due to his sexual orientation. He has served in the police department for 6 years. 
Now he filed a lawsuit for his return. 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” told Osman.
Osman spoke up on 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 profession to serve them. Ever since I was a kid, I said I would become either a doctor or man of law. Looking at it now, if only I became an advocate and defend people who are subjected to discrimination.
You started your post 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 to realize myself 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 coworkers find about this relationship? 
Yes but indirectly. I was assigned to the intelligence service. Somebody had warned that I had “tendencies” towards men. 
Then they started to tap my phone conversations, furthermore some of coworkers in the intelligence department sent an email to police authorities regarding my sexual orientation so that they could launch a probe on me. 
My phone rang one night around 10pm. It was my coworkers who wanted to meet me. When I came down, they told me that we needed to go to the police station without telling anything else.   
Around 11 pm, they made me wait for 30 minutes by the office of some police chief. I can never forget it. It was playing Hande Yener inside the office. When they let me in, I also saw the vice police chief of tracking service. 
“Do you know why you are here? Can you guess that?” 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 out these names in your statement as well” they ordered. “I don’t know them. It is heir 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 pretty rough shape when I saw him as they 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 to reveal everything to his family. We didn’t have any sexual relationship, we were just friends sharing their 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 also wait until morning. But they preferred to do it where they could also involve the tracking department. This is a breach of protocols. 
I demanded a lawyer. “No lawyers will ever this fiasco!” they said. I heard so many insults during my statement. But you can’t prove these. You are solely left with its experience without punishment. That night, they also confiscated my pistol so that I wouldn’t harm myself. I got back home around 4 am in the morning. 
Two days later, my colleague who took my statement dropped by and showed me the log. He said there was a misunderstanding there. They have changed the statement taker’s name and statement date. Because such person doesn’t exist. Tracking Bureau only taps people and sends the information along to other bureaus. 
The new log was signed by a commissioner from the Moral 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 examine by a council. I told them about my orientation. They gave me a definition in the code for Police Services Health Conditions Regulation. According to that. there is nothing preventing from holding 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 won’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 teammate 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 do, who cares!
Then I started speaking up: I said I didn’t accept it in the beginning. When I was first assigned to the post, I had two girlfriends. I failed in both. I was contradicting 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 already composed of those who took my statement. 
The case would normally end up with a 6-month promotion suspension but the council ruled that I committed a “shameful” crime. The case was sent to 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 LBGT organizations, I will take this case till 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 expelled 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 was this: “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 expelled from being a state officer.  
Indeed the decision violated Constitution Article 10 and European Declaration of Human Rights Articles 8 and 14. 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 was supposed to face 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 International Police Association. I am urging IPA, international police LBGT organizations and 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 coworkers. “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 coworkers supported, others brought me trouble… I felt very upset when some of my very close coworkers didn’t support me. They didn’t even pick up the phone. 
I was upset the most by the counter statement of a coworker who has actually been one of 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 “Hizmet Movement” and those not. [Gulenist movement in the police]
Did you attend their religious talk meetings 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 know it. Other 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, 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 damages my dignity. I was so ashamed that I couldn’t say last goodbye to anybody.
I would like to win the case and resign myself if necessary. To come here, I attended an exam, I had an education history. I worked hard to get here. 
Most polls say that police officers either want to quit their jobs or commit suicide. Did you ever feel like this? 
Yes, there were moment 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 the top that, you have pressures from supervisors and other cells in the organization. Police officers face 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 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 coworkers were teasing her. I was pissed. 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 to the forensics. Her first words were those: “For the first time, a policeman treated me like a human-being.” I was doted. 
Again, we have a state problem here. If the state employs these people, nobody will be forced to prostitution. Nobody is happy with what they are doing anyways. But the government needs to pave the way upon them. 
Nobody deserves to be discriminated regardless of religion, race, language, sexual orientation. 
Have you ever been confronted by police after leaving your post? 
Yes. But I don’t want to do 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 LBGT 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 expulsion? 
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 my expulsion. I was wondering whether I should continue my struggle alone or whether there were others like me. Finally, I contacted an organization. They forwarded me to their lawyers. When I saw their sincerity, my courage boosted.
Have you ever attended a Gay Pride? 
No. But I will be there next year. (bianet)
Translation: Barış Mumyakmaz from bianet English 
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