Young gay Turkish men are being forced to “prove” their sexual orientation to avoid compulsory military service.
There are no specific laws against homosexuality in Turkey, but out gay men are unwelcome in Turkey’s armed forces, giving them little incentive to fulfil the role their country requires of them.
Armagan Kuloglu, a retired Turkish army general, told the BBC that openly gay men in the army would cause “disciplinary problems” and create a disruptive and expensive need for “separate facilities, separate dormitories, showers, training areas”.
He added: “When someone comes out and says he is gay, then the army needs to make sure that he is truly gay, and not simply lying to evade his mandatory duty to serve in the military.”
To this end, gay men hoping for an exemption certificate on the grounds of homosexuality (a “pink certificate”) claim they have been forced to submit such things to their commanders as explicit photographs of themselves engaging in sex with another man. One ex-conscript handed over such pictures and received his exemption, but said the experience was humiliating and potentially left him open to blackmail: ” . . . somebody holds those photographs. They can show them at my village, to my parents, my relatives.”
The exemption certificate reads: “psychosexual disorder”, and next to that, in brackets, “homosexuality”.
Turkey’s military hospitals still define homosexuality as an illness, as defined in a 1968 version of a document by the American Psychiatric Association.