A Turkish man who studied in the United States is aiming to become the first openly gay person to hold public office in Turkey.
Can Çavuşoğlu has announced that he will run to become mayor of the small town of Bulancak in the March 2014 local elections, in a bid to become the first ever openly gay mayor in the country.
The 43-year-old, who was born in Istanbul and is running as an independent, states in his campaign bid that he will seek to win votes by promising to bring US investment to the town thanks to his connections there.
Çavuşoğlu said: “The international values I possess, the representation skills and governmental accounting can only be found in a few people.”
He added that his campaign’s financial situation was “quite good,” and would allow him to end corruption and embezzlement in Bulancak if elected as mayor.
Turkey has a poor record on gay rights: Though homosexuality has been legal in the country since 1858, sexual orientation and gender identity are not included in any civil rights law, and there is currently no legal recognition for same-sex couples.
Homophobic discrimination and violence are common, and the Turkish government recently came under pressure to do more to protect trans people in the country from murder and violence.
In 2011, Amnesty International accused the Turkish government or ignoring harassment and discrimination against gay people, with their lead researcher claiming that “homophobic statements by government officials have encouraged discrimination against individuals.”