Turkish trans singer faces jail over Army comments

PinkNews Staff Writer June 19, 2008
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A well-known trans performer in Turkey is facing jail after a TV outburst where she implied that military action against separatists is not worth soldier’s lives.

Bulent Ersoy has gone on trail over comments made on a Pop Idol type show last February.

A judge on the programme, she spoke out as the Turkish army crossed the border with Iraq and engaged in an operation against Kurdish separatists.

The 56-year-old has been charged with attempting to “turn the public against military service” in contravention of the country’s penal code after she said:

“Our children keep going there, there’s tears, blood and funerals and still we utter the same cliches. Why can’t we find a solution?”

If convicted Ms Ersoy, who has been a household name since the 1980s, could be jailed for more than four years.

She is perhaps the best-known trans person in the country after undergoing gender reassignment surgery in 1981.

Turkey has a large conscript army, while up to 20% of the population are ethnic Kurds.

Rebel Kurd groups have been fighting for an independent homeland within Turkey for decades. Hundreds have been killed in terrorist attacks on major cities and tourist destinations.

As part of EU membership talks which began in October 2005 Turkey has been under pressure over Kurdish culture and language as well as women’s rights and gay rights.

Last month a court in Istanbul closed down a leading gay rights organisation.

A department of the Istanbul Governor’s office alleged that Lambda Istanbul, violated Turkish laws on morality.

The court said Lambda breaches both the Penal Code, as an association in violation of “law and morals,” and Article 41 of the Turkish constitution, which is concerned with “the peace and welfare of the family.”

“This is an extremely worrying development”, said Michael Cashman, who is President of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights.

“This is a regressive step in terms of Turkey’s accession to the European Union.”

The President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has also issued a stark reminder to the Turkish government that freedom of expression and freedom of association are enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, which Turkey has ratified.

The UK is a vocal supporter of Turkish membership.

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