An Openly Gay and HIV-Positive Activist Is Running for Political Office in Turkey
Openly gay LGBT rights activist Hasan Atik is running for political office in Turkey. The People’s Democratic Party (HDP) included Atik on its list of candidates for the June 24 election. He will run for a seat in the north-west province of Edirne.
Atik has long campaigned for LGBT and HIV rights. He says his goal is “to announce the most powerful claim to life based on equal citizenship for LGBT people.”
“Among the most urgent demands are the right to live. We will fight issues such as stigma and discrimination, which are [happening] heavily in Turkey,” he says.
“The right to life is our most urgent request,” he says. “Citizenship, freedom, marriage, employment and so on. To be equal in these fields are amongst our demands. I will fight for the identification and implementation of hate crimes. I will voice our strongest wish to live a life based on equal citizenship, not positive discrimination.”
Hasan Atik is also advocating for rights in the field of HIV and AIDS. “The area of HIV / AIDS is a very knife ridge area,” he explains. “There is no preventive treatment to venture outside of the government of Turkey in this area. First of all, we will fight for the curriculum of sexual health education in schools. Then we will educate society against HIV-phobia. We struggle with issues such as stigma and discrimination, which are happening heavily in Turkey.”
HIV-positive himself, this issue hits especially close to home for Hasan Atik. He has spent time campaigning to address the stigma surrounding living with HIV in Turkey. “[Their] goal is to protect the other person from us,” he told Kaos.gl. “This is ‘othering’ us. The situation — where we are already a monster in the eyes of the public — becomes worse.”
Atik says he is “forced” to tell people he lives with HIV: “In Turkey, because there are no HIV laws, there are harsh sanctions. I am forced to tell people about my condition.”
While homosexuality has been legal in Turkey since 1858, the situation facing the LGBTQ community in recent years has been “deteriorating,” according to OutRight Action International.
Last November, Turkey banned all events by LGBTI rights groups in its capital city, Ankara. “In this way, it is possible that the public will induce a group of people with different characteristics in terms of social class, race, religion, sect or region to publicly harbor hatred and hostility against another part of society and thus open and close danger may arise in terms of public security,” the city’s council said in a statement.
Ali Erol, a prominent Turkish LGBTQ activist, was arrested and detained in his home in Ankara earlier this year, without explanation. OutRight Action International condemned Turkey’s authoritarian rule that it said was targeting dissenters, opposition leaders, human rights activists and journalists.
“[Turkey has] an increasingly authoritarian government attacking democracy and curtailing the rights of Turkish citizens exercising their rights to expression and assembly,” says Jessica Stern, OutRight Action International Executive Director. “The persecution of LGBTIQ, and all, Turkish human rights defenders needs to stop now.”
Whether he’s elected or not, the name Hasan Atik appearing on the ballot is a big deal. Hopefully the work he is doing — breaking down stigmas associated with HIV, and fighting for true equality for LGBTQ people — will help champion our community during this trying time in Turkey’s history.