Reuters, 12 October 2005

Turkish gays on Wednesday 12 October 12 2005 won their first victory since the start of European Union entry talks last week when prosecutors rejected an official demand to shut down a newly-formed homosexual association.

Ankara's deputy governor last month asked the courts to order the closure of the Kaos Gay and Lesbian Cultural Research and Solidarity Association, established on July 15, calling it immoral.

"Kaos GL Association will not be closed," the group said in a statement, adding that the prosecutor's office had informed their lawyer of his decision.

"This is a big step forward for homosexuals in achieving the equality and justice they deserve and in abolishing discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation in all fields of social life," Kaos said in its statement.

Unlike many Muslim countries, homosexuality has never been illegal or criminalised in Turkey, but there are no laws to protect gay men and lesbians from discrimination and hostility.

A clause offering such protection was originally inserted into penal code reforms passed last year as part of Turkey's EU bid, but was removed by Justice Minister Cemil Cicek, gay rights activists say.

The Ankara governor's office said the association's title and purposes violated the Turkish Civil Code, which states that associations against law and morality cannot be established.

The governor's action sparked a letter campaign from international gay groups, which wrote to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan asking him to protect human rights as Ankara has pledged to do under international agreements.

Kaos said Ankara prosecutor Kursat Kayral said in his ruling that the American Psychiatric Association did not rate homosexuality as a disorder and the words "gay" and "lesbian" were widely used in daily life and scientific research.

"At a time when Turkey is debating discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, the prosecutor has ruled that being homosexual does not mean being immoral," said Kaos.

Turkey has made wide-ranging reforms aimed at bolstering human rights and individual freedoms as part of its EU bid. But the EU says the reforms must also be fully implemented.

The EU has made no specific references to gay rights in its demands on Turkey.

Most Turkish homosexuals keep their personal lives well hidden and there is hardly any gay "scene" outside cosmopolitan Istanbul.


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