International

Turkish Gay Group Banned

The BBC reports:

A leading Turkish gay rights group will fight a court ruling that ordered it be closed for “violating morality”.

Lambda, which has become increasingly vocal in calling for gay, lesbian and transgender rights in Turkey, says it will appeal against the decision.

The court said the group must be closed, following a complaint, initiated by the Istanbul governor’s office, that Lambda violated laws on the protection of the family, and an article banning bodies “with objectives that violate law and morality”.

“This is a mistake and we hope that the Appeals Court will correct it,” the group’s lawyer, Firat Soyle, told the AFP news agency.

Turkey has a thriving gay culture, of which I have near-first hand experience.

I went to Istanbul on my honeymoon some years ago. I’d been there before, when we got engaged, and had visited a well known, and rather touristy turkish bath. On my second trip, I took the advice of the Lonely Planet Guide, which warned me off the famous turkish bath, which it deemed “Disneyland-ish”. Instead, it gave the name of a few “neighbourhood” baths, which were supposed to be much more authentic because “the locals go there”.

So, off I went. My wife waved me cheerfully goodbye at the door, and soon I was sweating in the hot room. After quarter of an hour, I was joined by another patron.

Now, I’d read about turkish baths in my Lonely Planet Guide. They were at pains to stress that modesty was imperative in the turkish bath, and that the whole experience was related to the need for purification before prayer. I was therefore slightly surprised to find that the man who had walked in was masturbating his soapy penis while staring at me.

Obviously, I’d paid, so wasn’t prepared to leave quite yet, so I tried to ignore it. However, this isn’t the sort of thing you can really pretend is not going on, so I moved to another room. My companion followed me. I didn’t have the Turkish to explain that I wasn’t really up for sex, what with it being my honeymoon, and this fellow being a person of the male gender. So eventually, I left.

As I departed, the bathroom attendant – an old and wizened man – looked at me with pity.

“Oh sir” he said. “No luck? Perhaps I can help”. He made a jerking movement with his fist.

“No thank you, but very kind of you to ask” I replied.

On my way out, he asked for a tip. A monetary one, this time. I couldn’t help laughing.

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