ODTÜ LGBTI+ Solidarity, one of the most rooted communities of ODTÜ (Orta Doğu Teknik Üniversitesi/METU-Middle East Technical University) has been active campaigning on issues of gender identity, sexual orientation and gender for 24 years. ODTÜ LGBTI+ Pride March, organized for 10 years by ODTÜ LGBTI+ Solidarity, is the most visible part of their work as well as a symbol of ODTÜ .
ODTÜ LGBTI+ Solidarity had announced that the 9th ODTÜ Pride March would take place on 10 May 2019. However, the march was banned by the Rectorate. The administration sent emails to university staff and students, stating that the activities were banned.
On the 10th of May, students, nevertheless, assembled on campus for the 9th METU Pride Walk. Upon the call of the Rectorate, the police entered the university and attacked the students. 21 students and one lecturer, including ODTÜ LGBTI+ Solidarity members, were detained. The prosecution launched an investigation against the 18 students and 1 lecturer who were detained on the day of march.
The students were prosecuted on the charge of “participating in an illegal meeting and demonstration march”, as stated in the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations number 2911. The first hearing of the case was held on November 12th, 2019 and the second hearing was held on March 12th, 2020.
Third hearing: Solidarity!
The third hearing of the 9th ODTÜ Pride March Trial would have been held on July 10th, in Ankara, 39th Criminal Court of First Instance. However, the students on trial and their lawyers did not attend the hearing. Instead, they went to Ankara Kuğulu Park to support the lawyers gathered for a sit-in against a parliamentary draft which will create multiple bar associations in each city. The draft if coming into law will undermine the integrity and impartiality of bar associations. .
The ODTÜ LGBTI + Solidarity lawyers’ press release read:
“Today, at 10:00, we were going to defend the students of ODTÜ, who are currently here, in the Third Hearing of the criminal case filed following to the police attack on the Pride March of ODTÜ LGBTI + Solidarity on 2019. The students were taken into custody by the police officers intervening at their campuses and they were charged for organizing peaceful demonstrations. We, as ODTÜ LGBTI + Solidarity’s Lawyers and ODTÜ LGBTI + Solidarity, have come to show solidarity with our Bar Associations and all of our colleagues in law who have been standing against the hate campaign targeting LGBTI + individuals for weeks. A hundred colleagues from all bar associations across Turkey, defended the rights of LGBTI+ individuals with the “Lawyers Declaration for the rights and Pride of LGBTI+ individuals” published last week and they said: ‘Our signature is our Pride’.”
“Today, we are in Ankara Kuğulu Park with the students of ODTÜ LGBTI+ Solidarity to protest against the disintegration of our bar associations and to protest lawyers’ being deprived from supporting all individuals’ rights including LGBTI+ individuals. The fighters for LGBTI+ Rights and Pride are not only lawyers and university students, but all individuals and allies. We are not only in bar associations, universities, and Kuğulu Park. We are everywhere, get used to it! We demand equality and freedom! No one can prevent individuals from exercising their right to ‘protection of personal dignity’ that the democratic order and constitutional state affords, and no one can condemn individuals to loneliness and helplessness.”
“LGBTI+ Rights are human rights. The LGBTI + struggle is based on ethics and a great historical background. You can ignore us all you want, under the guise of science, under the guise of belief, at our homes, at our schools, at our institutions. You may think that you will take away our most basic human rights, such as living, working, freedom of expression … We know the language of love better than the speech of hate. We know people, rights and values.”
“We know that our struggle for freedom and rights is a contribution not only to LGBTI+ individuals but also to the struggle for the rights of all humanity. We know that history is with us. None of us are free until we are all equal! ”