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social sciences

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Despite pressure from those seeking integration into the European Union and some lobbying by Turkish gay and lesbian organizations, incidents of active repression have recurred. Police raids on bars and the detention of transvestites were commonplace in the late 1980s. In 1989 the publishers of Yesil Baris (the newspaper of the Green Party), were charged with "spreading homosexual information" because they published a series of articles about lesbian and gay issues.

A 1993 gay and lesbian pride conference in Istanbul (which had been approved by the Interior Ministry) was banned just before it was to begin by the governor of Istanbul on the grounds that it would be contrary to Turkey's "tradition and moral values" and that it might disturb the peace. Some 28 foreign delegates were detained by the police and deported.

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Similarly, in 1995 a lesbian and gay festival that had been approved by the Interior Ministry was banned by Istanbul authorities just before it opened for being inconsistent with public morals. In 2000, 850 men and women from a gay cruise were detained in Kusadasi, though the mayor of the city apologized to the tourists the same day and invited them back.

Lambda Istanbul, a group advocating the liberation of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people in Turkey, was founded after the 1993 parade was banned. It has a stable membership of around 100. Lambda's raison d'être is "to reach homosexuals who have not yet made their coming out process and help them, to establish solidarity within the gay community, to fight the prejudice of the media and society, and to help gays in Turkey to develop their identity and work for equality and liberation."

Sappho is a group formed by lesbian members of Lambda during the late 1990s. Transvestites have been active within the Radical Democratic Green Party. Demet Dimir is a transgender activist who has received international recognition.

Beginning in 1995, Lambda published 100% GL, a magazine devoted to gay and lesbian issues, but, beginning in 1997, supported instead the magazine Kaos GL, a magazine published by the Ankara group Kaos GL, which was founded in 1994.

In the 1990s, along with sociopolitical organizations, a commercial male homosexual subculture began to emerge in Istanbul, concentrated in the Beyoglu (Pera) district, especially the Cihangir Quarter.

Stephen O. Murray

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social sciences >> Overview:  Galli: Ancient Roman Priests

In ancient Rome, the galli were castrated priests of Cybele, the Asian Mother Goddess, and of the Syrian goddess Atagartis; they were widely riducled for their effeminacy, cross-dressing, and sexual passivity.

social sciences >> Overview:  Goddess Religions

Goddess religions, especially those that feature a singular Great or Mother Goddess, honor female energy for its role in fertility and the creation of new life.

literature >> Overview:  Greek Literature: Ancient

Ancient Greece holds a unique place in the heritage of homosexual literature as it was a society that openly celebrated same-sex love in its poetry and prose.

arts >> Overview:  Islamic Art

The apparent invisibility of homosexuality in the visual arts of Islam is no indication of its absence in the culture.

literature >> Overview:  Middle Eastern Literature: Arabic

The expression of male homoerotic sentiment is one of the dominant themes in classical Arabic literature from the ninth century to the nineteenth.

social sciences >> Overview:  Military Culture: European

Attitudes toward gay and lesbian personnel in European militaries vary widely, from the acceptance of the Dutch to the laissez-faire policy of the French to the rejection of the Greek and Turkish forces.

social sciences >> Caesar, Julius

One of the most powerful men of the ancient world, Julius Caesar was frequently reminded, sometimes derisively, of his youthful sexual affair with the king of Bithynia.

arts >> Ozpetek, Ferzan

Thanks to the critical and commercial success of most of his films, Turkish-born Italian director Ferzan Ozpetek has challenged the celluloid closet that silenced or marginalized queerness in Italian film.

literature >> Rumi

The Persian poet Rumi, who originated the "whirling dervish" order of Sufis, developed passionate relationships with other men and mixed spirituality with eroticism in his love poetry.

literature >> Sappho

Admired through the ages as one of the greatest lyric poets, the ancient Greek writer Sappho is today esteemed by lesbians around the world as the archetypal lesbian and their symbolic mother.


Andrews, Walter G. Poetry's Voice, Society's Song: Ottoman Lyric Poetry. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1985.

Busbecq, Ogier Chuselin de. Auguerii Gislenii Busbequii Omnia quae extant. [1554-1562]. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968.

Drake, Jonathan. "'Le Vice' in Turkey." International Journal of Greek Love 1 (1966): 13-27.

Lybyer, Albert H. "The Government of the Ottoman Empire in the Time of Suleiman the Magnificent." Harvard Historical Studies 18 (1913).

Murray, Stephen O. "Corporealizing Medieval Persian and Turkish Tropes." Islamic Homosexualities. Stephen O. Murray and Will Roscoe, eds. New York: New York University Press, 1997. 132-41.

_____. "Homosexuality among Slave Elites in Ottoman Turkey." Islamic Homosexualities. Stephen O. Murray and Will Roscoe, eds. New York: New York University Press, 1997. 174-86.

_____."Homosexuality in the Ottoman Empire." Historical Reflections 30 (in press).

Roscoe, Will. "Priests of the Goddess." History of Religions 35 (1996): 295-330.

Schimmel, Annemarie. As Through a Veil: Mystical Poetry in Islam. New York: Columbia University Press, 1982.

Tapnic, Huseyin. "Masculinity, Femininity, and Turkish Male Homosexuality." Modern Homosexualities. Ken Plummer, ed. London: Routledge, 1992. 39-49.

Yuzgun, Arslan. "Homosexuality and Police Terror in Turkey." Journal of Homosexuality 24.3-4 (1993): 159-69.


    Citation Information
    Author: Murray, Stephen O.  
    Entry Title: Turkey  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated July 28, 2005  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
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    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


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