As June is Pride month all over the world, a worrying increase in hate speech and hate crimes against LGBTQI+ people in the Euro-Mediterranean region have been reported these last years.
In 2021, a proposed anti-LGBTQI+ Lawin Hungary has caused controversy within EU Member States; in June 2022 the Lebanese Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi called on the Internal Security Forces to “prevent any kind of event, celebration or gathering” of the LGBTQI+ community; and last January, Algerian Minister of Commerce and Export Promotion launched a week-long “anti-rainbow” campaign against products bearing signs and colours undermining “moral values of Algerian society”. These are only few examples among many, reported in our gender backlash map, and attesting an increase in crackdown to LGBTQI+ organisations and of so-called anti-gay propaganda bills in some countries from the Euro-Mediterranean region.
At EuroMed Rights, we acknowledge the force of LGBTQI+ collectives from the Euro-Mediterranean region who, despite harsh repression, continue to resist and fight against all odds for recognition of their rights. And in these difficult times, what keeps shining is the strength and mutual support of the LGBTQI+ community. EuroMed Rights strongly believes in the power of resistance and resilience of LGBTQI+ people against ever-ending oppression. And their determination to continue fighting whatever the cost has already shown that it pays off.
In Turkey, where the first speech of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after his reelection in May 2023 targeted gay and trans people’s rights, positives advances have been made to make visible the community in the public sphere. Thanks to the resilience of the Turkish LGBTQI+ community, we observed a relative increase in the number of organisations, initiatives or university clubs dedicated to promote and protect LGBTQI+ rights, in a wide-spread geographical scope. This goes along with LGBTQI+ personalities being brought on the political stage: for the last parliamentary elections, the TIP [workers’ party of Turkey] had several candidates from the LGBTQI+ community, one of them being the famous Kurdish, feminist, trans woman stand-up comedian Zeynep Esmeray Özadakti. Even if none of them were elected, this growing presence in the public sphere is crucial to raise awareness among Turks of the importance of the LGBTQI+ community and their place in society, whatever politicians in power may say.
On this issue, we interviewed Turkish activist Ahmet Soykarci, on the current situation of LGBTQI+ people in Turkey:
In other countries of the region, different means of resistance are used to promote LGBTQI+’ rights. Online actions can be very effective in countries where freedom of expression and association are not taken for granted. In Tunisia, since the 2011’s popular uprisings, LGBTQI+ organisations have become more visible and active in their work of advocating for their rights, being present in the social media and internet. As to record, the Tunisian Penal Code punishes “homosexuality” with up to three years’ imprisonment. Here again, the community’s efforts online brought positive effects offline. This is how in May 2022, Tunis hosted the country’s first queer play, “Flagranti”, staging that the fight for gender equality concerns several generations.
Apart from an increase in the visibility, more importantly, we see that LGBTQI+’ revendications go beyond the public sphere and can reach political decision-makers. In Europe, equality is advancing despite increased anti-LGBTQI+ rhetoric and attacks: according to the Rainbow map and Index 2023 produced by ILGA-Europe, the political determination to advance LGBTQI+ rights and the positive role of Court’s ruling in favour of gender equality is counter-balancing the trend of more and more extreme and violent discourses in Europe, notably against trans individuals. This trend is particularly observable in Spain, where a few months ago the Trans Law was approved. This new legislation makes it easier for people from age 16 to change their gender identity in the civil register. It also expands the protections for LGBTQI+ people by enlarging the access to assisted reproductive techniques; enabling parental recognition for unmarried same-sex couples; or banning unnecessary surgeries for intersect children before they can consent.
For all these achievements, EuroMed Rights believes that gender equality for all is possible thanks to the constant efforts of LGBTQI+ groups. In this Pride Month, we salute their resistance and act in solidarity with all of those who work towards a global recognition of LGBTQI+ rights; universal human rights above all.