Metro Weekly

Prominent LGBTQ activist in Turkey arrested at his home in Ankara

LGBTQ organization Kaos GL suspects founder Ali Erol's social media postings may have played role in arrest

Ali Erol – Photo: Kaos GL.

Ali Erol, a prominent Turkish LGBTQ activist, was arrested and detained in his home in Ankara on Friday, Feb. 2, according to human rights observers.

Erol is the founder of Kaos GL, an LGBTQ rights organization. It is unclear what the reason behind his arrest was, but Kaos GL has reported that Erol’s social media posts were included in the authorities’ detention warrant.

Although homosexuality is not technically criminalized in Turkey, government forces and police often engage in profiling and targeting of LGBTQ groups, arresting them and charging them with unrelated arbitrary charges. Discrimination against LGBTQ people is also rampant in the country.

OutRight Action International condemned the arrest and called for Erol’s release from custody.

“OutRight calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Turkish LGBTIQ human rights activist Ali Erol,” Jessica Stern, OutRight’s executive director, said in a statement. “He is an unjust casualty of an increasingly authoritarian government attacking democracy and curtailing the rights of Turkish citizens exercising their rights to expression and assembly. The persecution of LGBTIQ, and all, Turkish human rights defenders needs to stop now.”

Turkey is among several Muslim-majority nations that have led crackdowns on its LGBTQ citizens in recent years, with the governor of Ankara banning all LGBTQ-related events in the city, claiming that events like Istanbul Pride will only spark a backlash from conservative elements in the country, which could threaten public safety and security. Under Erol’s leadership, Kaos GL as challenged the ban, claiming it is unconstitutional.

Following a failed military coup in July 2016, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s administration has attempted to incorporate a more conservative interpretation of Islam into law, cracking down on dissenters. An estimated 50,000 people, including human rights activists, journalists, and political opponents, have been arrested since Erdogan’s forces gained back power.

A spokesman for Kaos GL released a statement about Erol’s arrest.

“Us having such little information about the detention of a prominent figure of the LGBTI movement and founder of Kaos GL is unlawful and worrying,” said Yildiz Tar, the group’s media and communications coordinator. “If you recall, [the] Ankara Governorship banned LGBTI events for an indefinite period in November. This detention is an intervention in both freedom of expression and LGBTI rights. We hope this mistake will be corrected.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com