Report on Desmond Tutu Center Faculty Fellowship
I am very grateful to the Desmond Tutu Center, and specifically to the Fellowship Selection Committee for supporting my research on LGBTI rights in Turkey by selecting me as a Tutu Fellow. I am happy that the project is associated with the Desmond Tutu Center, as I believe that the issue of LGBTI rights is an essential human rights issue, and one that I believe lines up perfectly with the goals and objectives of the Desmond Tutu Center.
Use of the Funds
I was awarded 2500 dollars from the Desmond Tutu Center for my research on LGBTI rights in Turkey. The funds were broken up as follows: 1500 dollars of the funds were used as a faculty stipend. 1000 dollars of the funds were used to hire three undergraduate students to help me as research assistants on my research. The three students (each paid 500 dollars) have worked on a couple aspects of the project. One of their primary research assistant responsibilities have included finding LGBTI articles on Turkey in the news media. The students have been very helpful in sending articles of LGBTI events, government actions and statements towards the LGBTI community, as well as articles on NGO strategy as it pertains to promoting LGBTI rights through education and public advocacy. Second of all, the research assistants have been instrumental in helping transcribe interviews that I conducted with LGBTI activists in Istanbul and elsewhere. These interviews are long in length, and the research assistants painstakingly wrote out all of the interview conversation, which has made it much easier to write out my findings in my article manuscripts and book project. The students have transcribed five interviews, and one of the research assistants is currently transcribing a sixth interview.
Through multiple funding resources (Desmond Tutu Center and the Butler Awards Committee) (BAC) (5,904 dollars) (1000 dollars still earmarked for student research) I was able to travel to Istanbul, Turkey for ten days, meeting with local NGO activists and mayoral advisors. I interviewed with Murat Renay (who runs GZONE magazine), Sedef Çakmak, who is the first person from the LGBTI community holding an elected position in Turkey, Cihan Huroglu of Social Politics, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation (SPOD), and the late Boysan Yakar, who was also a mayoral advisor in the Şişli district of Istanbul. Through those ten days, I was able to speak with them about the state of LGBTI rights in Turkey, government actions against the LGBTI 2015 Pride March, as well as their strategies for advancing same-sex rights in Turkey. This research was necessary and quite important to understand how these groups are fighting to ensure equal rights for all citizens in Turkey.
Conferences and Publication Plans
The Desmond Tutu Fellowship has allowed me the time and resources to conduct this project, which in turn has turned into one completed article, another article in progress, and a couple of chapters in progress. One of my manuscript articles is entitled “LGBTI Human Rights Advocacy through Digital Media” and examines GZONE Magazine in Turkey, and what strategies they use to promote same-sex rights through their publication. I have found that they actively use a celebrity-based strategy in increasing readership, and highlighting the importance of supporting same-sex rights. I plan to submit this manuscript to a peer-reviewed journal by the end of the academic year. In addition, I am in the process of completing a second article entitled “Activist Responses and Strategies to 2015 LGBTI Pride March Violence in Turkey.” In this paper, I examine police actions towards LGBTI rights activists during the 2015 Pride March in Istanbul. I find that these actions are further evidence of continued discrimination against LGBTI individuals and their supporters in Turkey. But while this is the case, many also believed that this oppressive response by authorities would actually hurt the AKP-led government in the long-term, as police actions will further mobilize individuals to become LGBTI activists, who in turn will put further pressure on the state to provide equal rights for the LGBTI community in Turkey. This paper has been accepted for the International Political Science Association conference in July of 2016 in Istanbul Turkey, and I hope to present the findings (although, given the recent terror attack in Istanbul, much of this will depend on the level of security in the city when nearing the time of the conference). I also plan on submitting this article to Human Rights Quarterly, or the Journal of Human Rights.
Again, I want to express my gratitude to the Desmond Tutu Center for their generous financial support for my research project. I am happy and fortunate to be associated with a fine human rights and social justice institution.