LGBT history in Turkey

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An illustration from the 19th Century book Sawaqub al-Manaquib depicting homosexual anal sex with a wine boy. Titled at source as "Spilling the wine".

This article is about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) history in Turkey.

Ottoman Empire[edit]

Ottoman illustration depicting a young man used for group sex (from Sawaqub al-Manaquib)

Mehmed the Conqueror, the Ottoman sultan living in the 15th century, European sources say “who was known to have ambivalent sexual tastes, sent a eunuch to the house of Notaras, demanding that he supply his good looking fourteen year old son for the Sultan’s pleasure. When he refused, the Sultan instantly ordered the decapitation of Notaras, together with that of his son and his son-in-law; and their three heads … were placed on the banqueting table before him”.[1] Another youth Mehmed found attractive, and who was presumably more accommodating, was Radu III the Fair, the brother of the famous Vlad the Impaler, “Radu, a hostage in Istanbul whose good looks had caught the Sultan’s fancy, and who was thus singled out to serve as one of his most favored pages.” After the defeat of Vlad, Mehmed placed Radu on the throne of Wallachia as a vassal ruler. However, Turkish sources deny these stories.[2]

During the Ottoman Empire, homosexuality was decriminalized in 1858, as part of wider reforms during the Tanzimat.[3][4]


19th century[edit]

Abdülmecid I, during the reign of whom homosexuality was decriminalized.

20th century[edit]

  • 1993 - Lambda Istanbul is founded.
  • 1994 - KAOS GL (Ankara) is founded.
  • 1994 - ÖDP bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity within the party. Demet Demir of the ÖDP becomes the first transgender candidate to run for political office in Turkish history.
  • 1996 - LEGATO is formed.
  • 1997 - In April, Lambda Istanbul becomes the first Turkish LGBT NGO to be invited by the government to a government conference, namely the National Congress on AIDS; Hamam, a Turkish film featuring a gay romance, is released internationally and broadcast on state television.

21st century[edit]

  • 2003 - The first ever gay pride parade in a predominately-Muslim country is held in Istanbul, Turkey. 30 people are in attendance.
  • 2008 - 26-year-old Ahmet Yildiz is shot and killed by his father in Turkey's first gay-targeted honor killing.
  • 2008 - Pride is first observed in Ankara.
  • 2010 - Çukurova Homosexuals Initiative is founded with members from Adana, Mersin and Antakya.[6]
  • 2013 - First pride parade in Izmir and in Antalya [7] [8]
  • 2013 - The 2013 Pride march is considered as the biggest until now, with more than 100.000 participants. And turned out to be one of the biggest LGBT Pride march ever in Southeastern Europe. Politicians of the biggest opposition party, CHP and another opposition party, BDP also lent their support to the demonstration.[9][10]

See also[edit]