A piece by Saf Doğan
On a scale from “The Netherlands” to “Uganda”, Turkey is probably right in the middle when it comes to the LGBT rights. Being gay is not “illegal” but discrimination towards the gay community is a daily issue. One can be fired from work because of their sexual orientation. Provisions of the Turkish Criminal Code on the ‘offenses against public moral’ are often used to discriminate against LGBT people. Same-sex marriage has never even been openly discussed by the politicians from the leading parties.
Under these dreary circumstances, Emrullah Tüzün and Ekin Keser, a young gay couple from Turkey, got married several weeks ago in Istanbul, in private civil ceremony where only their close friends were invited. Although it is not legally-recognized, this is Turkey’s first ever same-sex marriage and represents a significant milestone for the Turkish LGBT community.
Ekin & Emrullah – Photo via Hürriyet Newspaper
When I first heard about this whole story, I was quite surprised, and of course very proud of these young men. But when I found out about struggle they were going through, I felt furious. As a result of their relationship, the ceremony, and the publicity that followed, both Emrullah and Ekin had received death threats from family members and strangers; Emrullah has been fired from his job; Ekin is no longer able to attend his university classes; and both were evicted from their home – simply for being true to themselves!
I really wanted to do something to help, but being on the other side of the Atlantic and not having any personal connections to these guys, I really felt clueless. It was then when I noticed on my Facebook feed that Murat, a good friend of mine from Cyprus, was equally furious as me. After the “lightbulb moment”, in only a short few hours, we had brainstormed on Facebook, reached out to Ekin and Emrullah and asked for their permission for an international, online crowdfunding project to help them get through the tough times.
Roughly a week after, today, our online fundraiser is live and we’ve already started seeing some traction. In 3 short days, our campaign has been shared 330+ times on Facebook and 35 times on Twitter, while our Indiegogo Crowdfunding Page has received over 1600 visits. And we’ve finally started getting donations from people who care as much as we do. The striking fact is that, we have no idea who they are!
The age of “social sharing” is more meaningful when it’s about the sharing of the resources between total strangers. For Ekin and Emrullah, these resources will translate financial freedom, which eventually means “safety”, given the conditions in Turkey. This experience has taught me that, when a cause is to dear to one’s heart, and if that person is savvy enough to connect with like-minded individuals the right tools to amplify their message, nothing can stop them from getting tangible results and making a difference.
I really hope we can bring some hope to the lives of these two courageous men and inspire others in Turkey, one loving couple at a time.