Iranian activist details struggle of LGBQT refugees in Turkey

LGBQT refugees face a tough life with minimal support in Turkey, where they are often forced to work illegally, an Iranian activist told Buzzfeed. 

Arsham Parsi fled to Turkey in 2005 and later resettled in Toronto, where he founded the International Railroad for Queer Refugees (IRQR), which assists LGBTQ refugees in Turkey who have fled their home countries. 

“There are close to 4 million refugees currently living in Turkey. In total, we have about 2,200 LGBTQ people from all nationalities living there. The majority of refugees who are LGBTQ in Turkey are from Iran, then Iraq,” Parsi said in an interview published on Tuesday by U.S. news outlet Mashable. 

The majority of LGBQT refugees from Iran, where homosexuality is illegal and can be punished with death, are aged 16 to 35, Parsi said. 

“They don't have family support. They don’t have money. They were probably brought illegally to Turkey, and they have to work illegally in Turkey,” Parsi said in relation to Iranian LGBTQs in Turkey.

Turkey does not technically outlaw homosexuality, but it ranks second as the country with the most restrictive of LGBT+ rights in Europe following Azerbaijan, campaign group ILGA-Europe said last month. 

Since mid-2016, the Turkish government has targeted LGBQT people as a part of a crackdown against critics following a failed coup.

In 2017, Turkish authorities banned all types of LGBQT activities in the capital Ankara, citing  "public morality" and "social sensitivity and sensibilities". Turkish police have used violence to stop gay pride marches in Istanbul.

A Turkish court in April lifted the ban in Ankara, after the Kaos GL Association, an LGBT+ rights group in Turkey, appealed the decision. 

“Turkish people can also be religious and homophobic. There's been a political shift in Turkey,” Parsi said. “Turkish LGBTQ people have a lot of problems.”