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Transgender activists on trial in Turkey

International human-rights groups are calling on officials in Turkey to drop charges against five transgender-rights activists on trial for resisting arrest.

The organizations, including the New York-based Human Rights Watch, said on Oct. 18 that Turkey should instead investigate police for allegedly attacking the activists.

The five activists were pulled from a car in May and accused of soliciting sex work and beaten. The five, scheduled to go to trial on Oct. 21, face charges of resisting police and a maximum three years in prison.

Buse Kilickaya, one of the five activists, said they refused to get out of the car when police stopped them, insisting they had “done nothing wrong.”

“[Police] then sprayed the inside of the car with pepper gas and dragged us out, pulling us by the hair,” Kilickaya said. “We were slapped and kicked and forced into a police van.”

She said they were kept at a police station overnight and charged.

Activists called for an end to violence against transvestites and transsexuals in Turkey and asked that the government enact laws to protect gays and lesbians against discrimination.

Human-rights advocates say gays and lesbians suffer frequent discrimination and abuse despite human-rights reforms enacted in line with Turkey’s bid to join the European Union.

Many transgender people escape Turkey’s conservative towns and villages for more tolerant cities like Istanbul and Ankara. But many still encounter hostility and discrimination and, unable to get jobs, turn to prostitution.

About a dozen transgender people, most of them sex workers, have been killed in Turkey over the past few years in attacks activists have described as hate crimes. They claim authorities and police remain unsympathetic and fail to adequately investigate the murders.

Police deny the accusations, insisting that most of the deaths result from disputes between the victims and their clients, and say most of the culprits are caught and prosecuted.

Saudi prince faces death penalty for gay charge

A Saudi prince accused of murdering his servant in a London hotel room could face the death penalty at home for being gay.

Saud Abdulaziz bin Nasser al Saud, 34, was accused of murdering Bandar Abdulaziz, 32, in a “sexually motivated” attack last February.

The court recently heard “conclusive evidence” that he is gay and two male escorts are alleged to have performed sex acts on him.

Al Saud denies he is gay and his lawyer, John Kelsey-Fry, says the pair were not in a relationship.

On Oct. 15, the court heard that Saudi Arabia has strict laws against homosexuality and that al Saud, whose mother is one of King Abdullah’s daughters, could be executed.

“Homosexuality is illegal in Saudi Arabia and carries the death penalty, which is still applied in some cases,” said prosecutor Bobbie Cheema. “The country in which any alleged acts took place would have little bearing on the likelihood of prosecution as the Saudi legal system is based on the Sharia law which is considered to be universal.”

She added that he could be at risk from his own family and from members of the victim’s family.

Kelsey-Fry said the law would only apply if his client had been in a gay relationship.

Abdulaziz was found beaten and strangled in bed at the pair’s room at the Landmark Hotel on Feb. 15.

Al Saud denies murder and one count of grievous bodily harm with intent.

The case continues.

U.K. channels work for better trans representation

Senior managers at the U.K.’s BBC and Channel 4 recently admitted that transgender storylines can be inaccurate and are frequently lacking in breadth and substance.

The admission came as Tim Davie, who chairs the BBC’s working group on the portrayal and inclusion of lesbian, gay and bisexual audiences, and Stuart Cosgrove, director of creative diversity at Channel 4, addressed a Westminster Media Forum on the portrayal of LGBT people in broadcasting.

A recent BBC report about LGB representation did not take trans people into account, although the corporation said it would carry out research in due course.

Change is in the air, however, as newly formed advocacy group Trans Media Watch says it is talking to representatives of both channels, with the aim of fostering positive and more wide-ranging representations of trans people as well as putting in place guidelines to combat negative stereotypes.

According to Cosgrove, transgender is the “big single absence in broadcasting.”

“I don’t think there is a single broadcaster in the U.K. who can say that is something they are in the process of resolving,” he added.

In a follow-up interview, he admitted that “people are confused by it” and that there are “high levels of inaccuracy in the way it is reported.”

When television programs do show transgender people, the focus tends to be on “the operative moment, when someone is moving from male to female.” They fail to consider the “diversity of this society,” Cosgrove said.

TMW has been working quietly behind the scenes with Channel 4 and the BBC to put together simple guidelines that would help broadcasters avoid giving unintended offense to their transgender audience.

Sarah Lake of TMW said: “As soon as we began comparing the way trans people are stereotyped in the media with that of LGB people and other minorities, both Stuart and Amanda Rice of the BBC Diversity Unit got it immediately. We do not believe most of the constant casual abuse and ridicule of trans people in broadcasting is deliberately intended to be malicious. In our meetings so far we’ve not come across a single broadcaster who had ever consciously had a meaningful conversation with a trans man or woman.”

Recent research presented to broadcasters by TMW suggests that some 78 percent of the transgender community felt that the media portrayals they saw were either inaccurate or highly inaccurate, with only 3 percent considering them accurate.

Gay foe may run for French prez

Former actress and singer turned animal-rights activist Brigitte Bardot, who has written derogatory comments about gay people in the past, is considering running for president of France after an offer from the Independent Ecology Alliance.

Bardot, 76, wrote a letter to French president Nicolas Sarkozy that read, “Because you do the opposite of what you say, I am studying a proposition from the Independent Ecology Alliance to be their presidential candidate in 2012.”

Bardot’s statement was a reaction to Sarkozy’s reneging on a promise to outlaw Muslim animal slaughter practices that she considers inhumane.

In her book “Un Cri Dans le Silence (A Cry in the Silence),” which was published in 2003, Bardot wrote in reference to gay people: “They jiggle their bottoms, put their little fingers in the air and with their little castrato voices moan about what those ghastly heteros put them through.”

She has since denied any accusations of homophobia.

Larry Nichols can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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