2024 Davis Grant Recipients - Burak Tan

Burak Tan

Community Networks Against Gender Discrimination in Southeast Turkey

Burak Tan, PhD’26 is studying in the Department of Political Science in the Social Sciences Division. He will use his grant for the project Community Networks Against Gender Discrimination in Southeast Turkey to address the situation of the LGBTQ+ community in southeastern Turkey which has been impacted by the Kurdish ethnic conflict. This project will be completed in Diyarbakir, Turkey.

May 23, 2024

The bakad LGBTQ+ Support Hotline is looking for its volunteers! Our registration forms and pamphlets were completed over the last week, and we circulated them through bakad’s social media pages today. We are very excited to see what kind of turn out we will get. Information on the hotline will be available permanently on bakad’s website soon as well. We are also in contact with numerous other NGO’s in Turkey to circulate the news for us, on their social media.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This week we also interviewed some social workers, one of whom is a sociologist who was very enthusiastic about helping us, and we made some headway in purchasing the electronics for the community center before I travel to Turkey on June 1st. It is finals week at UChicago so progress is slow right now, but more updates to follow on both accounts!

May 16, 2024

Over the last two weeks we had meetings with various LGBTQ+ NGOs across Turkey to get their advice and enlist their support for our project. SPoD, UniKuir, and Lubunya Deprem Dayanışması (LGBT Earthquake Solidarity) all provided invaluable guidance for our project.

We have now started working on “mapping” the subject areas the hotline will provide service to. This will help us design the training program, but it will also allow us to organize what bakad can provide in terms of further resources, options for advanced paid/unpaid assistance, and transform all this information to posters, pamphlets, and online resources for the LGBTQ+ community in the region. While these areas may change once we open the hotline, there are currently seven:

  1. Individual rights within Turkish Criminal Procedure Law
  2. Right to Housing, related laws and practices in Turkey
  3. Psycho-social Assistance and Mental Health Resources
  4. Gender Reassignment Therapy resources
  5. Information on Turkish Compulsory Military Service
  6. HIV prevention and medication interactions
  7. Resources on dealing with Substance Abuse

We already know that there will be questions on temporary housing, but this will be one of the areas we do not envision being able to assist people, considering there are no local resources. We might add this as an eighth category in the future. We were told that enlisting the help of professional social workers with experience in the region would be useful in this “mapping” so we will start exploring our options for paid or volunteer assistance in this regard as well.

We contacted and interviewed various lawyers and psychologists to provide the volunteer trainings, and we reached agreements with one or two individuals from each profession. The format of the training and the exact dates/hours will be determined with our trainers, but based on our conversations with SPoD, who have a similar hotline based in Istanbul, we expect to have 10 three-hour sessions. This will be followed by two internship sessions, in which the trainees will answer the phones in groups. Plus, we will have monthly check-in meetings with our volunteers, to make sure providing this service does not adversely affect them, to re-think our personal boundaries, and our own emotional well-being.

We are working on our advertisements to circulate the news and hopefully our form to recruit volunteers will be live soon!

May 2, 2024

Our project is slowly materializing! Together with the input of BAKAD, we drafted our master schedule for the project, starting with the last week of April. We have a good sense of when exactly various recruitment, advertising, construction, and training phases should start and finish, to make the best of this Davis Project.

Given our schedules in Chicago, Istanbul, and Diyarbakir, we decided that the first cohort of trainees should ideally start on the first week of June and the second cohort should start on the first week of July. Each training program will take 4 weeks, followed by a month of supervised hands on experience minding the hotline. We also decided that one week of each training session should be attended by a legal professional who can provide guidance on the best resources for those answering the phones. For this reason, we decided to allocate a quarter of the funds reserved for procurement of services to employ a lawyer. Apart from joining in the training, this lawyer will be helping us draft the informational material the community center will be providing. For now, we settled on three topics that concern the LGBTQ+ individuals in this region: the legal resources in Diyarbakir and the surrounding areas individuals can reach out to free of charge to get legal aid; training in fundamental rights including most importantly renters rights in Turkey; and training on Criminal Procedure Law as it pertains to the interactions individuals have with operatives of the state.

I also learned through BAKAD that the devastating earthquakes and the intense economic crisis have hurt people not only physicallly but also psychologically in this region, giving rise to two issues. The first issue is drug use. Particularly among sex workers who are required to work more with rising living costs, and because some of these individuals who are HIV+ cannot access reliable information on the dangers of various drugs and their interactions with HIV medication, increased drug use is posing a serious threat. A second problem that emerges now in conjunction with the hard living conditions is the increasingly common practice of extortion through dating apps. An organized wave of criminal extortion emerged in the region, in which victims thinking they are dating other LGBTQ+ individuals are tricked, and forced into various actions with the threat of disclosing their sexual identities to their families. In line with these developments, we decided that we will also connect with the medical and legal associations to figure out the best ways to alleviate these problems.

In the following weeks, we will conclude our conversations with the other national NGOs and figure out the best way to employ the individual who will be training our volunteers. Unless we can find a volunteer psychotherapist, we will start advertising a position to employ the person, and we aim to secure a contract for the procurement of services by the 4th week of May. In the meantime, I will contact the Istanbul Pride March committee to learn more about their HIV and drug use informational materials produced several years ago, and figure out the best ways to update and reproduce these for 2024 onwards.

We realize now that our task is challenging, creating and formalizing repositories of knowledge and constructing a community center that LGBTQ+ individuals can always depend on in the region. Yet, we are excited to get to work and exalted to be chosen by the Davis Projects for our task.

April 18, 2024

We had our first meeting with BAKAD this week to discuss the specifics of the project implementation, agreeing that several stages of the project should ideally be completed before I reach the field (Diyarbakir – Amed) in June.

Our project has two prongs. The first one concerns building physical and human capacity to transform BAKAD into a community center that can provide the necessary material and informational resources to the discriminated individuals in the region. The second prong aims to create a cohort of trained volunteers in the Southeastern cities, who can keep a hotline for individuals to reach out to. We agree that these activities will have to be implemented simultaneously to maximize the impact during the grant period.

Chronologically, our first task is to produce a list of community organizations, trade associations, and NGOs whose help we will enlist in creating the networks of medical and legal professionals who will agree to help LGBTQ+ individuals, and ideally provide a discounted rate.

Our second task will be to advertise the training program and the hotline on May 15th, which will be done through social media in conjunction with various other LGBTQ+ organizations in the region. Based on the interest we get in the first week, BAKAD volunteers will go to the field in person with workers of another local organization (Keskesor Amed LGBTİ+ Organization). We will continue advertising the hotline and the community center throughout June, and start producing the informational material.

Once we have a sense of the demand from the region, we will have a better idea on how to structure the training program. Here, we will be enlisting the professional help of a psychotherapist or social worker, who will create the training modules for us. We were offered help by another LGBTQ+ organization (SPoD in Istanbul), in providing this training. We will assess our options depending on the demand we get throughout May. We would like the first round of trainees to arrive in Diyarkakir-Amed and start the training on June 15th, so we can have at least two cohorts of trainees throughout the summer.

Here, we are also facing our first challenge. Most individuals in this region go to larger cities as seasonal workers in tourism or agriculture. Individuals staying in the Southeast often have multiple jobs including full time positions, jobs in the gig economy, or sex work, meaning they cannot volunteer too much of their time. We are considering the best ways to create an inclusive and supportive environment at the community center, so that those interested can afford to participate in the program. We already planned on providing the teaching materials to the trainees free of charge. We are now considering whether we can also offer bus or train tickets to those who will come from the neighboring cities, provide travel costs to the center, and provide food during the training sessions at BAKAD. We will see whether it is possible to lower the staffing costs and increase this portion of our expenses, by enlisting the help of SPoD, among other organizations.

April 11, 2024

I learned that my proposal was accepted in early March and immediately shared the good news with my local partners in Turkey, who welcomed the news with great excitement. We all believed in our project and that the Davis Projects for Peace could make a real difference.

This project, titled “Community Networks Against Gender Discrimination in Southeast Turkey” aims to alleviate the conditions of the LGBTQ+ individuals in Southeast Turkey, which have been precarious due to the Kurdish ethnic conflict and the institutionalized patriarchy in the region. The recent February 2023 earthquakes which devastated eleven cities and claimed 50,000 lives further exacerbated this condition. International humanitarian organizations document that the LGBT+ people in particular have been excluded from the disaster relief efforts, forced out of their homes by opportunistic landlords, and pressured to quit their jobs. Our project aims to create community networks to provide much needed legal and psychosocial assistance in this region, with the hope that our efforts will be replicated through the material infrastructure this Davis Grant provides, even after the end of the project period.

As a Graduate Fellow of International House and a PhD candidate in Political Science from Turkey, I have always been engaged with International House and the politics of the Turkish Republic. As many others of my generation, I grew up with the stories of the ethnic conflict in Turkey, and learned later that the official state narratives were quite one-sided. Hence, as an academic, I studied how the resurgene of violence and exclusion was justified in Turkey, and learned that the ongoing ethnic violence is only possible through a rhetoric of alienation and dehumanization.

With this insight in mind, my project aims to strengthen local LGBTQ+ community networks in the region and empower individuals to access legal and psychosocial guidance in a self-sustaining way. It does this by developing physical and human capacities in three phases. First, it creates a physical space to serve as an information repository and center for community training at BAKAD, a local NGO. Second, it establishes a hotline for the population, which will be a first in this region, so that marginalized people can reach the legal and psychosocial support resources. Third, it enlists professional help to develop a training and internship program in the region, so that the effects of the Davis Grant will spread in a self-sustaining way. The project maintains that a lasting peace can only be built by the locals invested in a peaceful future, and considers local capacity building central for increased sustainability and scalability.

Hence, I am incredibly indebted not only to the Davis Projects but also to BAKAD. This project was made possible through the invaluable help and guidance of BAKAD (Cultural Studies for Peace Association), which is a local NGO founded in 2021 in Diyarbakir. They have had their own vision of a participatory, inclusive, and lasting social peace in the region for years, and the necessary experience to navigate the challenges that surely await us. Their central location in Southeastern Turkey, their existing physical and human capacities, and their ties to both mental health workers and legal professionals in the region are of utmost importance for the success of this project. We all look forward to getting to work!

 

May 16, 2024

Over the last two weeks we had meetings with various LGBTQ+ NGOs across Turkey to get their advice and enlist their support for our project. SPoD, UniKuir, and Lubunya Deprem Dayanışması (LGBT Earthquake Solidarity) all provided invaluable guidance for our project.

We have now started working on “mapping” the subject areas the hotline will provide service to. This will help us design the training program, but it will also allow us to organize what bakad can provide in terms of further resources, options for advanced paid/unpaid assistance, and transform all this information to posters, pamphlets, and online resources for the LGBTQ+ community in the region. While these areas may change once we open the hotline, there are currently seven:

  1. Individual rights within Turkish Criminal Procedure Law
  2. Right to Housing, related laws and practices in Turkey
  3. Psycho-social Assistance and Mental Health Resources
  4. Gender Reassignment Therapy resources
  5. Information on Turkish Compulsory Military Service
  6. HIV prevention and medication interactions
  7. Resources on dealing with Substance Abuse

We already know that there will be questions on temporary housing, but this will be one of the areas we do not envision being able to assist people, considering there are no local resources. We might add this as an eighth category in the future. We were told that enlisting the help of professional social workers with experience in the region would be useful in this “mapping” so we will start exploring our options for paid or volunteer assistance in this regard as well.

We contacted and interviewed various lawyers and psychologists to provide the volunteer trainings, and we reached agreements with one or two individuals from each profession. The format of the training and the exact dates/hours will be determined with our trainers, but based on our conversations with SPoD, who have a similar hotline based in Istanbul, we expect to have 10 three-hour sessions. This will be followed by two internship sessions, in which the trainees will answer the phones in groups. Plus, we will have monthly check-in meetings with our volunteers, to make sure providing this service does not adversely affect them, to re-think our personal boundaries, and our own emotional well-being.

We are working on our advertisements to circulate the news and hopefully our form to recruit volunteer will be live soon!

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