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Dervish Taskiranlar — Queer Cyprus Association

The Queer Cyprus Association (QCA) is a civil society movement located in the northern part of Cyprus that aims to create a world in which individuals do not face discrimination based on their language, religious belief, color, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity, sexual expression, age, or ethnicity. I spoke with Dervish Taskiranlar, the Project Assistant and Communication Officer at QCA, about this movement and the impact of the media on social attitudes towards LGBTI people. In addition, Taskiranlar shared what it is like to fight for inclusion and safety for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities (SOGI) in a divided nation.

By Alexandra Kuenning

Can you start by telling me a bit about yourself? How did you initially become involved in LGBTI activism?

It was about six years ago after I saw an announcement from the association for the social gathering event. I attended the event, and since then, I have been a part of the organization. 

To give some background, until 2014, we had a law against sodomy, effectively making it illegal to be gay. It was a law that had been in place since the colonial British law code. In 2007, before the Queer Cyprus Association (QCA) existed, and before people were out and proud in public, there was a considerable stigma [against being gay] — the law prohibited everything. The QCA started as an initiative against homophobia. After several advocacy meetings with the EU and other organizations, the legal text criminalizing homosexuality was lifted in Cyprus. It was replaced by more protective laws, including provisions that criminalized libel based on hate towards actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity, the expression of psychological and economic violence based on these grounds, and discrimination on these grounds in accessing public services.

In 2012, the QCA became an official NGO. They held their first Pride march in 2014, but it was very low-key because it was the first time the law had changed, and hatred was still there. I went to the Pride, but I did not march since I was very new to the whole thing. Instead, I was in another part of Pride, observing the entire thing. Then a year later, I physically joined in, and I also took part in the actual organization. However, until 2016, everything was frozen for QCA. They were not very active, but they got funding from the EU’s “Unspoken” project. At the time, they had zero capacity, very few members, and the members they had were very fed up with the whole system because they had been combatting [homophobia] anonymously since 2007. Somehow, they launched a meeting in Nicosia in August 2016, and my boyfriend went. A few weeks later, he said, “Why don’t you come with me to the meeting?” I was supposed to go at that time, but I was apolitical and wasn’t involved in civil society. I was doing everything from my point of view — I suppose you can still call it activism, just in a different sense. Anyways, I went to the meeting, and since then, I’ve been a part of the QCA. I’ve been volunteering for four years, and for the last two years, I have been working professionally with EU-funded projects on human trafficking.

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