2019 - Ongoing
Istanbul, Turkey, Summer 2019.
“This is why we do this! The rest, all that bullsh*t, we don’t care.” Her team’s event, a multisport celebration of diversity, then in its third edition, the Queer Olympix, had just been canceled by the police, but to Elif the most important was the impact their work – their fight to be seen, through something as simple as sports, could have on people. But this is Erdogan’s Turkey, queer isn’t part of the vocabulary, Pride has been banned since 2015, lesbians don’t exist, queer people are terrorists.
Istanbul, Turkey, Summer 2021.
Three hours before the (obviously unauthorized) Pride March was set to start, police descended on the street were people had gathered before the event. They threw the first punches, people in jail, tear gas. As of today this is the climax of a downhill year for human rights, after Erdogan removed his country from the Istanbul Convention, which aims at combating violence against women. In light of all this, and in order to provide a safe space, not only for themselves, but for the people who attend their event, the Queer Olympix team held their games in secret. This time around the police did not appear, laughs were had, as if made more intense by the awareness that these moments are rare.
L. was made to ran away from Pakistan by her own family after a tape saw the light of day. She has friends here and can wear lipstick, but she’s also stuck. She can never go back home. Can’t work. Organizations on the ground barely help. A. is a rapper. As homophobic a genre as can be. He landed in Istanbul from Gaza, by way of Brazil and Cairo, where he finally feels he can be himself. S. is from Iran, she is not technically a refugee and she can still visit the country that she loves, as long as her sexual orientation doesn’t become public. So until she applies for asylum somewhere else she is here. Waiting. Finally, M. came from Syria. The horrors he has been through make you wonder how he is still standing, but standing he is, helping himself when institutional relief is scarce. Their stories are only a sample of the queer refugees as well as queer legal migrants, experience in Turkey.
Turkey is the gateway to Europe, with one foot in the Arab world, meaning it generally does not require visas from citizens of places like Pakistan, Morocco, Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc., and they can escape their own hell to get to a country that is “less terrible”, most of them hoping to be on the way to a “better” country – in “the West”.
A young gay man gets killed in La Coruña, a trans woman gets beaten up in Barcelona’s train station, a lesbian mother suffers online harassment following a custody battle in Alicante, a queer woman is kicked out of her home by a homophobic roommate in Barcelona, a gynecologist lists “homosexuality” as a disease on his patient’s forms in Murcia…
“The West” … For Turkish people and refugees alike, a light at the end of the tunnel, but how bright is it, really? From gay conversion therapy to punches, homophobia is alive and well, though too often dismissed. This is Europe (or the US, Canada, Australia…), gay marriage is legal, homophobia and transphobia are bad, we’re all equal. So what, it’s probably just a few bad apples. But if the entire basket starts to smell like the rotten fruit of the far-right rising ever higher in the polls, we should probably ask ourselves if there is something wrong in there…
“My hell is your salvation” is a three-part exploration of the very real, sometimes dire consequences that one’s identity has depending on where one is born, and how people navigate the sea they have been put on. Paying homage to Dante’s Divine Comedy, and framing these flux and stories through a religious vernacular and structure, given how religion is almost always used to justify homophobia, the aim is to question it, is there even a heaven?