Gays Must Prove Identity for Pink Pass Out of Turkey’s Army


With military service being mandatory for all Turkish men there are only a few ways out: if you are ill, disabled, or if you are diagnosed homosexual. But, as a new BBC documentary shows, being diagnosed as gay is not an easy way out of the military by any means.

They call it the pink certificate: when The Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK,†military medical staff diagnose a prospective soldier with homosexuality and excuse them from duty on grounds of “psychosexual illness.” But of course they have no easy diagnostic tools to assess someone’s sexuality, so the proof the army requires comes down to degrading, discriminatory, hyper-sexualizing and potentially dangerous ideas.

Reports the BBC:

”They asked me when I first had anal intercourse, oral sex, what sort of toys I played with as a child…”

Ahmet, a young man in his 20s, told officials he was gay at the first opportunity after he was called up, as he and other conscripts underwent a health check.


He was then asked to provide a picture of himself dressed as a woman.

”I refused this request,” he says. ”But I made them another offer, which they accepted.” Instead he gave them a photograph of himself kissing another man.

Gay men are not welcome in the TSK but while saying you are gay might seem like a convenient way to dodge military service it carries considerable risks in a country where the law might not overtly penalize homosexuality but where being gay remains a social taboo.

Continues the BBC:

Gokhan, conscripted in the late 1990s, very quickly realised that he was not made for the army.


As a gay man he was also afraid of being bullied, and after little more than a week he plucked up the courage to declare his sexual orientation to his commander.

”They asked me if I had any photographs.” Gokhan says, ”And I did.”

He had gone prepared with explicit photographs of himself having sexual intercourse with another man, having heard that it would be impossible to get out of military service without them.

”The face must be visible,” says Gokhan. ”And the photos must show you as the passive partner.”

The photographs satisfied the military doctors. Gokhan was handed his pink certificate and exempted from military service. But it was a terrible experience, he says,

”And it’s still terrible. Because somebody holds those photographs. They can show them at my village, to my parents, my relatives.”

The TSK once denied that it asked for photo evidence of homosexuality, but rights commentators hit back telling the press that the army must have now amassed “the worldís greatest porno archive” due to this unofficial rule.

The army has in recent years appeared to admit that it asks for some photo evidence of homosexuality, but†denies that it holds on to these kinds of materials.

However, reports suggest that employers have in fact gone to the army and requested details on discharged servicemembers. This has led to reports of job discrimination, bullying in the workplace and ostracism from family and friends. It very well may have even endangered lives in a country where violence against LGBT people is well documented.

However, if the men refuse to offer this kind of photographic evidence to the army their discharge will be delayed or even denied. This leaves them in a vulnerable position where they are still enrolled in the army but are at the mercy of commanders who may know their sexuality and could choose to disclose it at any time.

This chilling environment is documented in Emre Azizlerli’s documentary The Pink Certificate, scheduled for broadcast on BBC World Service this week across multiple time slots.†Readers able to access the World Service can find the schedule here.


Related Reading:

Amnesty Calls on Turkey to Protect its LGBT Citizens

Turkey Ignoring Anti-LGBT Discrimination Says Amnesty

Turkish Trans Activists Allegedly Beaten by Police Go on Trial Thursday


Image used under the Creative Commons Attribution License with thanks to ansche.


KS Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Stefanie D.
Stefanie D.6 years ago

liking someone of the same gender or the same sex has nothing to do with 'a guy wearing a dress' (which is done for fun or fetishistic sensual eroticism), which is 'transvestism' or exploratory 'gender bending' cross-dressing.

Inaya K.
Inaya Kamal6 years ago

this is appalling, a pic of men kissing should be enough

Gabriel M.
Gabriel M.6 years ago

People are being worked up about this- but fact of the matter is that they are allowed to serve even if they are gay- drafts aren't meant to be easy to get out of (especially when you don't have a privileged status in society). Men used to shoot themselves to get out.

Nobody *forced* these men to submit these photographs- they could have just as easily served their term. It would be *very* easy to say you're gay even if you're not to get out. Now surely, the military could research the man's relations, but what incentive do they have to?

I think the larger issue here is that there is a draft and whether it is necessary or not. That really overshadows the gay angle in this case.

Krysti Schwab
Past Member 6 years ago

this is crazy what happened to a mans word was his bond and not humiliating people and gays should be allowed to fight for their country

Robert O.
Robert O6 years ago

It is sad, but not altogether surprsing. Turkey is a bit more progressive than other Islamic nations, but no doubt the hardcore religious conservatives are the ones running the show as is usually the case.

Muhammed T., They are human beings therefore deserve the same rights and protections from discrimination and abuse as anybody else regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation. Gay rights and equal are human rights and should not be denied to anybody. Equality for all!

christopher KLINGER

Well we all know that Allah is bisexual, he loves everybody !
I think the man named Jesus Krist behaves in the same way, no ?

Patrick F.
Patrick f6 years ago

Haha, this is such nonsense, it is laughable. Turkey is officially the first country to go absolutely nuts. I guess the only positive thing that Turkey has left is soccer games....oh wait, didn't they ban all men from soccer games too? Oh well,scratch that, there is NO reason to ever go to Turkey.

Past Member
Past Member 6 years ago

Muhammed, gay rights ARE human rights.

1. As a society we can work against multiple injustices at one time. I care about this issue, AND the Israel-Pakistan conflict, AND poverty in Africa. Social justice doesn't have to be exclusive to one issue.

2. Those cases you mentioned are far more complicated. Far more work is done in the name of African children than here, but not much happens because of corrupt governments and a complete lack of infrastructure. They're incapable of being self sufficient and many African governments have no intention of changing that. Those issues are a lot more complicated, so despite many more people working on them, you see less results. That doesn't mean people don't care. Going "people are dying, we're heartless for not devoting every moment to stopping this!" hugely oversimplifies the issue and is an injustice to the work of many.

3. This isn't about sex. Repeat that until it gets through your head: Being gay doesn't mean free sex. If anything, this is *against* that. Against a culture that insists on reducing gay people to sex fiends.

If you insist on doing all of the above, then you're frankly a complete idiot.

Muriel C.
Muriel C6 years ago

When she moved to Israel, my transsexual daughter asked if
a) she was required to do her military service: She was told "Yes"
b) if there was a "Don't ask, don't tell" policy: The answer was "No, here we have a 'Come as you are' policy"
A few month ago, a general who was found guilty of discriminating against gay personnel, was summarily dismissed...without retirement.