The following article was written by Volkan Ağır for DW on September 8, 2021:

Queer Olympix, which has been held for three years, faced police obstacles in Kalamış Park. Journalist Volkan Ağır watched the event held despite the ban for DW Turkish.

While the LGBTI movement in Turkey has been subjected to severe pressure in recent years, the sports tournament Queer Olympix held in Istanbul was held in Kalamış Park for the past two years without any problems, with the permission given by Kadıköy Municipality.

The meeting point of Queer Olympix, which continued to organize its third edition on 23-24-25 August this year, was Kadıköy Adalar Pier, decorated with the rainbow flag. For the first day in Heybeliada, we set off by ferry with a group of approximately 50 people. The journey started on the top floor of the ferry full of tourists, bagel sellers and street vendors, and arrived at Heybeliada, accompanied by halays, songs and chants of “Lollipops in their hands, the lubunyas are coming”.

Queer Olympix's event in Heybeliada
Queer Olympix’s event in Heybeliada Photo: DW/V. Heavy

The day opened with a picnic and continued with a one-hour yoga workshop. Then, the participants were divided into two groups for Petanque and Marble workshops. Although more complicated and power-requiring games come to mind when the Olympic Games are mentioned, Meriç (24), the facilitator of the Petanque workshop, explains the choice of such games because they can be played without requiring much muscle strength, complex rules and training. Thus, the games become more inclusive. Meriç says that he is pleased with the interest of the participants in the game after explaining the rules of the Petanque game.

Türkei Queer Olympix Meric
Meriç, one of the Queer Olympix participants Photo: DW/V. Heavy

Meriç, who has been a full-time activist for about 7-8 years, was previously interested in fencing, rowing and swimming. She says that in order to prove herself in primary school, she was forced by her parents to buy her cleats and that she played football during breaks with the football shoes she wore under her skirt. While he was waiting to be drafted for a football team, his father signed him up for fencing without his knowledge. He comments on this situation by saying, “I think girls in Turkey are allowed to play football until their breasts grow.”

“We create space for ourselves with Olympix”

Meriç finds the increase and change in terms of identity and gender diversity at the event, which she has been attending for three years, very important: “Because this is something we are trying to reclaim the areas where we were not invited or were not invited at all.” Meriç sees Queer Olympix as the place where her full-time activism efforts can bear fruit, which is why she considers this event as her first taste.

He explains the support given by the municipality in the first years, asking if they would like their events to be shown on billboards on the streets. He evaluates the fact that Queer Olympix was able to be held until this year, even though the Pride Parade could not be held for a while, with the following words: “I don’t think they realize that the sports event we organize could be something political, since there is a perception in the country that sees sports and politics as separate from each other.”

The police, accompanied by TOMAs and riot police, came to inform us that the event could not be held due to the decision issued by the district governor's office.
The police, accompanied by TOMAs and riot police, came to inform us that the event could not be held due to the decision issued by the district governor’s office.Photo: DW/V. Heavy

“If you don’t collect it, we will.”

The second day of Queer Olympix was expected to continue with events in Kalamis Park. However, while the organization team was preparing the playgrounds in the morning, they encountered an unexpected surprise. The police, accompanied by TOMAs and riot police, had come to inform us that the event could not be held due to the decision issued by the district governor’s office. Melis, a member of the organization team who has been in Kalamış Park since the first hours of the day, describes what happened between her and the police as follows: “The District Police Chief said in a disturbing way of speaking, ‘You are bringing a team from Armenia, you call yourself Olympix, you are not even affiliated with a federation and you cannot do this without any government permission. “You are doing this without informing the relevant body. You cannot do it without permission,” he said. However, the only permission required to organize this organization was from Kadıköy Municipality and it was received. When we tried to persuade him to hold only our sports competitions, he refused, using the excuse that we had flags and uniforms.” Meanwhile, Melis said that riot police teams approached the District Police Chief and said, “If you do not collect them from here now, we will collect you from here.”

According to the statement issued by the district governor’s office, it is stated that the organization includes individuals and groups that are open to provocation and cannot be held due to social sensitivities. While the event in Kalamış Park was dispersed before any violent action occurred, the organizing team adds that they were followed on the way back.

“Our hands are tied”

Özcan, one of the participants of Queer Olympix
Özcan, one of the participants of Queer OlympixPhoto: DW/V. Heavy

Özcan (23), from the Lolitop team from Kocaeli, who received this news on his way to the park from the hostel he stayed in Kadıköy, conveys his feelings at that moment with the words, “I felt like my hands were tied.” Özcan says that after the Pride Week and the LGBTI-themed international film festival QueerFest were banned, and Queer Olympix, which remained the only place where they could breathe for a year, was also blocked, they returned to the hostel feeling demoralized. While waiting for the decision of the organization team, he summarizes those moments with the words: “We started the day with excitement, then we fell down. While waiting for the decision, we decided to motivate ourselves. Because we could stay strong like this.”

“No give up”

The organizing team would then set up a crisis table and decide how to proceed with Olympix. Melis describes those moments as follows: “We did not have a plan B because we received the necessary and sufficient permissions. I think we were too optimistic for this country. We thought about how we could continue to allow Olympix participants to do sports so that the trauma did not escalate further. First, we decided to make a press statement. Then we decided to go to the bowling and arcade hall to relieve the stress of the event, and then come together in a venue and chat with the team from Armenia about the problems they face in their country, and narrow down the event and continue with games such as darts and arm wrestling. On Sunday, we decided to continue the matches on another astroturf field. We decided to do it.” Melis summarizes the emotional fluctuations during the day as follows: Disappointment, resistance and hope.

A frame from the Queerpool-Lollitop match
A frame from the Queerpool-Lollitop matchPhoto: DW/V. Heavy

Özcan, who was demoralized by the ban decision in the morning, was quite pleased with their stubbornness to continue attending Olympix: “Kalamış Park is not the only area where we will do sports. The state thinks that it can intimidate us and that we will not go to the field again. If we did not continue this, we would have achieved what they wanted, but this will never happen.” .”

Players of Athletic Dildoa and Muamma teams
Players of Athletic Dildoa and Muamma teamsPhoto: DW/V. Heavy

“Dil dildoa, shiver shiver Dildoa!”

The third day of Olympix continued on another astroturf field in Kadıköy. Again, universal football rules were not applied in the football competitions in which Athletic Dildoa, Lolitop, Muamma, Olympikhalkedon, Q-Bitches, Queerpool, Queer League Armenia, Sportif Lezbon and Queer Olympix Karması participated. Each team, with observers chosen from their own team, scored the opposing teams according to their harsh interventions during the match and whether they used sexist profanities or not. The team that finished the match by scoring more goals was awarded two points, and the loser was awarded one point.

Onur from Muamma team
Onur from Muamma teamPhoto: DW/V. Heavy

During the matches in the tournament, which started with the chant “Dil dil Dildoa, shiver shiver Dildoa”, the teams sang the compositions they wrote for each other. While players can play matches with teams other than their own, Onur from the Muamma team from Mersin stated that this situation shows that their perspective on life emphasizes the importance of doing something together. This is one of the features that makes Queer Olympix different, apart from its attempt to break down the prevailing androgyny in football. Onur said that the event he attended for the second time was banned on the grounds that it was against general health, saying, “We come together to do sports. We do not understand how this can be harmful to health. But as you can see, the bans do not deter.”

Closing of Queer Olympix
Closing of Queer OlympixPhoto: DW/V. Heavy

At the closing party at the end of the third day, the champion team was given a gift package containing gifts such as condoms and lubricants, and the Queershallah belt was worn, thus completing the third edition of Queer Olympix with enthusiasm despite all the pressure.

Volkan Ağır / Istanbul

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