Do ask, must tell

ISTANBUL — As the United States considers repealing the ban on gays serving in the military, they might want to consider consulting their allies in NATO with whom they serve in Afghanistan and Iraq. The vast majority of the organization’s 28-member states allow gays to serve openly. But Turkey offers an instructive, and extreme, contrast. ...

Adam Altan/AFP
Adam Altan/AFP
Adam Altan/AFP

ISTANBUL — As the United States considers repealing the ban on gays serving in the military, they might want to consider consulting their allies in NATO with whom they serve in Afghanistan and Iraq. The vast majority of the organization's 28-member states allow gays to serve openly. But Turkey offers an instructive, and extreme, contrast.

Where the U.S. "don't ask, don't tell" policy has been the subject of fierce political debate since it was launched by Bill Clinton's administration two decades ago, Turkey's ban has seen few public challenges. When Turkey's minister for women's and family affairs, Selma Aliye Kavaf, declared this March that homosexuality is a "disease that needs treatment," she wasn't just pandering to popular belief; she was repeating the official stance of the Turkish armed forces. Indeed, Turkey's gay conscripts are routinely forced to endure humiliation and abuse at the hands of their country's military authorities.

ISTANBUL — As the United States considers repealing the ban on gays serving in the military, they might want to consider consulting their allies in NATO with whom they serve in Afghanistan and Iraq. The vast majority of the organization’s 28-member states allow gays to serve openly. But Turkey offers an instructive, and extreme, contrast.

Where the U.S. “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy has been the subject of fierce political debate since it was launched by Bill Clinton’s administration two decades ago, Turkey’s ban has seen few public challenges. When Turkey’s minister for women’s and family affairs, Selma Aliye Kavaf, declared this March that homosexuality is a “disease that needs treatment,” she wasn’t just pandering to popular belief; she was repeating the official stance of the Turkish armed forces. Indeed, Turkey’s gay conscripts are routinely forced to endure humiliation and abuse at the hands of their country’s military authorities.

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Piotr Zalewski is an Istanbul-based freelance writer. Follow him on Twitter: @p_zalewski.

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