43-year-old gay man Can Ã‡avuÅŸoÄŸlu hopes to become the first openly gay mayor in Turkey.
The Istanbul-native announced this weekend his bid for mayor of Bulancak, a Black Sea town with a population of about 60,000 according to Agence France Presse. Local elections are scheduled to take place March 2014.
Ã‡avuÅŸoÄŸlu, who described himself as a ‘gay, activist, writer, thinker, painter, humanist and women rights activist’ previously studied in the US and is touting his American connections as potential means of drawing investment to the town.
‘The international values I possess, the representation skills and governmental accounting can be found only in a few people,’ he said.
If successful, Ã‡avuÅŸoÄŸlu could make history as the first openly-gay mayor in majority-Muslim Turkey where homosexuality is not illegal, but still receives no legal protections.
Earlier this month, Turkey’s Constitutional Consensus Committee suggested sexual minorities be protected against discrimination in the new constitution, a legislative move that could ease the country’s entry into the European Union.
Omer Akpinar, media coordinator for country’s leading LGBT rights group Kaos GL told Gay Star News before Ã‡avuÅŸoÄŸlu, a trans woman named Belgin Ã‡elik ran for the village head position and another trans woman Demet Demir ran for a parliamentarian position but both had failed.
‘He is only a candidate for nomination right at the moment so we don’t know if he will be a candidate at all,’ he said.
According to Akpinar, some local newspapers published derogatory remarks about Ã‡avuÅŸoÄŸlu, distancing him from the community and claiming he has no chance of winning.
On Turkey news website Hurriyet, users online expressed mixed reactions to the gay man’s big for mayor.
Joe maddin wrote: ‘He is risking his life. Turkey is extremely homophobic. Don’t wonder why most Turkish gays seek to leave the country.’
B12 wrote: ‘This is great news! I really hope that he is successful. He would have a huge female following I am sure. I think this would encourage more women to vote!’
Akpinar said of Ã‡avuÅŸoÄŸlu: ‘LGBT people welcomed his candidate nomination but of course we need to learn more about his political opinions.’