demet yanardağ

Demet Yanardağ: “Turns out I had to pay off the state to be a prostitute”

Source: Yıldız Tar, “Orospu olmak için devlete para yedirmem gerekiyormuş,” (“‘Turns out I had to pay off the state to be a prostitute”), KaosGL, 16 September 2014,

“It turns out that in order to be a prostitute in this country, I had to pay money to the state within the framework of the Law of Misdemeanors, grease the palms of the mafia as well as the police and at times, sleep with people for free.”

Below is the interview we conducted with Demet Yanardağ, from the Black Pink Triangle Association, where she recounts the difficulties she faced in her working life as well as the nature of sex work.

Yanardağ explains that she chose to study tourism and hotel management at university thinking that this was a relatively easy line of work where she would not be discriminated against. However, she says that “things did not work out quite as she [I] thought.”


“Men think you are a sex doll”

“I thought that someone like me could work in the tourism industry, that I wouldn’t encounter people judging me. I graduated and soon found out that this would not be the case. Not a single hotel would hire me as an intern. I couldn’t find an internship. Then, a close friend of mine arranged for me to start interning at a five-star hotel. During my internship, both the hotel clients and the staff harassed me incessantly. People kept offering sexual relations in a way that could be considered harassment. That’s when I understood that if you are a trans individual, you have to be a sex worker. If you are employed in other lines of work, you will be harassed much more so than biological females. People see you as a potential sex doll. When men get boners, they see you like sex dolls they could use to satisfy themselves.”

As Yanardağ was continually harassed by hotel clients and staff, she thought to herself, “society allocates this role to me; I must be a prostitute.” Here is how she decided to become a sex worker:


Not even one transsexual person that I know died of natural causes

“Violence Stories from Turkey” is a project by Intercultural Research Association that aims to archive and document the phenomenon of violence in Turkey; to prevent events of violence and their victims from “becoming ordinary” and “turning into statistics”; to investigate the conditions of violence in order to make future projections; and to bring together NGOs, civil society, and advocates for the defense of victims’ rights. The project publishes photographs and interviews with victims or witnesses in a simple and flexible format that allows the interviewees to express themselves.

Source: Cankız Çevik, “Tanıdığım transseksüellerden biri bile eceliyle ölmedi,” (“Not even one transsexual person that I know died of natural causes,”) Türkiye’den Şiddet Hikayeleri, 30 July 2013,

Trans woman and sex worker Dora Özer was stabbed to death at her home in Kuşadası on July 9, 2013. About 20 days later, another hate killing took place in İstanbul: a trans woman named Gaye was murdered also at her own home. Even after these series of deaths, hate crimes are still not on the government’s agenda. Demet Yanardağ from the Black Pink Triangle İzmir Association talked to “Violence Stories From Turkey” about Dora, about trans murders that are “ordinary” in the eyes of the media and the public, and about the justice system that absolves these murders by maintaining their silence.

I met Dora 6 or 7 years ago, when I first came to İzmir from Çanakkale. At that point the circumstances in İzmir were horrible because Hüseyin Çapkın was the commissioner. Hüseyin Çapkın was someone who believed that he was restoring order by oppressing people just like Hortum Süleyman who tormented people in Beyoğlu a while ago.