Hande Öncü

Trans Angels on Family, Death, and Solidarity

Trans Angels, a solidarity group among trans women in Turkey, took action following the death of two trans women in last two weeks. Hande Öncü, who left Turkey for Vienna because of transphobia, was killed in a hate crime on January 19. Another trans woman, Madonna, lost her life due to ill-health in the western city of Izmir on February 5. Öykü Ay, the leading figure of Trans Angels, told kaosGL.org how they claimed the funerals and stood together.  

Source: Ömer Akpınar, “İki aile, iki cenaze: “Yaralarımızı kendi ellerimizle sarmayı öğrendik”,” (“Two families, two funerals: We learned to heal our own wounds,”) KaosGL.org, 10 February 2015, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=18696

Öykü Ay became a well-known figure among trans women after she organized Turkey’s first trans fashion show in November to raise up money for a trans shelter in Istanbul named the Trans Guesthouse, which was founded by Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association. Based upon the free health care support provided by the Beşiktaş Municipality to the shelter, she has all the reasons to feel proud of her work.


Her Facebook videos, which always start with “Hello friends, my name is Öykü Ay”, is an inspiring example of how social media can be used to mobilize a vulnerable community. Ay, who was awarded the Prize for Fighting Hate Crimes by Ankara-based Pink Life Association during a series of events to mark Trans Day of Remembrance (TDoR) in November, feels bewildered by the differing reactions to the death of their trans child.

“Two different cultures, two different funerals, two different worlds…” are the first words that come out of Öykü Ay’s mouth. Having attended two funerals the last two consecutive Fridays, she is full of emotions.


Trans woman from Turkey was killed in Vienna

Having left Turkey for Vienna due to transphobic pressure, trans woman Hande Öncü was killed in a hate crime. Öncü’s body will be brought back to Turkey thanks to Trans Angels’ extensive efforts.

Source: Yıldız Tar, “Türkiyeli trans kadın Viyana’da öldürüldü” (Trans woman from Turkey was killed in Vienna), KaosGL.org, 29 January 2015, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=18598

Hande Öncü, a transwoman from Turkey in Vienna, lost her life in a hate crime. Öncü was choked to death by unidentified people who tied her arms and legs behind her back. Her body will be returned to Turkey as a result of extensive efforts.

Öncü had applied for asylum in Austria and had been living in Vienna for approximately a year and a half. Öncü had applied for asylum because of the trans discrimination she had experienced in Turkey.

Öncü’s trans friends in Turkey were saddened by the hate crime that took her life. Trans Angels, an association that aims to improve the support network among trans individuals, immediately organized the effort to bring Öncü’s body back to Turkey.

Her body is being brought back to Izmir

Öncü’s body was to be cremated because of her refugee status, but Trans Angels refused cremation and collected the amount of money necessary to bring the body back to Turkey. Öncü’s body will be returned to Turkey wrapped in a rainbow flag.

Öykü Ay from Trans Angels spoke to KaosGL about the process remarking that they are supporting each other as trans women as usual. Ay said, “We can’t assent to the cremation of a friend who had escaped to Vienna because of the transphobic violence here. We have organized from Edirne to Kars and have taken responsibility for our friend. We collected money and paid for the autopsy and freight. We have also taken on the cost of the funeral.”

“Once again, we have seen the hypocrisy of society and the family”

İlayda, an LGBTI activist from Istanbul and Öncü’s roommate in Izmir, reminisced about her late friend:

“She was a very dear friend of ours. We spent a great time together. She used to see me off at the airport every time I left the town to go to meetings and panels. She would go everywhere with her friends; she would look after them. May the lights be her companion. We’re losing many of our friends to hate crimes. Not another day goes by without losing another friend. It was particularly hard this time because it happened abroad. The fact that the family has refused to claim the body of our friend shows the hypocrisy of society and the families.”

Öncü’s body is being brought back to Izmir. She will be laid to rest shortly with Trans Angels and her friends in attendance.