Armenian Trans Woman Bedi Keskin: “Many of my trans friends are jealous of my life”

We met with Bedi Keskin before the Trans Pride Parade on Sunday, June 21st. Keskin is an Armenian transsexual. In a sense, she is ‘the Other of the Other.’ At 51 years old, Keskin is one of the best stone setters at the Grand Bazaar.

Source: Maral Dink, “Çoğu trans arkadaşım hayatımı kıskanıyor” (“Many of my trans friends are jealous of my life”), Agos, 19 June 2015, http://www.agos.com.tr/tr/yazi/11930/cogu-trans-arkadasim-hayatimi-kiskaniyor

Transsexuals no doubt are at the top of the groups who suffer the most from discrimination, hate, and violence. Therefore, high on the list of topics underlined during the 6th Trans Pride Week that began earlier this week is the demand for hate crime laws. We met with Bedri Keskin before the Trans Pride Parade to be held on Sunday, June 21st. Keskin is an Armenian transsexual. In a sense, she is the Other of the Other. At 51 years old, Keskin is one of the best stone setters at the Grand Bazaar. Having begun her career as a man, she has continued the craft as a woman at the same place, in the male dominated space of the Grand Bazaar. And she has done so together with her brothers, nieces, and nephews. She has made herself accepted with the support of her family and her success in the business. There are many things she holds privately inside her. I asked her what I could and she shared what she could. At the end of our conversation, she said something I will never forget: “You have a life to live; I have a life to achieve.”


Let us begin with the years you began to feel like a woman and decided to become a woman…

You understand it at the age you begin to think. You feel as a child that you are not a boy. Even then, I used to wear my elder sisters’ clothes, use nail polish, and secretly put on lipstick. It was there at birth. I was born with the soul of a woman. I was 28 when I decided to unite my body with my soul. I underwent estrogen therapy for a year and a half, I had laser hair removal. The most difficult period is the transition period. I had surgery when I was 30.


Call to Reject the Motion on Military Action in Syria and Iraq goes to Woman MPs from 38 Women’s Organizations

Contents of this post:
(1) “Call to Reject the Motion on Military Action in Syria and Iraq goes to Woman MPs from 38 Women’s Organizations” (Bianet)
(2) "Presentation on Women's Realities in War" (Women for Peace)

Source: “38 Kadın Örgütünden Kadın Vekillere ‘Tezkereye Hayır’ Çağrısı” (“Call to Reject the Motion on Military Action in Syria and Iraq goes to Woman MPs from 38 Women’s Organizations”), Bianet, 1 October 2014, http://bianet.org/bianet/siyaset/158878-38-kadin-orgutunden-kadin-vekillere-tezkereye-hayir-cagrisi

38 women’s organizations have called upon women MPs to reject the motion on military action in Iraq-Syria and to oppose the proposal to establish either a buffer zone or a security zone in the region.

38 women’s organizations have released a statement addressed at women MPs in Turkey regarding the Iraq-Syria motion:

“We know and have studied on the field, what women experience during war times. As such, we are aware that women should not give way to policies that will fuel wars. Do not accept the motion, oppose the buffer or security zone.”

We Insist On Peace

Source: Bianet

The statement drew attention to the problems that are likely to be encountered during cross-border military interventions. Women’s organizations emphasized that buffer or security zones are only ever initiated in uninhabited geographical locations, and yet, the proposed buffer zone includes Rojava. [Translators’ note: The population of Rojava is variously estimated as being between 2 and 3 million.]


On the Dismissal of Police Officer F.E.: “These kinds of officers are to be cleaned out immediately!”

Source: Burcu Karakaş. “Bu tür memurlar hemen ayıklanır!” (“These kinds of officers are to be cleaned out immediately!”) Milliyet, 16 June 2014, http://www.milliyet.com.tr/bu-tur-memurlar-hemen-ayiklanir–gundem-1897738/

Police officer F.E. had been dismissed from office with a disciplinary investigation because he is gay. When he went to court to amend the decision, he received the following answer from the Ministry of Internal Affairs: “The law foresees that these kinds of officers are to be immediately cleaned out!”

Police officer F.E. was subjected to disciplinary investigation because he is gay and the investigation resulted in his removal from office. He went to the court to appeal the decision. His suit was rejected by every court that he applied to. Upon his appeal to the Council of State, he received a written response from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Deputy Legal Advisor. The statement included scandalous phrases. One Ministry official stated the following: “It is without a doubt that if civil services are run by officers who are less than reputable, this would damage people’s confidence in the administration. The law aims to prevent these kinds of developments and foresees that those who are responsible are removed from civil service and thus eliminated from the instruments of administration.” Even though the Council of State Investigation Judge wrote a dissenting opinion noting the right to “private life,” F.E.’s plea was overruled by majority voting.

“Embarrassing actions”

In 2009, there was a denunciation against Istanbul police officer F.E. with allegations that he kept child pornography. The police raided his house based on the allegations, which turned out to be false. It was decided that there was a lack of grounds for legal action. However, certain documents were found on F.E.’s computer, which pointed to the fact that he is gay. This resulted in a disciplinary investigation on his behalf. The investigation ended with the Ministry of Internal Affairs High Disciplinary Commission ruling for F.E.’s removal from civil service due to the charge of “acting in shameful and embarrassing ways that do not agree with the qualities of civil service.” Upon this decision, the police officer went to the 8th Administrative Court in Istanbul to demand that the decision be reversed. The court maintained that the ruling was within legislation and rejected F.E.’s appeal.

After this rejection, F.E. appealed to the Council of State. The 12th Department of the Council of State studied and rejected F.E.’s appeal eight months ago, thereby approving the decision of his removal from office. At this time, F.E.’s lawyer Fırat Söyle took the appeal back to the 12th Department of the Council of State with a request to revise the decision.

Council of State Investigation Judge Şevket Polat argued that the actions, which resulted in F.E.’s removal from office, were to be considered within the framework of “private life” in accordance with the 20th article of the Constitution as well as the 8th Article of the European Convention on Human Rights. Polat thus put forth that these actions did not constitute a disciplinary breach and advised for an issue of stay order. However, members of the department unanimously rejected the judge’s request with the justification that “the reasoning presented did not constitute due grounds for a stay order.”

“He lives with a woman who is of legal age”

The Ministry of Internal Affairs delivered a statement in response to the appeal about revising the decision. The statement included the justifications for why F.E. had to be removed from office. The Ministry Deputy Legal Advisor Adnan Türkdamar authored the statement, which explains that there were times when F.E. shared the same living quarters with two men who are known to be gay. Also, F.E.’s living together with a woman was described as a “shameful and embarrassing action.”

The Ministry responded with the following in relation to the discrimination appeal: “The law aims for civil service to be carried out by credible, trustworthy and socially prestigious agents. It is without a doubt that if civil services are run by officers who are less than reputable, this would damage individuals’ confidence in the administration and result in undesirable developments in the relations between individuals and the administration. As such, the law aims to prevent such a development and foresees that those who are responsible are removed from civil service and that these kinds of officers are eliminated from the instruments of administration.”

HDP’s Tüzel Queries Violence Against Women and LGBTI People

Source: “HDP’li Tüzel, Kadın ve LGBTİ’lere Şiddeti Sordu,” (HDP’s Tüzel Queries Violence Against Women and LGBTI People,”) kaosGL.org, 19 April 2014, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=16373

The People’s Democratic Party’s (HDP) Member of Parliament from Istanbul Levent Tüzel brought the issue of “unjust provocation reductions” applied in the murders of women and murders based on sexual orientation and gender identity to the Parliament. Tüzel pressed the Minister of Family and Social Policy, Ayşenur İslam, to answer questions on the issue and noted that 61 women had lost their lives in the first 100 days of 2014 to this violence.

“Why does the state not protect women?”

Tüzel pointed out that institutions of law, judiciary, and security are not on women’s side and asked Minister İslam the role of the government’s patriarchal, conservative, neoliberal social and economic policies that deny gender equality in the rising violence and murders of women despite legal amendments. He asked, “why does the state not protect women?”

Murders Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Tüzel asked for the removal of good conduct and unjust provocation reductions [from the Turkish Criminal Code] in crimes committed against women and people with different sexual orientations. He further asked whether there are plans to consider the murders of women within the scope of “voluntary manslaughter.” Tüzün also asked if there are any legal arrangements to ensure the employment of women who are the victims of violence, and who are staying the women’s shelters, within in the public and private sector.

Tüzel asked these questions to Minister İslam:

“How much longer will the state watch as women are murdered? Why is the necessary public protection of women not ensured?

“What is the role of your government’s patriarchal, conservative, neoliberal social and economic policies that deny gender equality in the rising violence and murders of women despite legal amendments?

“How many women’s shelters are there in Turkey? In the last ten years, how many women’s shelters were opened in which cities? Are there cities and districts without women’s shelters?

“How do women who are victims of violence continue living and stay protected after their 6 month residency in women’s shelters?

“Are you considering any legal arrangements to ensure the employment of women who are the victims of violence and who are staying the women’s shelters to be employed in the public and private sector?

“Does your Ministry have any plans to provide education on social gender in schools?

“Are you considering any changes in the Turkish Criminal Code to consider the murders of women, and murders based on gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity within the scope of “voluntary manslaughter,” to remove unjust provocation and good conduct reductions in crimes against women, and to not include these crimes within the scope of amnesty?

“Are you making any arrangements to include women’s organizations’ participation in public trials of crimes that are based on gender?”

Human Rights vs. LGBT Rights

Source: Çiçek Tahaoğlu, “İnsan Hakları vs LGBT Hakları,” (“Human Rights vs. LGBT Rights,”) Bianet, 28 December 2013, http://www.bianet.org/biamag/lgbtt/152398-insan-hayati-vs-lgbt-haklari

Among the thousands of Syrians staying in Turkey, there are certainly many LGBTIs.

What they say to Syrian LGBTs in Syria and in the countries where they seek asylum is “Human life is priority, not gay rights.”

Naturally they then ask: “Ours is not “human” life?”


Legal Action Concerning the So-Called Treatment of Homosexuality

Source: “Homoseksüelliğin Sözde Tedavisi Hakkında Yasal Girişim,” (“Legal Action Concerning The So-Called Treatment of Homosexuality,”) The Psychiatric Association of Turkey, 26 December 2013, http://psikiyatri.org.tr/presses.aspx?press=372

To Our Esteemed Colleagues and Public,

As the Psychiatric Association of Turkey we continue our work against activities and implementations that are outside ethical or scientific boundaries. In this context, on such occasions that lead to a breach of professional boundaries, we take legal actions to protect both public health and our profession.

We would like to share with you the information that we took legal action and filed complaints with the relevant institutions such as the governorship, the board of advertisement and the public prosecutor’s office concerning the so-called medicine “homofin.” Homofin was put on the market through a website with the claim that the so-called medicine “treats” homosexuality.


‘Homophobic’ decision from Van governorate

Source: Hasan Yoldaş, “Van valiliğinden homofobik karar,” (“Homophobic decision from Van govenorship,”) DİHA , 27 November 2013, http://www.yuksekovahaber.com/haber/van-valiliginden-homofobik-karar-117382.htm

[Update: The court has ruled that it is not “contrary to morality” for Ekogenç to be active in the area of sexual orientation.]

A lawsuit has been filed by the Van governorship against the Youth and Ecology Association [EKOGENÇ], which the youth in Van had attempted to establish in order to work on solutions for environmental problems. The reason for the lawsuit is the inclusion of the clause “It may work in the field of sexual orientation” in its charter. The co-chairs of the association, not allowed to be established because of Turkish Civil Code Article 56 that states, “No association may be formed for an object contrary to the laws and ethics,” stated that over 25 associations that include the same clause in their regulations have been established up to now and that this decision is intentional.


CHP Parliamentarian Melda Onur’s Comments in Meeting with US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power

Source: LGBTI NEWS TURKEY,  simultaneous translation at event, 10 December 2013.

Melda Onur:

First of all we would like to thank you for this opportunity on this very important day, on human rights day. I am representing the main opposition party from Turkey, which is the Republican People’s Party.

Even though there is an ocean between Turkey and the US it is almost like we are neighbors. Both countries visit each other quite often and the president of the Republican People’s Party was just here. So I think everyone is following each other quite well. We are also sure that you have been following the rights violations in Turkey. These happen in various fields but the most important are the problems in the judiciary, in the freedom of expression, long detainment periods of parliamentarians as well as journalists.


LGBTI NEWS TURKEY’s Summary of Rights Violations Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Turkey

LGBTI NEWS TURKEY submitted this document at the Core Group Luncheon Hosted by the European Union for LGBTI activists in New York on 9 December 2013. The same document has been serviced to the United Nations Press Office for International Human Rights Day.

Human Rights Violations in Turkey and LGBTI People

  • Violations of human rights in Turkey are well documented: During the 2013 Gezi demonstrations, 5 protestors were killed, more than 8,000 people were injured. Unofficial detentions and arbitrary arrests were recorded.
  • Turkey has one of the world’s worst records in press freedom: Data from October 2013 puts the number of imprisoned journalists at 65 for allegedly aiding terrorism and coup attempts. The trial of Hrant Dink’s murder is pending since 2007. Gag orders are widespread and media highly biased.
  • Though a wide-range of individuals and groups have faced rights violations, LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex) people in Turkey have long been one of the most obvious targets due to deep-seated social and political prejudices that almost naturalize and render invisible some blatant forms of discrimination.
  • These violations occur in almost total disregard of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is binding for Turkey under international law. ECHR also takes priority over domestic law, put in motion by Article 90 of the Turkish Constitution.


Yet Again, No Place for LGBT people in the AKP’s “Human Rights Blanket Bill!”

Source: “AKP’nin ‘İnsan Hakları Torbası’nda LGBT’lere Yine Yer Yok!,” (“Yet Again, No Place for LGBT people in the AKP’s ‘Human Rights Blanket Bill!’,”) Kaos GL, 05 December 2013, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=15333

The conservative authoritarian Justice and Development Party (AKP) has not given up its perception of and complicity in the killings, evictions, and unemployment of LGBTI individuals as “a method to fight homosexuality.”

It turns out that the legislative aspect of what the Prime Minister Erdoğan announced as “the struggle against discrimination and hate crimes” was in fact nothing but a change in a single article of the Turkish Penal Code.


The Backstage to the Hate Crimes Law

Source: Melda Onur, “Nefret Suçları Yasasının Perde Arkası,” (“The Backstage to the Hate Crimes Law,”) Odatv.com, 1 October 2013, http://www.odatv.com/n.php?n=nefret-suclari-yasasinin-perde-arkasi-0110131200

I did not expect much from the democracy package. “It is not worth talking about a package that does not demand changes in the Turkish Civil Code (TMK) and the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) and that continues to defend the election threshold” but I have to talk about one point: Hate Crimes…     

About a year and a half ago, a group reached me via e-mail; they started a campaign called “I Demand Hate Crimes Legislation.” They wanted me to sign the petition and help them reach other deputies to sign. The name of the campaign was “Don’t Hate” (“Nefretme“). I went back in time to my days of journalism and NGO activism and I rolled up my sleeves to enter the process. I signed the petition and I did my best to get other deputies to sign. But really, I had two principal issues to deal with. First, I had to help the campaign in media publicity. Second, I had to help the team contact commission leaders.

I immediately contacted the Association for Social Change (ASC), which embraces this campaign. I met Murat Köylü and Levent Şensever at ASC and we launched a media publicity campaign and a schedule for the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. During this process, I met Yasemin Inceoğlu, a rare scholar who works on hate crimes. The Republican People’s Party (CHP) Bursa Parliamentarian Aykan Erdemir, who has been working on this issue for years, already had contacts with the association in the legislative process. My part was to help create public opinion.