Trans woman commits suicide in Turkey

Azize Ömrüm, a sex worker who lived in İzmir, committed suicide due to not being able to stand social pressure. One of Azize Ömrüm’s closes friends, trans activist Öykü Ay said, “We are all responsible for this suicide.”

Source: “Trans Kadın İntihar Etti”, pembehayat.org, 22 August 2016, http://pembehayat.org/haberler.php?id=1210

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After the suicide of Azize Ömrüm, a sex worker trans woman, Öykü Ay was quoted as saying “Azize was different from all of us. She only loved once, but her lover’s parents broke them up. Azize could not stand that her lover got married by force with another person. She told her love to all of us. She was telling this so frequently, we could not understand her strong feelings. Then she found her solution by isolating herself.”

Ay also mentioned that Azize wanted to be a chef and not a sex worker. Ay stated “She used to cook very well. The only person whose bed she wanted to get in was that of her lover. But she had to be a sex worker because of her life condition. The system did not let her  work in another job. She could not handle the burden and was lonesome” and mentioned that the whole of society is responsible for Azize’s suicide, including her friends.  

As Pembe Hayat, we all offer our condolences to everyone in the trans community.

Protest for Azize in Ankara!

After Azize’s suicide, High School LGBTI in Ankara invited everyone to gather against transphobia. High School LGBTI stated “We are gathering in front of the Human Rights statue in order to not stay silent but to be the voice of Azize’s scream” and invited all anti-transphobic people to Yüksel Street at 7 pm.

 

Having suicidal thoughts? Please see our list of resources: https://lgbtinewsturkey.com/2015/03/04/suicide-resources/

Hande Kader’s murder protested in Eastern Turkey

Malatya Youth Against Homophobia and Transphobia Initiative, protested the Hande Kader’s murder, the trans woman whose body was found burned in Istanbul, and said “Down with your murderous morality”

Source: “Hande Kader Cinayeti Malatya’da protesto edildi”, kaosgl.org,August 22, 2016, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=22126

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Madi Diva read the press declaration on behalf of the initiative and called for solidarity, stressing that violence and hatred against trans individuals are left with impunity, that trans suicides are murders resulting from oppression:

“Trans woman who was murdered in Antep, Dora in İzmir, Şeker Buse and Hande Kader in Istanbul were murdered only because of their gender identities. Down with your morality that slaughters us just because of our gender identity, our diversity and colors.”

We want this mentality to be eradicated!

“A trans man called Utku committed suicide this past July. Utku wasn’t the last trans person to commit suicide, there were Eylül Cansın, Okyanus Efe, Figen and many others before him… Trans suicides are murders that are carried out based on societal and family pressure. Therefore we repeatedly stress that trans suicides are political as well.”

“The male mentality does not only kill us, but reproduce itself on a daily basis with its policies of rape, harassment and violence. The mentality that raped a 9 month old baby girl who lived in a refugee camp recently, was the same in the case of Hande Kader, Madımak and Suruç. We call on all women, others and the oppressed to stand with us to eradicate this mentality.”

 

Demonstration in Istanbul for Hande Kader: We want to die of natural causes

Those who came together, in spite of a police barricade in Istanbul against transphobia, said “Trans murders are a political matter. We want to die of natural causes”.

Source: Yıldız Tar, “Hande Kader için İstanbul’da eylem: Ecelimizle ölmek istiyoruz”, kaosgl.org, August 21, 2016, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=22125

Reactions against trans woman Hande Kader’s murder by burning continue. Led by Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association and upon the call of LGBTI organizations, hundreds of people condemned the murder of Hande Kader and commemorated those who lost their lives due to homophobic and transphobic hate murders.

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“Justice for Hande, justice for all”

Those who come together in Beyoğlu Tünel against homophobia and transphobia opened the banner that reads “We won’t lose one more. Justice for Hande, justice for all”.

In the demonstration, participated in by women’s associations and many political parties as well as LGBTI organizations, slogans such as “Trans murders are political” and “Hande Kader’s here, where are the murderers?” were chanted. The names of those who lost their lives due to hate murders were announced as well.

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MPs were present too

Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Istanbul MP Filiz Kerestecioğlu and Republican People’s Party (CHP) Istanbul MP Sezgin Tanrıkulu were present at the demonstration for support. Kerestecioğlu indicated that LGBTI rights were essential for democracy and Tanrıkulu stated “We have to respect gender identities.”

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President of Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association Ebru Kırancı and trans activist İdil Su read the press statement. The declaration demanded legal protection against hate murders, and it was stressed that transphobic hate murders were political. The declaration also commemorated those who lost their lives in the attack on a wedding in Antep yesterday.

The demonstration took place with police surrounding the participants, the participants dispersed in Istiklal Avenue, chanting slogans.

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Photos: Barış Paksoy & Yıldız Tar

 

The Hande Kader murder: No one hears our voice

The struggle to stay alive in Turkey where trans individuals are pushed to the city’s peripheries as well as the struggle to prove their existence finds life in a sentence that is repeated, emphasized, written at every demonstration: “Don’t be silent, shout, trans exist.”

Source: Rengin Arslan, “Hande Kader cinayeti: Kimse sesimizi duymuyor”, BBC Türkçe, 20 August 2016, http://www.bbc.com/turkce/haberler-turkiye-37141548

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“Hande was one of the nicest people in the world. She was very calm normally but also hyperactive. She always went to the LGBTI marches. She pursued a cause that she felt right until the end.”

This is how flat mate Davut Dengiler describes the 23 year old trans woman Hande Kader whose body was found in a forest in Istanbul last week. She was last seen entering a client’s car one night. Davut Dengiler, long hopeful to find Hande alive, ended up finding her in the morgue for unidentified persons in Yenibosna.

“I was about to leave the morgue. I felt a sense of lightness for not having found her there. At the last minute, a doctor there said, ‘there’s also a burned body, look at that as well.’ I did. I told them identifying features. They then looked at the computer, at the report. The doctor put his hand on my back and gave his condolences. I lost myself,” he says of that day.

He then explains Hande’s responses to other deaths, to trans deaths:

“She would go crazy when trans individuals were killed. She’d be so sad. She’d be so courageous the moment she left the house. She’d also be very restless sometimes. She had been stabbed and beaten before. This doesn’t happen only to Hande, it happens to all of them.”

‘The highest number of trans murders in Europe take place in Turkey’

According to Trans Europe’s data, the highest number of trans murders in Europe take place in Turkey. Globally, Brazil is the least safe country for trans individuals.

But “there is no safe country for trans people” as the institution’s 2016 report states.

Hande was someone who tried to call attention to trans murders in Turkey and the injustices she reacted against. She was among those who were in the front rows of demonstrations.  

But perhaps it is the images of Hande Kader that has been shared innumerable times on social media that best explain the trans woman who is still waiting to be buried due to identification, autopsy, and DNA testing processes. In 2015, police had banned Pride March organized every year by LGBTI in Taksim and tried to disperse the crowds using pressurized water, rubber bullets, and pepper spray. Despite it all, Hande Kader had not “dispersed” and stood against the police with stubbornness.

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At some point in a naive anger, she reproached the journalists who were recording the events. She said, “You take pictures but you do not publish them, no one is hearing our voices.”

Hande Kader and other trans individuals’ unheard voices came this time with the news of her death. In a way that no one wants to think or imagine: by being burned.

Her life, which she tried to earn through sex work, was always in danger. Just like all the other trans individuals who are forced to this, she worked on the street. Just like the others, she sought a way out but could not find it. Her close friend Funda says, “she did not like this work,” and adds, “but who would like it anyway.”

“There are very few trans individuals who die of natural causes”

The trans individuals I spoke to have two commonalities. One is that they are heartbroken by society with the reminder that people went out on the streets in millions after the murder of Özgecan Aslan, who was similarly burned and killed. The second is that nearly all of them have a story on how they “escaped death.”

Kemal Ördek is one of them. Ördek answers my questions and says they were “lucky” to survive an attack in their home.  

“There are very few trans individuals who die of natural causes. Nearly none. There are very few trans individuals in Turkey who have reached the age of 50 or 60. When you are pushed to sex work, it’s not possible for people to reach old age. They are killed. I don’t know how I survived. That’s the sad part,” Ördek says.

Ördek completed a degree in international studies in Bilkent University with a scholarship after ranking at the top in the exams and is pursuing graduate studies in sociology in Middle East Technical University. Ördek earns their living mostly through sex work.

“Do they have to be sex workers?”

Kemal Ördek is also the president of Red Umbrella, an association that defends the rights of trans sex workers. I ask them one of the questions that society often asks trans individuals: Do they have to be sex workers?

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Ördek says, “We are viewed not as people who can integrate into society but as the dirt of society. What grabs our attention most when we are walking on the street are the looks that see us as sexual objects. That the people who diss us do so through words that suggest they want to be with us. It doesn’t matter if it’s a woman or a man. We are humans who are sexual objects.”

In a time when women who make up half the world combat against inequality and discrimination in the workplace, it appears that trans individuals finding employment in the fields of their education is impossible.

“A never-ending mourning”

Ördek describes their feelings as “a never-ending mourning” when talking about the insecure, vulnerable, and fragile conditions trans individuals face and says,”

“When I first became an activist, I would not be able to sleep thinking about the kind of news I’d get in the middle of the night. Even now, my phone is at the highest ringtone when I sleep at night. I wait for news, someone will be stabbed, someone beaten and I’ll get called and I’ll have to go there immediately. This is a never-ending mourning and state of trauma.”

The identity reassignment process for trans individuals in Turkey is a long and painful one and many don’t dare to because of this. Because of this, trans women can’t change the [gendered] color of their IDs and can’t work in brothels where they may have more security.

Sinem Hun, a lawyer who works closely on trans identity reassignment cases, interprets the relevant gender reassignment article in Turkey’s Civil Law as “the whole of the processes that embody too many rights violations.”

“24 states in Europe require by law that trans people undergo sterilization”

Hun says the state “wants to see” that both trans men and trans women have to received surgeries for their genitalia to establish that the gender reassignment process has been done physically. At the same time, she says sterilization is mandatory.

Hun gives the example of Argentina where gender reassignment is based on the person’s statement and says they have applied individually to the Constitutional Court for the cancellation of the article that forces surgery. She hopes the article could be annulled.

“There are trans individuals who cannot change their identity for 5-6 years,” says Hun and emphasizes that there are very few competent microsurgery doctors for these surgeries and that these surgeries in Turkey are expensive and bring forth a difficult process.

Sterilization is an issue that European countries have yet to agree on. According to Trans Europe’s Trans Rights Europe Index, there are 24 countries that require sterilization for gender reassignment. Among them are Turkey, Russia, France, and Switzerland.

Hungary and Albania do not have legal gender recognition

Sterilization is not mandatory in 15 countries, including Sweden, the United Kingdom, Italy, and Spain.

Gender reassignment is not considered legal in Hungary, Cyprus, Moldova, and Albania, according to the Europe Index.

The struggle to stay alive in Turkey where trans individuals are pushed to the city’s peripheries as well as the struggle to prove their existence finds life in a sentence that is repeated, emphasized, written at every demonstration: “Don’t be silent, shout, trans exist.”

The struggle for society to accept their existence and the struggle to stay alive is together. Legal processes and democratic wins may determine when they’ll be equal citizens in Turkey and other countries but trans, LGBTI individuals, and their allies hope that Hande Kader will be a turning point in trans murders.

 

Why can’t we fit gays and transsexuals into this huge world?

We fit murderers, thieves, rapists, child-abusers and any kind of foulness in this world. Why cannot we fit gays and transsexuals who do not have any designs on the rights of others? Why don’t we “stand up” for Hande as well, as we did for Özgecan?

Source: Nurcan Baysal, “Bu koca dünyaya eşcinselleri, transları neden sığdıramıyoruz?”, T24, 18 August 2016, http://t24.com.tr/yazarlar/nurcan-baysal/bu-koca-dunyaya-escinselleri-translari-neden-sigdiramiyoruz,15267

Hande was lost since August 6. Her friends and partner put out a missing persons report. She was found by the road in Zekeriyaköy. She was burned.

Hande Kader was a transsexual woman and a sex-worker. Last year, during Trans Pride, she demonstrated against police intervention by sitting in front of the anti-riot water cannon vehicle (TOMA). She was brave.

I had a look on her Facebook page in order to get to know her and read her posts. She wrote on November 30:  

“I’ve accumulated great misery inside that there is no place to live other feelings…”

Hande is not alone in accumulating misery/pain. Transsexual individuals enormously accumulate pain in this country. They are driven to suicide or slaughtered as the result of social pressure, exclusion, violence and defamation that they are exposed.

Eylül Cansın was only 23 years old when she threw herself off the bridge by saying that “I couldn’t; they didn’t let me.”

Roşin Çiçek was 17 years old yet when he was killed with 14 bullets by his own father.

İrem Su was 28 years old when she was barbarously killed with 12 stabs.

Two years ago, on August 24, transsexual woman Figen committed suicide in Mersin. She “spat in our face and left” when she was committing suicide, with the words of her close friend. At that time, I wrote that “We could not fit her in this huge world.”

Just 10 days ago, Muhammed Wisam, a gay refugee, was slaughtered by being cut.

People are killed by being burned, they are slaughtered by being cut, and we keep quiet. We keep quite because these people are homosexual or transsexual. We are in a disgusting silence.

We fit murderers, thieves, rapists, child-abusers and any kind of foulness in this world. Why cannot we fit gays and transsexuals who do not have any designs on the rights of others?

Why don’t we “stand up” for Hande as well, as we did for Özgecan?

A downtrodden and battered woman’s body was burned. Why don’t we raise our voices?

Homophobic and transphobic murders are fed on our silence.

It should not be that hard to protect the human dignity.

Don’t be quiet!

 

Pride Committee: “We will be on the streets on Sunday to demand justice for Hande Kader and to stop hate crimes”

We feel great anger: our beloved friend Hande Kader was burned to death. The burned body of 23 years old trans woman Hande Kader was found in Zekeriyaköy almost a week ago. Hande was a person who raised her voice against hate crimes and encouraged everyone to raise their voices too.

We are constantly shouting at LGBTI+ Prides, Trans Prides and other protests that homophobic and transphobic statements are leading to hate crimes, murderers often escape unpunished, and hate crime laws are urgent. Unfortunately, our Prides have been banned in the last two years, yet we need to be seen, to be on the streets and to shout our demands in order to end hate crimes.

According to a Transgender Europe report, Turkey is the first in Europe and ninth in the world in trans murders. Trans women are forced to be sex workers and then they are labeled (as prostitutes) because of their jobs. We wish a world without homophobia, transphobia or ‘prostitute-phobia’.

Münevver, Özgecan, Wisam, Hande… We demand justice for all that lost their lives for being a woman, a trans or a gay. We are aware that the people who burned Hande to death got their strength from those who burned people alive in Maraş, Madımak, Cizre. We are repeating once again that the only way to stop hate crimes is to raise our voice together against hatred and hate crimes.

We are inviting every individual from this society to our march from Tünel to Galatasaray where we will demand justice for Hande Kader on Sunday, 21 August, 7 PM.

Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week Committee

Which one of your houses will Hande Kader’s murderer come out of?

Men share your bed, your meal, your house after being with many trans sex workers like Hande Kader. While you keep believing that you are “cleaner”, “more innocent”, “more virtuous” than Hande Kader, the murderer lives in your house. Pray that they may be caught before they do one tenth of what they did to her, to you.

Source: Zeynep Akkuş, “Hande Kader’in katili hanginizin evinden çıkacak?”, kaosgl, August 17, 2016, http://www.kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=22102

It’s like I’m watching a horror movie. In its first scene, the car Hande Kader gets in disappears in the darkness of the night. Then everything gets blurry. The blur remains for a while. Next a flash lights up. New scene: Police gather around in a forest, they take away Hande Kader’s burnt body in a body bag.

I wish what I saw was really just a movie.

We had common friends but I didn’t know her. But then again, it turns out I saw her many times, unknowingly! She was one of our trans friends on those famous photos of last year’s Pride Walk on Istiklal Avenue, that they tried to cancel, on the first shot they are sitting against a water cannon, in the second one, they are soaked with pressurized water. The policemen that were taking her away last year, holding her arm harshly are now in the forest to take her burned body.

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When I heard that her corpse was burned, I found myself thinking, I hope she wasn’t burned to death, I hope she was burned after she was murdered, to get rid of the evidence. Please don’t condemn me. The current order, the current morality made us prefer one death over another. Remember the words of Ali İsmail’s mother, who was beaten to death during Gezi; “I wish they shot my Aliş, my son suffered so much” and please don’t condemn me.

I was only beginning to digest the story of how Figen was dragged to death, my eyes tearing up as I looked at photos I took in the march in the memory of Dora. My anger together with my pain rise up, as I writhe with the pain of who knows how many victims that shared similar horrible ends, worst of all, not knowing which of my friends, my sisters are next. Among those we lost, which one’s news could reach all? Whose murderer received the sentence they deserved? No one should fool themselves. We can believe in the sincerity of a struggle only if we see a murdered trans sex worker’s photo on the posters of a struggle against hate crimes. No one should feel safe either, no one should ask “why doesn’t it happen to me then?”. You can never know who the hate will strike. And hate has many excuses. Therefore, there are no “but”s in the struggle against hate. The victims can not be divided into “innocents” or “pure ones” against “the ones who had it coming”.

One last remark goes out to the women who remain silent on Hande Kader’s murder: I’m sure you would curse her for being a trans, for being a sex worker, you would despise her for selling her body, had you known about her when she was alive.

This is the main reason for your silence anyway, do not fool yourself nor us. But remember, sales is a two-way street. Anything that is sold is on sale as long as there is a buyer. Those that drag Hande Kader and other trans workers to this life, those that do not leave any other path and those who profit from this with an insatiable greed, are your men, your husbands, your brothers, your sons, your fathers, do not look elsewhere. (I don’t know if you are aware but you are as guilty as them, with your prejudice, your false convictions, your cliches of morality and dignity.)

Men share your bed, your meal, your house after being with many trans sex workers like Hande Kader. While you keep believing that you are “cleaner”, “more innocent”, “more virtuous” than Hande Kader, the murderer lives in your house. Pray that they may be caught before they do one tenth of what they did to her, to you. I’m waiting with curiosity, let’s see which of one of your houses will he come out of.