Tolga Yalçın On Figen’s Death: What if She Called?

Source: Tolga Yalçın, “Ya aradıysa?”, (“What if she called?”),, 6 September 2014,

What if she called?

She was my friend. She had told me so. “You are my friend,” she had said. I was interning at [LGBTI association] Kaos. I was excited. A little nervous as well. I had been sent to [LGBTT association] Pink Life, with the words, “Go, have a look, let me know what you find” to follow up on Umut G.’s Case.* (Case? Is that a social service term? Would that make me a case worker? I was actually Umut’s friend) We arranged meetings that lasted hours. She felt helpless. So much so that she was ready to like even the pigeons on that balcony. She was in shock. I am in shock now. The colonel-militarism had abducted her love, we knew this, we knew this, we knew this, but no one would listen. The colonel had abducted her Umut from her, the colonel had abducted the man she loved.

“I love him very much, I cannot bear him gone,” she had told me, on that balcony. She used to smoke long Marlboros. She would offer me those cigarettes of hers’ too. I wouldn’t accept, for she would smoke a lot and I feared that she would run out if I did. I wish now that her pack hadn’t run out. I was hungry then. Unemployed, or at any rate, about to be unemployed in a few months. I was in love, as deeply as she was in love with her Umut. Her lover had been abducted by his colonel father, heterosexism had claimed mine. “You will recover, you are my friend, I am here for you,” she told me then. I had smiled. This woman, who was undergoing great tumult herself, smoking long Marlboros to calm herself, was able to concern herself with my lover. But she was telling me that it would pass, looking at the pigeons. I came to know her then.

She used to often come to a queer bar, now closed, where I had started work as a waiter. She would reproach, me saying, “Tolga, I cannot ever reach you when I call; your phone is always off. Don’t turn it off.” She offered to find me a job. She was attached to life, so much so that she gave hope to others.  At least, I thought so. “Are you trying to make a sex worker out of me, girl?” I would joke with her. “One becomes a sex worker by choosing to become one, not because someone suggests it to you,” she would reply. She was my friend. Generous even in giving tips, even, as she was, hopeless of ever getting news about Umut.

I graduated. My efforts at finding work in Ankara having come to nought, I “returned home.” I did manage to find work, in time, though. Working with children in a camp for refugees. It was enjoyable. I did not hear from her. I did not call her either. I cannot help, knowing now that she is no more, cursing myself, wondering if she might perhaps have called, only to find my phone switched off. Figen is no more. At first, I had heard that a transsexual woman had been murdered. I read the news, without paying much attention. It was only later that I came across an article that mentioned that the victim was the lover of Umut G., who had been disappeared by the military. I was now a public servant. I had left my job at that camp. My lips trembling, a knot in my throat, a knot, a rattle in my throat, I began to cry. The victim R. could be none other than Figen, who had once said, “I am your friend,” to me.

She had, apparently, gone to Mersin. She wasn’t far from where I was, we could have met, if she had called, had she called, perhaps? “Is it a crime to love?” she had asked me once. Apparently, it is a crime. She paid the price with her life. She left me wondering anguished and thinking “what if she called?” She will never look at the pigeons, smoking those long Marlboros again.  She will never walk between Kizilay and Demirtepe again. And she will never again, walking on that road, say, “You have a good heart. Look, you will forget.” I am terribly sorry, Figen. As Christ said, that the world is not free enough to bear our colors, for not succeeding in this, for not being there, in case you had called. I am terribly sorry.

Editor’s Note:

On 3 January 2013, 20-year-old Umut Göktuğ Söyler applied to the police for protection after his father’s physical assaults. Umut’s father was a retired colonel in the Turkish Armed Forces. Even though  protection was granted and Umut called for help when he understood that he was under threat, the house where he lived with his lover was raided by the father and uncle on 22 February 2013 and he was kidnapped at gunpoint and went missing. On 29 May 2013, a letter of resignation was sent to Kaos GL Association though he did not work there. Law enforcement officers did not adequately protect him or search for him and Peace and Democracy Party MP Sebahat Tuncel submitted parliamentary questions on the issue to the Minister of Interior Muammer Güler.

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