Istanbul LGBTT Activist: “Assailants say ‘you can murder fags, there is no penalty for that’”

7 trans women were assaulted in Istanbul in the last month. Kıvılcım Arat of Istanbul LGBTI said: “It is the government, which avoids producing legislation [against hate crimes] and which issues press statements that point people out as targets, who is responsible for the increase in assaults.”

Source: Çiçek Tahaoğlu, “Saldırganlar ‘İbne Öldürmenin Cezası Yok’ Diyor” (“Assailants say ‘you can murder fags, there is no penalty for that’”), Bianet, 1 June 2015, http://www.bianet.org/bianet/lgbti/164977-saldirganlar-ibne-oldurmenin-cezasi-yok-diyor

7 trans women were assaulted in Istanbul in the last month [May 2015].

Some assaults occurred out of nowhere while women were walking on the street, some occurred in women’s homes. Other trans women who heard that trans women have been assaulted rushed to the hospitals and waited outside the ER in solidarity, even when they did not know the victim.

Yet, the attacks continue and very few of the women apply to rights organizations regarding what they experienced and initiate legal procedures.

Istanbul LGBTI [sic- correct name Istanbul LGBTT], one of the organizations working for trans rights, reported that only three trans women applied [for support] following the attacks. Two of them did not continue the necessary legal procedures afterwards; one is waiting for her recovery.

Why is it that these women, who struggle for their lives every day, do not engage in a legal struggle? Kıvılcım Arat, member of the board of directors of Istanbul LGBTI [sic], responded to this question: “Because they do not trust the judiciary.”

“They are reluctant [to pursue cases] because they do not trust the judiciary. Activists need to intervene at that stage. Unfortunately, that is not always possible.”

Arat tied the high number of assaults during the month to the statements by government authorities. While they have avoided issuing statements regarding LGBTIs up until now, government authorities have begun bringing the issue to the forefront as the elections are approaching. Arat reminds us of the statements by President Erdoğan, “We do not put forth homosexual candidates,” and by Prime Minister Davutoğlu, “Homosexuals caused the destruction of the tribe of Lot.”

“Ever since the HDP [which has an LGBTI candidate and actively campaigns for LGBTI rights -Trans.] started its election campaign, the statements by government authorities about LGBTIs have been encouraging people to commit hate crimes. Recently, following the statement by the President, two trans women were assaulted.”

“Where else do you see police stations turn back wounded people”

Arat reported that the broken way the judiciary responds [to these crimes], in addition to the statements by government authorities, encourage the perpetrators.

“For example one of our friends from the board of directors had their throat slashed and burgled in Kasımpaşa. When they went to the police station after the hospital, no legal proceedings were initiated. The license plate number of the car belonging to the people who tried to kill our friend was known, yet the police dismissed our friend, saying ‘okay we will take care of this,’ without even taking the victim’s statement.”

Arat said that law enforcement officers’ approach is a summary of the approach of the state to the issue, and added “where else in the world would you see a person, with their throat slashed, be turned back without any proceedings being initiated.”

Arat said that the perpetrators were found through the organization’s efforts but they were released without bail by the court on duty. Arat added: “Unfortunately, nothing will come out of that court case either.”

“They [LEOs] do everything they can so that he [the perpetrator] goes free”

Arat reported that law enforcement officers have the tendency to protect the perpetrators in crimes committed against trans people:

“They extorted and tried to kill another friend in Tarlabaşı. Yet the police investigated the case as one of bodily harm. In other words, they do everything they can in order to free the murderers, and if that fails, to give them the least possible punishment.

We see in courts that all of the perpetrators of murders against trans victims defend themselves saying “I thought she was a woman,” “she offered me anal sex,” or “she messed with my man’s honor.”

Arat added: “Those who direct the perpetrators [in their legal defense] are police officers themselves. Police officers tell the perpetrators what to do in order to take advantage of provocation reductions while they are taking their statement at the police station.”

“Currently, we have no legal grounds”

Arat emphasized that LGBTIs should be recognized legally in order to be able to struggle against hate crimes.

“The [legal] recognition of the trans identity, the establishment of the hate crime statute, and the revision of the articles of constitution on equality are necessary. If the articles we demand are introduced into law, we will be able to initiate court cases on the basis of those laws and to pressure the judiciary through them. At least. a person who slashes throats will not be released at the police station.

“However, not only do we not have legal grounds, we are also up against decisions tainted by the personal biases of transphobic judges and prosecutors.”

“They think there is no punishment”

Arat reported that trans become open targets when left unprotected by laws.

“An assailants tries to strangulate a friend of ours. Neighbors rush to the rescue after all the yelling and screaming. Here is what the assailant says to our friend: ‘I needed money. My friends told me that there is no penalty for killing fags.’ The child’s goal was to kill our friend and steal whatever he could from her house. And our friend who was assaulted did not file a complaint because the child apologized. This person might go ahead and kill another LGBTI individual tomorrow, thinking that there is no penalty for that.”

“Not making legal arrangements is the equivalent of saying ‘it is okay for you to be murdered’”

Arat said that the government, which does not pass legislation that guarantees LGBTIs’ right to life, is an accomplice in these crimes:

“We, as Istanbul LGBTI [sic], perceive the government as a direct perpetrator of hate assaults. This is not a harsh criticism. They disregarded our calls for legislative arrangements to date, refused our demands. This is a clear call for massacre. It means ‘it is okay for you to be murdered, we will not punish [the assailants].’”

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