Kıvılcım Arat, LGBTI activist, was forced to leave her home of five years due to continuous attacks from a group of young men living in her neighborhood.
Source: Çiçek Tahaoğlu, “Trans Kadına ‘Bu Mahalle Gezici Değil’ Saldırısı”, September 21, 2016, BiaNet, http://bianet.org/bianet/lgbti/178863-trans-kadina-bu-mahalle-gezici-degil-saldirisi
Kıvılcım Arat is a board member of the Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association as well as the spokesperson of the Democratic Women’s Movement.
She was forced to abandon her home in Beyoğlu due to fear for her personal safety. She has moved to another city and is temporarily living in an acquaintance’s house. She plans to work and save some money before returning to Istanbul and seeking new accommodations.
Due to Arat’s concern for her safety, we cannot include the name of the neighborhood or her current whereabouts in the piece.
“They have screenshots of my news interviews”
Arat told the story of how a group of young men harassed and threatened her on her way in and out of the neighborhood:
“I have been living in the same neighborhood for the last five years. I had no previous problems with these kids. About a month ago, just as I was entering my home, they stopped me, “Wait for a second.” I tried to enter the apartment building but one of them was at the door, both holding but also trying to block the others’ way in.
“They showed me screenshots of my interviews with bianet, Jinha and İMC TV broadcasts before shouting ‘this is not a Gezi-spirited neighborhood.’ They went on to shout sexist slurs and threaten me with rape. ‘Nobody will be able to save you from us,’ they told me.”
“You will never be on TV again”
“I managed to walk into my home then but they continued their threats in the following days, adding ‘you will never be on tv again.’ They would bring their own foldable chairs outside and sit there in the middle of the neighborhood. For a few days, I asked for help from my neighbors to get home. They escorted me from the end of the street to my apartment building.
“10 days after the first attack, I and a friend of mine from the solidarity association came home. They were waiting at the entrance. It was a tense moment but we managed to walk in the building. After that we heard a commotion outside. As a trans friend of ours was entering the building, the group attacked them shouting, ‘Whore! Is that your pimp?’
“Four days after this event, they threw bottles at me. I could not take it anymore, so I transferred my rent contract. My whole life is upside down. I need to find a new home now.”
Alderman tried to evict Arat from her apartment
Arat also claimed that the neighborhood alderman had taken part in the events, and that the alderman had tried to evict her from her apartment:
“When my neighbors went to the neighborhood alderman’s office for some paperwork, the alderman asked them for my landlord’s number. When they asked why, he claimed that I was a sex worker and added ‘we do not know who comes in and out of the apartment.’ My neighbors reacted to this statement and told the alderman, ‘we have been living in the same building for years. We have not seen any strangers come and go. Furthermore, she was attacked. She cannot come to her own home for a week now.’”
When the neighbors could not convince the alderman, the alderman of a near neighborhood, Çiğdem Nalbantoğlu, intervened and reminded that it is not within an alderman’s rights or duties to evict residents and persuaded against calling Arat’s landlord. The alderman later said ‘Kıvılcım Hanım (Arat), should come to visit us for some tea.’
“They attacked a 60 year old woman, they could easily kill me”
Arat added that she was not the only target of these men in her neighborhood:
“A Romanian woman lives across the street. Since her apartment is on the ground floor, you can see her television. They keep harassing her, saying ‘why don’t you turn your tv off during the call to prayer?’
“On July 16th, they attacked a woman who lived here for years with her two kids. The woman had just asked these people to be quiet. They threatened her. The woman had to escape back into her building. They yelled ‘traitors’ on the street.
“I am not safe on that street. They behave with such impunity. Anyone who attacks a 60 year old woman who abides by all norms of society, would not shy away from killing me.”
Arat, who says she had to leave Istanbul in a hurry, will file criminal complaints, through her lawyer, with the prosecutor’s office for public nuisance, sexual harassment, intimidation, using threats and intimidation to intervene in others’ way of life.