Author: elcordobeslerinbesincisi

In the North of Cyprus: Neither my fight, nor my life is over!

The 17th of May Organization Committee painted rainbows over Northern Cyprus

Source: “In the North of Cyprus: Neither my fight, nor my life is over!” (“Kıbrıs’ın kuzeyinde: Ne kavgam bitti, ne sevdam!”), KaosGL, May 16,2018, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=25821

For 3 years the committee of the 17th of May Organization has gathered on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia and colored the streets of North Cyprus with rainbows.

In 2016, the committee answered those who said “the community is not ready” with “We are ready”; in the previous year, they gathered together saying “Yet once more!”.

The committee consists of Accept-LGBT Cyprus, Mediterranean Sea Europe Art NGO (EMAA), Road to Freedom, Baraka Cultural Centre, CTP youth Organization, East and Southeast Cultural NGO, DAU-Unicorn, People’s Party-TCEK, Women’s Education Collective (KEK), Pir Sultan Abdal Cultural NGO of Cyprus, Cypriot Turk Human Rights Foundation, Cyprus Queer NGO, Initiative of Girne, Magusa Youth Centre (MAGEM), Socialist Democratic Party, New Internationalist Left (NEDA) and YKP-Fem Organization. This year, they took to the streets with this slogan: “Neither my fight, nor my life is over”.

The LGBTI+s and independent activists’ march in Lefkosa started from the front of the Dereboyu Suitex and ended in Uray street.

After the march, the committee made a statement in which they asked for punishments to discourage homophobic, transphobic, and other discriminatory behaviors saying, “We support the need for radical changes which accept diversity in family, health, labor and education policies; reminding that laws can only be efficient if they resonate with the society.”

 

“This judge’s conduct is against the law!”

On May 7th, a judge shared a petition for a gender transition lawsuit submitted to his court on his social media accounts and mocked the applicant. Pink Life Association filed a complaint to the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) about the incident.

Source: “This judge’s conduct is against the law!” (“Hakimin Bu Eylemi Suç ve İlkelere Aykırıdır!”), Pembe Hayat, May, 11, 2018, http://www.pembehayat.org/haberler.php?id=1747

On May 10th Emrah Şahin, the lawyer for Pink Life Association, filed a complaint against the judge who published a petition submitted to his court on Instagram and ridiculed the applicant. Şahin states that such conduct of the judge is not only criminal but also goes against the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct, the Law for Judges and Prosecutors as well as the Principles of Ethical Conduct for Public Servants:

“Such social media posts by a judge who should be protecting the principles of equality, impartiality and integrity, not only weakens the faith of our citizens in the impartiality of the justice system but also hurts their dignity and pride. Therefore as Pink Life Association, we filed a complaint to the Council of Judges and Prosecutors about this judge regarding his actions which are not fit with the profession and dignity of of the profession.”

Şahin also suggests that the judge should be investigated and believes that public servants in the judiciary harm LGBTI+ individual’s faith in the Turkish justice system :

“The judiciary system has a crucial importance for the perpetuity of the state, it is required to treat all citizens equally. This requirement is not an ideal or a wish but a rule, warranted by international conventions, our Constitution and regulations alike.  These ugly posts shared on a personal social media account of a member of the judiciary is detrimental to the society as well as to other judges and prosecutors who are loyal to their duties.”

“If this judge is sentenced because of our complaint, it will be a step forward in ensuring that such incidents will not be repeated.”

LGBTI prisoner kept in isolation in type T prison of Erzincan stated that they have reached the level of committing suicide and asked to be transferred, in a letter they wrote

The LGBTI prisoner who has been kept in isolation stated that they have reached the level of committing suicide in a letter they wrote to the Civil Society in the Penal System Foundation (CISST) and asked for help in order to be referred to a prison where more LGBTI prisoners are being held.

Source: Cansu Pişkin, “Tecritte tutulan LGBTİ mahpus: İntiharın eşiğine geldim,” Evrensel, May 8, 2018, https://www.evrensel.net/haber/351991/tecritte-tutulan-lgbti-mahpus-intiharin-esigine-geldim

Even though they are a criminal convict, they have been kept in solitary cells for political prisoners and convicts with aggravated sentences. The LGBTI prisoner wrote in their letter:

“After I came to the type T prison of Erzincan, I stayed in the infirmary room for five days. After that, I was put in a solitary cell where political prisoners and convicts with aggravated sentences are held. I’m only given one hour of leisure time. I’m not a political or aggravated prisoner; I’m a law offender. I don’t have access to the yard, nor do I have a place to hang my washed clothes. The bathroom and the shower are in the same place. I’m washing my dishes in the toilet. I suffer from chronic asthmatic bronchitis. I’m experiencing a violation of human rights. There is no one I can talk to, no other LGBTI prisoner. I’m psychologically drained. I’ve come to the stage of committing suicide.

Refusal to accommodate an LGBTI prisoner

This LGBTI prisoner has been making a request to be transferred to another prison since last year, and all their requests have been left unanswered. They write:

“First, I was supposed to be sent to the type L prison of Balikesir, but since there was no other LGBTI prisoner there my transfer request was not approved. Later came the type L prison of Rize and the type T No. 2 closed prison of Kayseri, respectively. They did not agree to the transfer, answering that they couldn’t accommodate such LGBTI prisoners. Later, two of our LGBTI friends were transferred to No. 2 prison of Kayseri. I was told there were LGBTI prisoners in the prison of Erzincan, which means I was literally tricked.”

The LGBTI prisoner briefly talked about how unjustly they are being treated, and that they had to spend about 2.000 Liras for the transfer procedures. The prisoner indicated they suffer from chronic asthmatic bronchitis and drew attention to the severe violation of human rights that they are experiencing. The prisoner said their family is living in Aydin-Kusadasi and due to the distance and health issues they can’t come visit them; they are asking for help:

“My father has undergone a heart operation; his situation is critical. Same for my mother, they are old. I have a disabled older brother who is in Kayseri. This means that for them it’s very hard to come here. I’m feeling worse psychologically day by day. I’m crammed in a small room. I’m supposed to be kept as an inmate in good conditions for seven years. I don’t want to jeopardise my case. I want to carry out the rest of my punishment where other queers in the same situation as me are being kept. I want assistance in order to be transferred for security reasons.”

Following the prisoner’s letter, CISST (Inmates in Penitentiary System) has taken action and applied for their referral to the authorities.

 

“The Turkish Constitutional Court is concerned about public order, not the well-being of trans individuals!”

Lawyers continue to evaluate Constitutional Court verdicts regarding gender transitioning. Demir, an attorney, suggests that “ ‘Being deprived of the ability to procreate’ is no longer required but the ID card change necessitates a surgery in any case. The Constitutional Court is only concerned with public order”. Kara, also an attorney says that public order is perceived in this case as the imposition of the binary gender regime and that “court rulings can not be based on speculations”.

 

Source: “The Turkish Constitutional Court is concerned about public order, not the well-being of trans individuals!” (“AYM’nin kaygısı transların sağlığı değil kamu düzeni!”), Yıldız Tar, kaosgl.org, March 21, 2018,  http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=25388

Lawyers continue to evaluate Constitutional Court’s two seperate rulings regarding Article 40 of Civil Code which regulates the gender transitioning process. [Translator’s note: Article 40 regulates the requirements to have a person’s gender changed legally in civil registry, which necessitates a gender reassignment surgery. See this article for background information.]

The Constitutional Court (AYM) has abolished the requirement to “be deprived of the ability to procreate” in order to gain “the permission for gender reassignment surgery”. Regarding the requirement to have surgery in order to change the records in the state registry the court stated “[It] is necessary for public order, the process has to be regulated by the state”.

But what do these rulings mean? Attorneys Hatice Demir and Hayriye Karar interpreted the rulings for KaosGL.

Rights violations will continue as long as “the requirement to have surgery” remains!

Demir states that the abolishment of the requirement “to be deprived of ability to procreate” is good news yet the rights violations will continue as long as the requirement to “have surgery compliant with medical purpose and methods” to have registry records changed remains:

“A trans subject files a lawsuit to ‘be granted the permission to have gender reassignment surgery’ after using hormones for approximately 6 months under medical supervision. The law stipulates four conditions for this lawsuit to be approved: Being unmarried, being over 18, a health council report and being deprived of the ability to procreate. Among the new conditions, only the requirement to be ‘deprived of the ability to procreate’ is removed.”

What happens at court?

The law had stipulated that “a person cannot become ‘permanently deprived of the ability to procreate’ by using hormones. A person can continue to ‘be able to procreate’ after stopping the use of hormones, under ordinary circumstances.

To briefly summarize the situation as it used to be: You had to undergo surgery in order to be permanently deprived of the ability to procreate yet you had to prove that you are ’deprived of the ability to procreate’ to undergo that very same surgery. Under these rules many cases were being rejected. We had a very difficult time explaining this to the judges.

The Constitutional Court did not recognise this issue as a conflict within the law but has acted to resolve it. What this ruling says is ‘We already have the requirement for a surgery to have the registry changed on the second clause of Article 40 of Civil Code. We don’t need to create an obligation through a condition on the first clause of the same article.’ “

The ruling is due to the fact that court permission does not ‘directly affect the registry’!

Demir emphasizes that the Constitutional Court gave the ruling due to the fact that it does not regard the court order for gender transitioning as an “issue which directly affects the public space and registry”: “When you get a court permission to go ahead with the gender transitioning, you can’t just apply to the Civil Registry.  The Constitutional Court abolished the requirement to ‘be deprived of the ability to procreate’ as the change in registry is already dependent on the surgery on the second clause of Article 40”.

Trans individuals are still seen as marginals

Demir defines the Constitutional Court’s ruling for the requirement for surgery in order for someone to change their gender in the civil registry as a “horrible verdict” and added:

“The fact that the ruling persistently uses the concept of biological gender and that this biological gender can be changed ‘only in exceptional cases’ show that the Constitutional Court regards transsexuality as a marginal identity. The text repeatedly uses the words ‘exceptional’, ‘biological gender’… The ruling explains the subjection of the transitioning process to state regulation based on it being ‘irrevocable’ and involving ‘health risks’. Yet what we can gather from the rest of the text and its conclusion, the Constitutional Court is concerned only with public order and social welfare, not with the physical and psychological health of trans subjects.”

The attitude of the higher courts has not changed over the last 30 years

Demir stresses that the Constitutional Court is claiming that ‘a change in the registry without surgery will disrupt the public order’ in its ruling and says “The most horrifying part of the ruling is that it states the risk that such change will bring the possibility for an ‘unjust benefit for trans individuals from legal regulations which aim to protect women”.

Demir reminds us that 30 years ago the first Court of Cassation rulings regarding the gender transitioning in Turkey had phrases such as “what if men change their gender to avoid mandatory military service” and says that “30 years have passed yet the approach of our higher courts has not changed at all”.

Binary gender regime is accepted as public order

The attorney Hayriye Kara draws attention to the fact that ‘being deprived of the ability to procreate’ is not required anymore  because the rights and obligations of Turkish citizens are based on ‘biological gender’. Kara states that the vote against the ruling for the “correction of the gender slot on civil registry records” is important:

“The vote notes take the demands of people’s struggle into consideration. Yet if we set these notes aside, the reasoning of the verdict is horrifying. It clearly states that the imposed binary gender regime is the public order. The ruling in sum suggests ‘gender is defined by biological and physiological features as well as the physical appearance; rights and obligations are defined by this gender’. It means to say that ‘ People have a right to change their gender but their affirmed gender is recognized legally only after they obtain the defined masculine and feminine physical qualities after completing surgery’. The psycho-social dimension of the gender is not even discussed. The line of reasoning which justifies all sorts of state intervention on individual bodies to protect the binary gender was once more confirmed.
Courts can not base their rulings on speculation!

Kara criticized the dependence of legal recognition on surgical operation and stated: “The court claims that legal recognition and a correction of genders without surgery might be ‘abused, rights reserved for women can be used and people might avoid certain obligations [i.e mandatory military service]’. There is no ground for the allegation of ‘abusing gender transitioning to enjoy rights and to avoid obligations’. This is clearly speculative. Courts can not base their rulings on speculation. This is a hypothetical incident. What kind of data does the Constitutional Court base its presumption? If the court actually checked the data, it would have recognized the intervention as against the right to live and the bodily integrity of the trans individuals in Turkey.  There is institutional discrimination against trans individuals. There is no state protection against domestic and social violence against trans people. The ruling has no discussion of these facts yet states [gender transitioning without surgery] might be ‘abused’. This is speculative. It is horrifying and unlawful.”

Regarding a similar case, Constitutional Court Deputy Chair Engin Yıldırım’s note attached to his vote against the Martial Penal Code, Kara said: “This is an important text which follows the latest developments in international law. It is also remarkable that six judges including Yıldırım, have voted favourably towards LGBTI individuals. Yet the ruling of the court means othering is officialized”

 

Activist trans woman Demhat Aksoy finishes her hunger strike

Trans refugee Demhat Aksoy had announced her hunger strike with a social media message on April 30. Aksoy put an end to her strike today [May 8].

Source: “Activist trans woman Demhat Aksoy finishes her hunger strike” (“Demhat Aksoy Açlık Grevini Sonlandırdı”), Pembe Hayat, May 8, 2018, http://www.pembehayat.org/haberler.php?id=1742

Aksoy had announced her hunger strike on April 30 against the length of the asylum waiting period, low standards of living and maltreatment she was exposed to. Aksoy had explained her reasons for the hunger strike to Pembe Hayat [Pink Life]:

“This has been discussed many times but never put into practice. The suggested solutions were not humane, just like the policies they [authorities] practise. When I was left hanging and unanswered, this was the final straw and I announced my hunger strike. ”

“ Your needs can be diverse as a trans individual. Make-up material is very important for us. Yet we can’t afford it with the money we receive.”

“We have general demands in my declaration. Because we are all humans no matter how we identify, and we have needs. These needs include those specific to my gender identity. But I do not demand all this only for myself. It is a demand to expose the hypocrisy of Europe’s refugee policy and to live under more humane conditions.”

Meetings are underway, demands will be met

Aksoy had meetings with the Swedish Migration Office and Sweden’s LGBTI+ organizations while her action continued. Aksoy stated that her personal needs specific to her gender identity, such as laser epilation and make-up material will be provided. Regarding the other demands, she reported that they have come to an agreement; to have periodical meetings with the agenda of improving the conditions for refugees, after a meeting with the Migration Office on Friday.

As she came to an agreement with authorities, Aksoy announced the end of her strike.

“People do not migrate for no reason!”

We spoke to former Pembe Hayat [Pink Life] employee Demhat Aksoy upon her decision to end her hunger strike. She thanked everyone who supported her, and invited everyone to continue struggling for refugee rights:

“Once more I have come to understand that struggle is our fate. Wherever we may be, whichever status or identity, we struggle, and I am proud of this struggle. I call on to LGBTI+, women and young human rights activists : Let’s fight more! We may all have to migrate one day, because no one migrates for no reason!”

Police violence against trans women in İskitler, Ankara

Source: “Police violence against trans women in İskitler, Ankara” (“Ankara İskitler’de Trans Kadınlara Polis Şiddeti”) , Pembe Hayat, April 26, 2018,  http://www.pembehayat.org/haberler.php?id=1724

On the evening of April 26, 2018, trans sex workers were subjected to police violence while working in the İskitler neighborhood of Ankara. A police officer assaulted 2 trans women sex workers and a client after shooting in the air.

The systematic violence against trans women working in İskitler was initiated by an order from the Governorship of Ankara in 2016 and such violence has manifested itself recently. Trans women sex workers who have been exposed to systematic harassment, maltreatment and torture by the law enforcers were threatened with firearms last night [April 26].

A police officer approached a trans woman inside a vehicle and punched a male client and assaulted him with his baton after taking him out of the vehicle. Then the officer forced the refugee trans woman out of the car and started hitting her with his radio. The officer continued his assault by shouting at the trans woman and shooting in the air. The police officer retreated after confrontation with other trans women who arrived at the scene, but assaulted again the initially attacked sex worker trans woman who followed the officer. The police officer also attacked a trans woman who was recording the incident on her phone, kicking her hand after telling her ‘she is not allowed to record’.

Following the incident, the police officer attempted to destroy the evidence by collecting the casings. Meanwhile, trans women called the police and demanded a squad, explaining the incident. A squad arrived the scene, yet took off after calming everyone down and without undertaking any official procedures.

Police violence against trans women in İskitler, Ankara has been increasing. On the evening of April 10, a police officer assaulted a trans women after forcing her out of a vehicle passing through the neighbourhood. Two days prior to the incident on April 8th, police harassed trans women, telling them that will not be allowed to work in İskitler.

Trans women say that they hesitate to file complaints and that they do not have sufficient confidence in the justice system following these incidents of violence perpetrated by the police. In their reasoning trans women point to an overall negligence of law enforcers in other cases of violence, aside from repeated harassment and violent at the hands of the police.

A group of assailants on April 5 in İskitler attacked trans women with sticks. Trans women went to İsmetpaşa Precinct to press charges, but the police tried to pacify them to avoid any charges and were neglectful of their complaints.

Pink Life’s reports on the recent cases of violence in İskitler indicate that there have been cases of sexual harassments and especially against clients examples of physical torture.

 

Trans activist Demhat Aksoy on hunger strike to protest her conditions as an asylum seeker in Sweden

Demhat Aksoy, a trans woman activist who has recently moved to Sweden seeking asylum, has started a hunger strike to draw attention to her living conditions as an asylum seeker. We are sharing her message below, explaining why she has chose to strike. 

 

“This is a ‘ Hunger Strike ‘ text
Hello, I am Demhat, a trans-woman.
I have migrated to Sweden because my life was in danger and I wanted to have a more peaceful life. Transphobia, harassment and violence was part of my daily life, so though one does not get used to those- I know them well. However, here is one more thing that I have to re-encounter here in Sweden which is called racism.

By all means, the problem is not only racism. If you are a refugee in the asylum process, you are only allowed an isolated life barred from society, away from urban settings. Maybe that is kind of a life most of us could not find; you are settled to a flat, you are given money for the food. What about socialization, social cohesion or work, don’t we need them as well? But there is no place for any of these in the asylum process. There is no limit to ‘waiting’, no definite timing. Some waits for 8 months, some waits for 2 years, some for 5. Not all waitings have a good ending – some can be deported! But this is our lives which are damned to uncertainty.

Life during asylum process…
Actually there is no life during this process. You try to create a daily routine for yourself and this routine is probably the same for everyone who are in the asylum process. We are all living in small towns far from the city center. There is no opportunity for social activities. You get up in the morning, have some breakfast, sleep again, get up again, cook for dinner and sleep again – if you can. When you attempt to register for gym, you cannot – you do not have a right to do it. Because you do not have an ID card. Indeed, if you do not have an ID card, you do not have any rights. You have no rights to get mails, you have no rights to go to gym, you have no rights to buy some internet data, you have no rights to enter entertainment centers, you have no rights to buy certain stuff like mobile phones, cars etc. Indeed, you have no rights other than breathing. They want to see your ID card for any matter and refugees in the asylum process do not have access to ID cards. There are quite a lot of questions straining my mind, but the most important one is the following:
Is our existence identified with ID cards?
Beyond a piece of paper, I am a trans who escaped from death and who wants to live. But it really hurts that I am abandoned to a kind of social death in this country!

What can I do with 2000 Kr?
When I was settled here, they started to give us a certain amount of money for food. We do not pay for the rent, electricity or heating and yes that’s brilliant indeed. However, we are human after all. We have to buy hygiene products, personal daycare stuff like wax, razors, shampoo etc. If you are a trans woman, make-up is very crucial and you have to find out to cover that with the same amount as well.
In the waiting process, you drink, eat and sleep. That is all. But we do need social rights, private spaces. Considering all these, I have started my Hunger Strike on April 30, 2018, at 18.00. My decision is certain and it is a political act!
The Swedish Immigration Authority is in charge of anything that may hurt me during the process!
I will end the action if immigration authorities makes this situation more humane and regulates the following matters.

Demands:
Stop deportation of LGBTI+ refugees
Minimise the waiting process and standardise
LMA cards to have equal opportunities with IDs
More allowances for personal needs
New regulations on trans* medical process

Despite everything, love will win!
Refuges rights are human rights!
Demhat (Bella) Aksoy”