LGBTI Inmates

The prison system and issues of LGBTI inmates in Turkey

In Solitary Confinement For The Past Five Years And In Prison For Twenty-Four Years Buse Is Deprived Of Her Right To Surgery

Buse Aydın has been in prison for twenty-four years, has been kept in solitary confinement for the past five years and is not allowed to undergo gender affirmation surgery.

Source: “In solitary confinement for the past five years and in prison for twenty-four years Buse is deprived of her right to surgery!”, (Son 5 yılı tecritte 24 yıldır cezaevinde olan trans mahkum Buse’nin ameliyat hakkı elinden alındı!), gorulmustur.org, February 7, 2019, http://gorulmustur.org/icerik/son-5-yili-tecritte-24-yildir-cezaevinde-olan-trans-mahkum-busenin-ameliyat-hakki-elinden

Buse Aydın is a trans prisoner sentenced to life imprisonment. She has been in prison for twenty-four years. Even though she is trans, she is kept prisoner in Tekirdağ Men’s Prison. She has been in solitary confinement for the past five years because she is trans and on the grounds that the prison cannot “ensure her safety.”

Buse has been in solitary confinement for the past five years at Tekirdağ prison deprived of all her social rights and has been in prison for twenty-four years. Buse’s friend, Diren Çoşkun, spoke with us about Buse’s condition and said that she is deprived of all social rights and is not allowed to see the other prisoners for “security” reasons.

The right to surgery not granted

Buse Aydın wrote a petition for her gender affirmation surgery 2,5 years ago to the Ministry of Justice. She received reports from the Training and Research Hospital and from the Forensic Medicine Institute stating, “gender affirmation is necessary for her mental health.” However, even though there are two reports from two different government agencies, the prosecution wrote to the Ministry of Justice questioning whether the surgery is a gender affirmation surgery, ignoring the previous decisions and sending the file back to the Forensic Medicine Institute.

Buse Aydın is not provided with the essential needs that correspond with her gender identity on the grounds that she has a blue [ie male] national identity card.

A second decision from FMI

Upon the Ministry of Justice sending the file back to FMI (Forensic Medicine Institute) and asking whether this surgery was “vital”, even though before FMI had stated that “gender affirmation surgery is necessary for Buse Aydın’s mental health”, they said, “it is not vital.”

“There are no photos of Buse”

Buse’s friend and trans woman Diren Çoşkun, who shared the same cell with Buse Aydın for some time, said that after she ended her own hunger strike, Buse too started a hunger strike for her right to surgery, but that then she had to stop. Buse Aydın has been in prison for twenty-four years and right now she is forced to stay in a single cell in a men’s prison.

Çoşkun said Buse’s only wish is to have her gender affirmation surgery and to be transferred to a women’s prison. She has been in solitary confinement for the past five years and she might be in prison for at least another fifteen years. Attorney Hatice Demir of SPOD, the LGBTI organization said: “You haven’t seen Buse. There are no photos of her in social media. You do not know her. We don’t know her voice or her laughter…We haven’t come face to face with her. This is why it is even harder to have her voice be heard, this is why her voice is not amplified…Buse only wants the court’s decision to be implemented. She wants justice! Please be her voice, please hear her…”

Buse Aydın’s friends have been using the hashtags #BuseninSesiOlalım, #BuseyeSesVer for her voice be heard.

Trans woman prisoner Buse is on hunger strike again

Lawyer Eren Keskin has announced via her social media account that trans woman prisoner Buse resumed her  hunger strike on January 31st.

Source: Trans Woman Prisoner Buse is on hunger strike again (Trans mahpus Buse tekrar ölüm orucunda) February 13, 2019 http://www.pembehayat.org/haberler/detay/2065/trans-mahpus-buse-tekrar-olum-orucunda

Prisoner and trans woman Buse, who was given a life sentence and is currently kept in Tekirdağ Prison, began a hunger strike in June last year because her access to  healthcare had been denied. When Buse’s lawyer Eren Keskin announced via her social media accounts that Buse began a hunger strike, she added “Trans woman Buse who is in Tekirdağ Prison has been on hunger strike for 21 days since her gender affirmation surgery is not being performed. She is asking for awareness.”

Buse, who started a hunger strike due to the fact that her gender reassignment surgery is not being performed, paused her resistance on the 38th day of her hunger strike, with support from outside the prison.

On hunger strike again
According to the social media post of Lawyer Eren Keskin via her Twitter account, trans woman prisoner Buse resumed the hunger strike on January 31st, because the Ministry of Health has prevented her access to adequate healthcare .

“I want to be set free from the prison in my body.”
Lawyer Eren Keskin, who had previously made a statement to a Pink Life Association reporter about the case process of trans woman prisoner Diren Coşkun, who undertook a hunger strike in past months in order to have her demands met, also made a statement about the process of Buse’s case. Diren Coşkun and Buse were previously in the same prison wing.

Keskin told Buse that she can file for a retrial since there were no lawyers present throughout her trial. As a response to this Buse said “I want to be set free from the prison of my body”.

23 years in prison
Derya Özata of Kadınlarla Dayanışma Vakfı (Women’s Solidarity Foundation), whom KaosGL.org contacted in relation to the infringements Buse has faced, stated that Buse has been kept in the prison for 23 years. She was given a life sentence, and has the report for the gender affirmation surgery, but the operation has yet to be performed . Özata also indicated that Buse said to the lawyer who visited  her that “I want to see my body as a woman’s body. I do not want to live in this body anymore. It is not even certain how long I will live, or whether I will ever come out of the prison.”

 

Parliamentary Question by HDP about Buse, a Trans Woman Prisoner

HDP Ankara Representative Filiz Kerestecioğlu proposed a parliamentary question about Buse, a trans woman and prisoner, who is not being referred to a hospital for her sex reassignment surgery.

Source: “Parliamentary Question by HDP about Buse, a Trans Woman Prisoner” (HDP’den trans kadın mahpus Buse için soru önergesi) February 6, 2019 http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=27537 

Filiz Kerestecioğlu, Ankara representative of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), proposed a parliamentary question concerning the obstruction of a sex reassignment surgery for Buse, who is a trans woman and prisoner, by the Ministry of Justice despite a court verdict deeming reassignment operations to be mandatory with regards to the mental health of the individual. HDP requested that Abdülhamit Gül, the Minister of Justice, respond.

“Do you think that the verdict by the Ministry which does not allow the surgery to be performed violates the prisoner’s right to healthcare?”

Kerestecioğlu posed the following questions to Minister of Justice Abdülhamit Gül:

Prisoner and trans woman Buse, who is currently serving time at Tekirdağ No. 2 F-type Men’s Prison, filed a suit approximately two and a half years ago in order to be able to undergo sex reassignment surgery. The court delivered a favorable verdict with “permission for surgery,” establishing that the operation was mandatory with regards to the mental health of the individual.

This verdict notwithstanding, the Ministry of Justice has not yet carried out her referral to a hospital and has been standing in the way of her surgery on the grounds that ‘the operation is mandatory but not urgent.’

As a trans woman, Buse is incarcerated at a men’s prison, as she has yet to have her sex reassignment surgery. For the past five  years, she has been held in solitary confinement.

She cannot benefit from access to such things as yard time and other social activities on account of the insufficient number of personnel. She is not permitted to socialize with the other prisoners on the grounds that “her safety cannot be guaranteed.”

The fact that Buse’s demand has been rejected with the explanation that “she can have the surgery once she is released” has no legal basis whatsoever, since it is clear that she will not be released from prison for at least another 15 years. This rejection also goes to show that the Ministry approves of continuing to hold her in solitary confinement as well as allowing her exposure to discriminatory practices. Buse’s only demand is to have surgeries, and to be transferred to a women’s prison afterwards.

In this regard,

  1. Do you think that the verdict reached by the Ministry not allowing the surgery to be performed violates the prisoner’s right to healthcare?
  2. What is the motive behind the Ministry’s re-request for opinion from the Institute of Forensic Sciences, despite the fact that the court has already delivered a verdict?
  3. When it comes to a surgery other than a sex reassignment surgery, is it a routine practice to re-request an opinion despite the court verdict?
  4. Do you consider it an act of discrimination when a prisoner cannot benefit from such things as yard time and other social activities on account of the insufficient number of personnel or when a prisoner is not permitted to socialize with the other prisoners on the grounds that “her safety cannot be guaranteed?”
  5. What kind of measures are being taken by the Ministry so as to prevent LGBTI+ prisoners from being exposed to discrimination?

Trans Activist Diren Coşkun’s Statement Upon Her Release from Prison

“I had decided to start a death fast after I was deprived of my rights in the health and justice system and exposed to isolation, discrimination and maltreatment. I sincerely thank everyone who has supported me.

Every day we witness the increase of human rights violations in prisons. In such a context, it is impossible that you don’t know how especially trans inmates are subject to discrimination and undignified treatment.

I was able to retain some of my rights thanks to your support and campaigning, but even though we were two trans women sharing a cell, my trans identity was not ignored, whereas Buse’s trans identity was ignored and so were her personal needs.

When I started my death fast I knew that these were some of the issues all trans inmates were facing, I was conscious of this. I started it knowingly, I started it for Buse. I needed you to make my voice heard so that Buse’s voice was also heard. Thank you.

Today I’m out of prison. I will continue to raise my voice for Buse and all my fellow trans inmates. Today I wrote a letter to Buse with tears in my eyes. Please write. Write to all trans inmates. Let’s not leave Buse and all others like Buse alone. Solidarity helps survival, we are stronger together.”

 

#BuseyeSesVer

 

Trans Students not accepted at the Dormitory despite their Entitlement to KYK Housing

SPoD (Social Policies, Gender  Identity and Sexual Orientation Studies Association)’s hotline has been responding to many calls from trans students, complaining about not being allowed at the dorms they are entitled to, despite being awarded accomodation at KYK dorms.

Source: “Trans Students not Accepted at the Dormitory Despite their Entitlement to KYK (Credits and Dormitories Institution) Housing” (“KYK yurtlarını kazanan trans öğrenciler yurda alınmıyor”), Aslı Alpar, KaosGL.org, November 12, 2018, http://www.kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=27017.

CRAIGANDKARL

Illustration: Craig and Karl

Trans students calling SPoD’s hotline are saying that they are barred from using the dorms by dorm management and ask what they can do in this situation.

KaosGL.org asked the association’s lawyer Hatice Demir about the discrimination against trans students in KYK dorms and its legal dimensions. In this interview, Lawyer Demir explains the rights that trans students have against these discriminatory practices and the consequences of the arbitrary practice at KYK dorms. Demir suggests that many of the students barred from using KYK dorms are also barred from their right to education and that even when trans students are allowed in they are being isolated.

When they call the hotline, what do the trans students say about the discrimination at the dorms?

The list of students awarded accomodation at KYK dorms was published at the beginning of the semester, yet additional placements continue. Trans students who have not completed their legal process were awarded housing by KYK dorms, but called the SPoD hotline saying that they were not allowed in and asked what legal measures they can take against this treatment. The callers reported:  ‘I’m entitled to the use of dorms, I carried out all the necessary procedures, but the management will not let me in as they can not decide if they should place me at the female or male dorm’.

So how does the dorm management respond to these students?

Trans students are generally told “It’s your problem. Nobody else is experiencing these issues. Go handle it elsewhere”. The callers also report that they are often insulted by the dorm authorities and that the dorm guard will not let them enter.

On certain occasions, dormitory staff allocate an empty room to the student, which means they live in isolation. When single occupancy rooms are given to trans students, the dorm authorities use the excuse of “security”, stating: “we don’t put you in the same room with them to protect you”. Yet, the same dorm management do not do anything  to rid discrimination against trans students in the dorms. Moreover, they consolidate discrimination with such isolation.

Isolation at the dorms remind one of the isolation witnessed in prisons, because whenever trans individuals are put in the custody of the state, the state is clueless about where to put them. This is due to the fact that the state ignore the existence of  trans people. Such an oblivious attitude corresponds to the state isolating or excluding the individuals using the excuse of “security”.

Similar conditions apply for trans inmates. The prison placement is done on the basis of the color of the ID* and the assigned gender on the ID. Therefore, in a similar vein to what happens to trans students, trans inmates too, are sent to the prisons allocated for the gender written on their IDs and yet again are isolated when the administration says “we can’t provide your safety”.

What does the student do when not allowed in the dorm?

Those who get enough financial aid from their families or from their scholarships can rent a flat or a room. Yet those without such means go back to their hometowns. This means that they are barred from exercising their right to education.

Is there a regulation which supports such discriminatory attitude?

Of course not. Higher Education Credits and Dormitories Institution Dorm Administration and Management Regulation do not state anything regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. This means that there are no legal grounds for these arbitrary discriminatory and practices, yet it also means that LGBTI+ students are ignored and that the regulation is prepared based on a binary gender regime.

What can the trans students do if they are subjected to such discrimination?

As we have no prior lawsuits filed before, we do not have exemplary verdicts. However, a lawsuit can be filed at Administrative Court. Then, if the lawsuit is not concluded at the first degree courts, I believe it can be resolved at supreme judiciary. I think that the procedures at KYK can be improved to a non-discriminatory practice through the legal appeals of trans students who have been discriminated on the basis of their gender identity and denied the rights they are entitled to.

“LGBTI+ Friendly Student Dorms” project initiated by İzmir Genç LGBTI+ Association aims to render the LGBTI+ youth’s experiences at student dorms visible.

Within the scope of the project executed in collaboration with Heinrich Böll Stiftung Association Turkey Branch, a book written by LGBTI+ students  titled “LGBTI+ Dorm Experiences” was published.

*Translator’s note: Turkish ID cards are color-coded according to biological sex. The new non-color-coded ID cards have started being issued recently, yet the older ones are still in use unless the holder changes it. In any case, the gender slot is filled in by the state based on biological sex and trans individuals have to undergo a long legal and medical bureaucratic procedure to change the identity card. 

GNATs Committee on the Inquiry of Human Rights Hears the General Director of  Prisons and Detention Houses on the Status of LGBTI Individuals in Prison

According to a news report by Deniz Ayhan from Sözcü daily, at the briefing on the current status of prisons at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey’s Committee on the Inquiry of Human Rights, the general director of  prisons and detention houses Şaban Yılmaz announced that “there are around 200 LGBTI [individuals] in prisons and one trans individuals reassignment surgery was completed”

Source:  Şaban Yılmaz, the general director of  prisons and detention houses has informed Grand National Assembly of Turkey Committee on the Inquiry of Human Rights: “There are around 200 LGBTI [individuals] in prisons,we have carried out one person’s surgery upon request.” (“Ceza ve Tevkif Evleri Genel Müdürü Şaban Yılmaz, TBMM İnsan Hakları İnceleme Komisyonu’na bilgilendirmede bulundu: ‘Ceza evlerinde 200 civarında LGBTİ var, talep üzerine bir kişinin ameliyatını yaptırdık.’”), Pembe Hayat, http://www.pembehayat.org/haberler/detay/1973/tbmm-insan-haklari-komisyonursquonda-mahpus-lgbtirsquoler-brifingi

“We even got one surgery done”

Yılmaz stated “LGBTI [individuals] have different preferences, so they have different demands as well. We even got one surgery done, a gender reassignment surgery. The person’s surgery took place in Istanbul Marmara University.”

According to the information given to Pink Life by Hilal Başak Demirbaş from Civil Society in Penal System (CISST), “The first gender confirmation surgery  that we know of in Turkey [for an inmate], took place in 2014 with the support of Kaos GL and CISST associations as well as the associations’ lawyers. As a result of the application an inmate ward has been opened in Bülent Ecevit and Marmara Universities.”

“Since 2014 we have received applications from many trans women and men who are in the process of gender confirmation and who are willing to get their confirmation surgery done. Although many applications were done on the basis of the exemplary surgery in 2014, we see that the process and the surgeries have not been carried out in due time. We are applying for inmate wards to be opened in hospitals where gender confirmation surgeries could take place. We know that recently a trans inmate who is doing time for political reasons has applied for a gender confirmation surgery yet the request was rejected on the grounds that ‘it’s not of crucial importance’. We also know that the trans inmate started a death strike as she was kept waiting.”

Recently, a trans inmate’s breast operation was accepted on the grounds that it was “required for the person’s psychological and physical health” by a report prepared by Kocaeli University Medical Science Forensic Medicine Department. The costs for the operation were covered by the Ministry of Health.

“It is an accomplishment of CSOs and activists working in the field that the breast operation was carried out with state support and that the state realises it is not just an “aesthetic” issue. It is also a health requirement. All trans inmates should benefit from such advancements  and the process should be carried out by the General Directorate of Prisons and Detention Houses, with the assistance of CSOs working in the field of LGBTI and human rights.”

 

Trans female inmate Buse’s  “death fast” for her access to the right to health!

Trans inmate Buse started a “death fast” with the demand to have her gender transition surgery. Derya Özata of KADAV (Women’s Solidarity Foundation)  lists Buse’s demands. Buse has been in prison for 23 years and says “I don’t want to live with this body anymore. It’s not certain how long I will live or whether I will get out of prison”.

Source: “Trans female inmate Buse’s  “death fast” for her access to the right to health!” (“Trans kadın mahpus Buse, sağlık hakkına erişim için “ölüm orucunda”!) , Yıldız Tar, kaosgl.org, June 28, 2018, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=26140.

Buse is one of the trans female inmates at Tekirdağ F Type Prison, for Men she has announced that she has started her “death fast” on June 5, through her lawyers.

Buse says that she has taken this decision due to the fact that her gender transition surgery has not been carried out. She is staying with Diren Coşkun, whose access to the right to health had been denied over the last months. Buse demands that her gender transition surgery is carried out immediately.

Derya Özata of KADAV has been following the violations against Diren Coşkun and Buse in prison and has explained what Buse has been going through, and what she demands to KaosGL.org.

23 years in prison

According to the information Özata gives, Buse was imprisoned at the age of 22. She is now 45 years old. She has been given a life sentence. She will be in prison for 20 more years. She had been in kept in isolation for many years, until Diren Coşkun was sent to Tekirdağ F Type Prison for Men.

The hospital sent a report, but…

Özata says she has been a penpal for Buse and tells [us] the recent developments in the process:

“Buse has been writing petitions to get a gender transition surgery for a long while. She has been struggling to have her surgery. We have written petitions together too. Lawyer Eren Keskin has been following the process too. Finally, Buse has written in a letter that the hospital has given her a report that ‘the gender transition surgery was imperative for her psychological well-being’ “. After this, another petition was written to the Ministry of Justice. However, Buse says that the ministry wrote to back to the prison saying ‘the surgery is imperative but not urgent’. Therefore Buse has started a death fast as of June 5, demanding her transfer to another prison and her gender transition surgery.”

(more…)