LGBTI Inmates

The prison system and issues of LGBTI inmates in Turkey

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…)

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.

 

Istanbul LGBTI: We have news from Diren

Source: Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association, https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1599145250163198&id=143393965738341

On Feb. 21, the 27th day of Diren’s death fast, we, a group of Diren’s friends and lawyers, went to Tekirdağ No.2  F Type Penitentiary. We started the day with the news that Kıvılcım [Arat from Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association who joined Diren’s fast] was forbidden from visiting Diren.

Despite the bad news, we let Diren know that we as her family, friends and lawyers will continue to be active in achieving her demands. We then had a meeting with the prison administration about Diren’s primary demands regarding laser epilation, vegan meals and ending the wardens’ discriminatory attitudes towards Diren based on her trans identity.

In this meeting we agreed with the prison administration on the need to work together in achieving this and Diren has accordingly decided to put her death fast on hold while the prison administration continues to collaborate. Diren has thanked everyone who has shown solidarity with her and said that she wanted all her friends who had started a hunger strike and death fast to end their protests.

As the solidarity group for Diren, we will be publishing a more detailed update in the following days. We thank everyone who helped Diren’s voice be heard in this process.

#DirendenHaberVar (#NewsFromDiren)

 

#BeAVoiceForDiren

Friends of imprisoned LGBTI activist Diren Coşkun have started a campaign to support Diren who has started a death fast against the rights violations she has been enduring in a Turkish prison. The campaign urges supporters to sign a petition and to write e-letters, which will then be taken to Diren.

Diren was arrested on Aug. 14, 2017 with the allegation of “propaganda for an illegal organization.”

Diren is a trans woman and has been put in isolation after she rejected to stay in the male ward of the prison. Demanding an end to her solitary confinement and access to trans-specific healthcare, Diren started the death fast on Jan. 25.

Kıvılcım Arat from Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association announced her own death fast on Feb. 6 in solidarity with Coşkun. (Read Arat’s account of life in prison for trans inmates on here.)

To support Diren, please sign the petition or join the social media campaign by sharing your messages of solidarity these hashtags:

#SeiEineStimmeFürDiren

#DireneSesVer

#BeAVoiceForDiren

#WeesEenStemVoorDiren #SoyesUneVoixPourDiren

#TransRights

 

LGBTI activist Kıvılcım Arat joins Diren Coskun’s death fast

Trans woman Diren Coşkun, incarcerated in Tekirdağ No.2 Prison, has been on a hunger strike for 13 days, asking for an end to rights violations in detention and for her right to surgery and treatment. Her friend Kıvılcım Arat, too, has announced her own hunger strike to help Coşkun’s voice be heard and to support her right to treatment.

This article was compiled from: ”Diren Coşkun 13 gündür ölüm orucunda, Kıvılcım Arat da aynı eyleme başladı”, Gazete Karınca, February 6, 2018, http://gazetekarinca.com/2018/02/diren-coskun-13-gundur-olum-orucunda-kivilcim-arat-da-ayni-eyleme-basladi/

Keskesor activist Diren Coskun, who was arrested in August 2017, has completed the 13th day of her hunger strike in Tekirdağ No.2 Prison.

Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association Board Member and spokesperson for Democratic Women Movement Kıvılcım Arat had announced that trans woman Coşkun has started a hunger strike against the prevention of her right to surgery and treatment, and the rights violations occurring in prison. Coşkun had declared her protest as follows:

“I’ve been subjected to many humiliating practices here. I lay my body to die, to gain my right to surgery and treatment, and to have this severe isolation abolished. I hereby declare to democratic public opinion that I have started a hunger strike as of January 25.”

As Coşkun’s death fast continues, Kıvılcım Arat announced that she has “started a death fast in order to reinforce Diren Coşkun’s voice and to make her demand for treatment heard”.

Kıvılcım Arat tweeted on February 6:

“In spite of our best efforts, we were not able to draw attention to Diren’s demand for access to treatment. Her trans identity cast a shadow over her protest and rendered it invisible. As of February 6 00:00, I have started a fast in order to reinforce Diren Coşkun’s voice and to make her demand for treatment heard.”

Arat stated that she will continue the fast until Diren Coşkun’s demands are met. Arat has criticized the LGBTI community for its lack of interest in Coşkun’s current situation and has emphasized that the oppression and violence against trans individuals remains invisible.