Opinion

Opinion pieces on LGBTI issues in Turkey

Arat: Two trans women or “sinners” in a Turkish prison

Diren is a trans woman who just entered her thirties. She will be subject to systematic torture inside an F-type prison cell coffin* for three more years. Buse, a trans woman in her forties, discovered her gender identity during her incarceration. She has been sentenced to life.

Source: Kıvılcım Arat, “Two sinners (!) at Tekirdağ No 2 [Prison] : Diren and Buse” (“Tekirdağ 2 Nolu’da İki Günahkar(!); Diren ve Buse”), Kıvılcım Arat, bianet, January 2, 2018, http://bianet.org/bianet/lgbti/192911-tekirdag-2-nolu-da-iki-gunahkar-diren-ve-buse

On the road to Istanbul from Tekirdağ, I kept thinking about the value and meaning of our lives. I reflected on the struggle against the multiple discriminations we face, as well as how  limited and narrow the spaces of solidarity meant for empowering ourselves are.

The system and social life is designed through a binary gender regime. The problems generated by and the lives sacrificed in the name of this regime entangle not only trans women but also those who do not define themselves with binaries  in an inescapable spiral of violence.

Even though the imposed stereotypes of ideal men and women are not the same across communities, binary gender models are cultivated, spread, and institutionalized through a disparate array of social groups ranging from Islamists to Liberals, from Social Democrats to Socialists.

While cursing this system and its founders, I think about the resistance of the two sinners staying in the coffins of Tekirdağ No 2. I think about their unheard, unknown, unwritten resistance… and how forlorn this resistance is…

As the wheel of history keeps turning, someone writes that history. This is the reason I’m writing this story to you. To document the resistance of these two sinner women and to render it known to the world, in spite of the power of those who miswrite the present and obfuscate history.

Diren is a trans woman who just entered her thirties and is child of a family from Dersim [Tunceli]. Until last August, she was trying to hold onto  life in Amed [Diyarbakir] with a public trans identity. She has such a kind heart that every cat, whether tortured, disabled or infirm has certainly stayed in her home. And hers is not just an ordinary love of animals… It’s a feeling molded with consciousness. She is a vegan who feels the cruelty of the human species as a personal conviction. Diren is an amazing human who has understood the connection between a slice of cheese she eats and slavery. She is also a brave woman who has declared her conscientious objection.

As Diren was trying to hold onto this life with all the sensitivity she carries inside her, she faced the accusation of spreading [terror] propaganda and, without any tangible evidence, was unfortunately convicted of this crime. As a result of this conviction, she will be subject to systematic torture and isolation in F-type coffins for three more years.

Buse is a trans woman in her forties who came to define her gender identity during her incarceration and is the child of a family from Ağrı. Convicted for life, Erzurum State Security Court** indicted Buse where she stood trial without a defense attorney present. She has been in prison for twenty years and has another seventeen more years to spend in that dark cell.

What brings Diren and Buse together in the same cell is that they were both sentenced based on charges related to the same crime. As one’s existence empowers the other’s, their unknown state casts them both into an endless abyss.

As a 30-year-old who has visited three different prisons forthree incarcerated women, I was aware of the violence I would be subjected to at the entrance to Tekirdağ No. 2. And, on my way, I decided not to complain. Thinking about what Diren went through at the hands of the soldiers and wardens, I tried to get used to the fact that I would be experiencing this violence for three more years. At the end of the day, I was a visitor and I was bound to go through the indignity they imposed on me once a month. My body was relatively freer than Diren’s.

Just like any other prison I saw, Tekirdağ No. 2 is also a structure built to break the human spirit. As I entered through its gate, I reminded myself not to let anything overshadow the joy of seeing Diren and I walked in. Those who have been there would know how it is–open visits are crowded, packed with many relatives, young or old, and children. I gave my passport to the officer, hoping that a passport not color-coded and gender neutral would allow for an insult-free, harassment-free passage.

After registration, I was able to pass through the first checkpoint with other women. Towards the second one, Diren’s brother warned me “Be careful, you won’t be seeing smiling faces after this point”. Not long after, the female warden asked loudly “Did you go through surgery?” in the middle of the crowd. And then she called the first checkpoint where I left my ID and asked what was written on my ID under the gender slot. After she hung up, pulling a wry face she ordered the male wardens: “I won’t search this. Take him to the other side”. Under the silence of tens of gazes the wardens touched every bit of my body from my breast to my hips, continuing their work with the joy of carrying out a patriotic duty.

As these events were happening at the gate, what were Buse and Diren going through?

Diren’s open visit takes place in a separate room. A policy of isolation within isolation. Two wardens hovering above us, listening to every word we utter. We can neither hug nor talk in peace.

As there are no vegan meals, Diren has been feeding on boiled potatoes and tomatoes for months. It is another trouble to get female clothes in. Her requests for bras and similar things have been denied. She talked about the indifference of the doctors at the infirmary. She said that the officers frequently refer to her with the name written on her ID and address her as “Sir”. This “Sir” title has become such a grave violence that she swallowed an entire box of hormone pills at once during past weeks. On the farewell note she wrote, she exposed the systematic violence she has experienced. After her stomach was pumped, she was handcuffed to the radiator at the public hospital in the state she was in. Fortunately, when her objections turned into a scream they brought her back to her cell. Even in this state, she thinks more about Buse than herself. What Buse has been going through for the last twenty years and what she will go through the next seventeen. Her operation has been denied in spite of permission for the surgery and this has made her psychological state deteriorate even more. Buse is planning to use the last weapon she has left, to starve her new body and to lay down to die.

We trans women, who are the decided sinners of society, try to exist through resistance. Our resistance is born out of an affront to humanity. This sin is deemed so great that even the mothers who carried the sinners for nine months stay away from their children.

Towards the end of my visit, Diren said that Buse got ready in the morning and put on makeup. When she asked her what she was getting ready for, Buse answered “You never know, maybe my brother will come”. A brother who was expected and who never arrived for years! Buse’s answer became a thorn in my flesh and invigorated my struggle. This sin which bars relatives from coming to open visit should be society’s cross to bear.

Buse has been trying to exist in incarceration without anyone by her side for twenty years. She thinks she has been forgotten. Fortunately, at the end of 20 years, IHD (Human Rights Association) Co-Chair and attorney Eren Keskin took charge of the entire judicial process and will follow up on the unlawful practices Buse has endured, including the right to operation she was denied. This Thursday, Keskin will go to Tekirdağ No.2 as Buse’s legal representative to clarify her demands for justice. The commission set up for Buse and Diren at İHD will share the rights violations with the public in a press statement released next week.*** The past twenty years of isolation will at least be subdued. Historians writing from their dignified perspectives may perhaps take little note of what’s happening, but this will be a thousand hopes for trans people to come.

As two sinners of Tekirdağ write their histories through resistance, the solitude we left them in will one day find us too. The only way out of the hell of a binary regime is not to participate in its norms but to dismantle the norm. What is imposed with the norm leads to darkness and the resistance of the trans women lead to light.

*Translator’s note: “Coffin” is an unofficial term which denotes isolation cells where many political prisoners stay in F-type prisons. 

**State Security Courts (Devlet Güvenlik Mahkemeleri): Designed after the State Security Courts of De Gaulle era in France, DGMs first originated after the military coup of 1971, equipped with extraordinary authority regarding the cases that “endangered the existence of the state”. Its judges and prosecutors were assigned by military authorities, which is why it was seen as a “martial law without the declaration of martial law”. DGMs were shut down in the mid 1970s, only to be resurrected after the military coup of 1980. They remained active until 2004.

***  İHD held a press conference on January 10, see bianet article for more info.

Which one of your houses will Hande Kader’s murderer come out of?

Men share your bed, your meal, your house after being with many trans sex workers like Hande Kader. While you keep believing that you are “cleaner”, “more innocent”, “more virtuous” than Hande Kader, the murderer lives in your house. Pray that they may be caught before they do one tenth of what they did to her, to you.

Source: Zeynep Akkuş, “Hande Kader’in katili hanginizin evinden çıkacak?”, kaosgl, August 17, 2016, http://www.kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=22102

It’s like I’m watching a horror movie. In its first scene, the car Hande Kader gets in disappears in the darkness of the night. Then everything gets blurry. The blur remains for a while. Next a flash lights up. New scene: Police gather around in a forest, they take away Hande Kader’s burnt body in a body bag.

I wish what I saw was really just a movie.

We had common friends but I didn’t know her. But then again, it turns out I saw her many times, unknowingly! She was one of our trans friends on those famous photos of last year’s Pride Walk on Istiklal Avenue, that they tried to cancel, on the first shot they are sitting against a water cannon, in the second one, they are soaked with pressurized water. The policemen that were taking her away last year, holding her arm harshly are now in the forest to take her burned body.

hande_kader_3

When I heard that her corpse was burned, I found myself thinking, I hope she wasn’t burned to death, I hope she was burned after she was murdered, to get rid of the evidence. Please don’t condemn me. The current order, the current morality made us prefer one death over another. Remember the words of Ali İsmail’s mother, who was beaten to death during Gezi; “I wish they shot my Aliş, my son suffered so much” and please don’t condemn me.

I was only beginning to digest the story of how Figen was dragged to death, my eyes tearing up as I looked at photos I took in the march in the memory of Dora. My anger together with my pain rise up, as I writhe with the pain of who knows how many victims that shared similar horrible ends, worst of all, not knowing which of my friends, my sisters are next. Among those we lost, which one’s news could reach all? Whose murderer received the sentence they deserved? No one should fool themselves. We can believe in the sincerity of a struggle only if we see a murdered trans sex worker’s photo on the posters of a struggle against hate crimes. No one should feel safe either, no one should ask “why doesn’t it happen to me then?”. You can never know who the hate will strike. And hate has many excuses. Therefore, there are no “but”s in the struggle against hate. The victims can not be divided into “innocents” or “pure ones” against “the ones who had it coming”.

One last remark goes out to the women who remain silent on Hande Kader’s murder: I’m sure you would curse her for being a trans, for being a sex worker, you would despise her for selling her body, had you known about her when she was alive.

This is the main reason for your silence anyway, do not fool yourself nor us. But remember, sales is a two-way street. Anything that is sold is on sale as long as there is a buyer. Those that drag Hande Kader and other trans workers to this life, those that do not leave any other path and those who profit from this with an insatiable greed, are your men, your husbands, your brothers, your sons, your fathers, do not look elsewhere. (I don’t know if you are aware but you are as guilty as them, with your prejudice, your false convictions, your cliches of morality and dignity.)

Men share your bed, your meal, your house after being with many trans sex workers like Hande Kader. While you keep believing that you are “cleaner”, “more innocent”, “more virtuous” than Hande Kader, the murderer lives in your house. Pray that they may be caught before they do one tenth of what they did to her, to you. I’m waiting with curiosity, let’s see which of one of your houses will he come out of.

 

To Amnesty International: Hate is not a Choice, it’s a Crime

Source: Tuna Erdem, “Nefret tercih değil suç olsun/bana haklarımı ver sevgin senin olsun #kaplumbağaları bizim meselelere karıştırmayın, almayın ve satmayın,” “Hate should not be a choice but a crime / give me back my rights and you can have your love do not involve #turtles in our issues, do not buy and sell them,” 20 April 2016, http://sloganbozan.blogspot.com.tr/2016/04/nefret-tercih-degil-suc-olsunbana.html?spref=fb&m=1

The slogan I will undo shows up at the end of Amnesty International’s video “Gay Turtle.” As I pick the slogan to pieces, I will occasionally write about the video as well but it is not the video but rather the slogan that defines the scope of this text:

 
loveislove

First, let’s begin with the slogan “hate is a choice.”

There is a crime called “hate crime.” Indeed, before this slogan appears in the video, the statement “in the last 5 years, hundreds of hate crimes due to homophobia and transphobia have been committed” indicates, albeit in an ambiguous fashion, that there is a crime called “hate crime.” Since 2014, hate crime has been included in the Turkish Penal Code and the work of LGBTI organizations have a significant role in its inclusion. However, in spite of this achievement, “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” are not included within the scope of the hate crime law and at the moment hate is not a crime when directed at LGBTIs. In other words, the Turkish Penal Code has left it to individuals to choose to hate gay and trans individuals, just as this slogan suggests.

However, not only many countries do not give its citizens the right to choose to hate but also LGBTIs in Turkey have been arguing that hate is a crime and should be seen as a crime, and they continue to work for this a fact that Amnesty International cannot possibly be unaware of. From the perspective that posits hate to be seen as a crime, this slogan sounds exactly like what the statements “rape is a choice,” “murder is a choice”  sound like. Indeed, this slogan appears right after a sentence that gives hate crime statistics, therefore connecting the hate directly to the crime on its own, amplifying said tone. Just as saying “murder is a choice, do not choose to murder, change your choices” would be taking things lightly, the same goes for hate. If you write down the number of people killed by hate-motivated murders and then immediately say “hate is a choice,” you are basically saying “hate-motivated murder is a choice.” Briefly, a preferable slogan at most could be:

Hate is not a choice, it’s a crime.

On the other hand, hate is not a choice because there is no alternative to hate in the system, especially towards gay and trans individuals. The heteronormative order is the name of the order that does not give the choice or the right to choose anything other than hate. So much so that gays themselves hardly find a path other than hating themselves. Hating homosexuals is something that is inculcated from birth, taught, imposed. To say “there is a heteronormative order” is exactly this: People are constantly brainwashed in a systematic way, using every possible tool of the sovereign culture. The family, education and training curriculum, peer victimization and pressure teach and forcibly impose hate; hate is engraved in memory. Hate is constantly channelled on TV, in advertisements, in films, in media.

This is precisely why the target audience of the video can only be those who will rightfully feel proud to have made the right choice and carry the avarice of superiority. I do not think the target audience includes gays who have begun combatting the hate within or who continue to combat the hate within the nearest people to them. Rather, the video caters to those who believe that not remaining “ignorant” is fully a “choice,” who are blind to the fact that education is a privilege in the world, and who see the world wearing blinkers and say “noooo waaaaay.” In fact, if anyone could escape the sovereign culture’s education and be “ignorant,” hate would not be this widespread.

In the best-case scenario, the video invites the audience to belittle and to ridicule homophobes. (And of course, also to take pity on the cute turtle and to get all emotional through empathy.) Indeed, there are self-assured trolls in social media, who ask why this video is being taken so seriously, when it should have been laughed at. Such approaches pass over the fact that ridicule and belittling are the very tools of homophobia and it does not register that belittling homophobes belittles homophobia, a phenomenon with dire consequences. I would not step inside a pet shop (in my opinion, pet shops are another phenomena that should be considered a crime) but if I were told that the turtle I “chose” was gay, I would think that the clerk noticed that I’m gay and was saying this ridiculous thing to mock me, and I would storm out. So, you can add me to your so-called “social experiment,” as a homophobe to be ridiculed.

All in all, presenting systematic problems as individual choices can only warrant the continuity of the system that lies beneath. Mistaking the teachings of the hegemonic culture for “ignorance,” is flaring up the flames of the hegemon. Briefly: hate is not an individual choice, but the enforcement of the system. To belittle others’ hate in order to ignore the hate that lies within you, is a way of hate itself.  You cannot struggle by hating. The issue should not be to replace one type of hate for another.

Then there is this: The slogan “hate is a choice” is there to evoke another slogan. The most famous slogan of the LGBTI movement is “orientation, not choice.” So the slogan says, “homosexuality is not a choice, but it is a choice to hate homosexuals.” So it says, “you are born gay and you cannot change it, but hate is not congenital so just change it.” I can’t get enough of undoing the slogan “orientation, not choice” but I’m leaving that for another post, to give it the undoing it deserves. Without going deeper into my position on the matter, which is even more narrow-minded than the “even if it were a choice” position, I will point to a relevant aspect. There is no doubt that it is the belief that “if it is a choice, it can be changed easily” which brought the word “choice” to the point of becoming a signifier of homophobia. One feels like saying, I wish that change was so easy to have in life. Yet those who adopted the slogan “hate is a choice” obviously think that the problem goes away once you understand that it is a choice. You would think that knowing there can be change warrants change. That’s why a prominent organization could not come up with a better choice than to state the obvious, did not think it should introduce a proposal on the matter of “how to change hate.” Oh, actually they do, our video says “love instead of hating,” which brings us back to the first sentence of the slogan:

“Love comes from the heart”

Seriously, what does that even mean? Does it mean you love if you have a heart? Does it mean love is automatic like breathing? Does it mean love is natural and if you do not strain yourself, you will love anyway? You do not need the brain, the mind, consciousness, work; the heart produces love by itself? Does it mean that every living thing with a heart loves anyway? It’s up to you to decide how you want to understand it. Epic words about love is plentiful, just add on to them. Love is unconditional, let love win, etc. But the love the video presents is not unconditional. The turtles who are sold in the slave market, who are contained in a cell, are at best given love according to their cuteness. The price of love is to not be free, to be treated like property, to live and die for someone else’s enjoyment. If that’s the love, then hate could indeed be chosen.

Let’s agree on this: no one has to love gays. Gays do not expect love either. Gays are demanding their rights and that is why they say hate crime. But when you first say love comes from the heart and then say hate is a choice, you present hate as purely an emotion. If you are looking for a word outside of the terminology of rights and law, then gays are expecting respect, not love. Respect is not a choice, for example, in the face of laws and court decisions, no one has the right to say “I do not respect this.”

But there is also a difference between “love comes from the heart” and the sentence presented as the English version of the slogan. “Love is love” would be correctly translated into Turkish as “romantic love is romantic love” [literally “aşk aşktır” –Trans.]. That sentence is the slogan for gay rights, especially marriage equality. The slogan would mean “love is not gay or straight, love is love” and it would be about what remains in your head as it is tautological. And again we come upon a slogan that I cannot get enough of undoing. Though homosexuality can allow us to realize the many different kinds of love in the slogan “love is love,” the slogan instead becomes evidence for the transformation of romantic love into a single, unitary state. One language, one flag, one nation, one homeland, one love.

Sure there is also this: Do not see homosexuality as a sexual issue because love is love! Because sex is bad and it can only be cleansed with an epic love. Because it is unacceptable to defend sex without love but do not be scared, gays, who are in a position to notice the difference, will pretend that there is no sex without love, just like you. I want to say: No way! No, sex is not an evil that will be extolled with love, in need of taming with marriage, or otherwise lead to destruction. And gays do not have to go voluntarily into the prison of “no sex without love” just because they do not want you to hate them.

But the same sentence in Turkish does not say romantic love but love like endearment and therefore gets stuck early on before even getting to the issue. The Turkish version turns out not to be about the romantic love that gays feel for each other but about the love, the endearment felt towards gays: Let’s love animals, let’s love gays, let’s love our beautiful Turkish, let’s love our flag, let’s love our homeland.

Do not love me and do not hate me. I do not even know you, why should we have an emotional relationship? Can I not be your pet or a harmful creature? May I not be yours and only be mine and be independent? If possible, give the right to life to a difference that has nothing to do with you. Let’s create a respectful distance between ourselves and keep that distance.

Your love is as aggressive as your hate. Your stance against homophobia is as hurtful as homophobes.  

Now slowly release the turtle you are holding back into wild and leave before you make me love you too much.

Kemal Ördek: ’Dying By The Sword,’ Rape, and A Question for Minister Islam

Every sex worker and transsexual who was kidnapped and raped has ended up in deep loneliness. This has never changed. Don’t be fooled by the few strong voices that reacted to the attack I suffered.

Source: Kemal Ördek, “Su Testisi Tecavüz ve Bakan İslam’a Bir Soru” (“’Dying By The Sword,’ Rape, and A Question for Minister İslam”), bianet.org, 17 July 2015, http://m.bianet.org/bianet/toplumsal-cinsiyet/166083-su-testisi-tecavuz-ve-bakan-islam-a-bir-soru

I’m writing as a rape victim.

I’m writing as a theft, threat, and insult victim.

I’m writing as a trans and as a sex worker.

I’m writing as a rights activist.

I’m writing as someone who now thinks twice before going out.

I break out in a cold sweat; I tense up. I can’t do a thing without someone by me. For the last twelve days, it is as if I’ve been under house arrest. Just yesterday, I saw one of my attackers when I was out with my friends; I simply ran back home. It is as if they are everywhere. I try to stay away from people, but they are out and about. This is what they call justice.

Özgecan comes to my mind. Everyone cried for her and mourned her loss. They took Özgecan away from us, just like with all the other women they took away from us. An otherwise silent Turkey stood up for her, took to the streets, ached, trembled. We trembled.

With Özgecan, we relived a familiar story. We remembered all the sex workers and trans people who have been raped and killed for all these years.

Just yesterday, the entire country was startled when Münevver Karabulut was murdered by decapitation. Only a week later, when a trans sex worker was found in a trash can with her head cut off, everyone who had stood up for Münevver disappeared. Trans women and sex workers were left alone in a country of murders by decapitation.

Every sex worker and transsexual who was kidnapped and raped has ended up in deep loneliness. This has never changed. Don’t be fooled by the few strong voices that reacted to the attack I suffered. In all likelihood, there would not be any reaction if I weren’t a well-known rights activist.

Trans people, sex workers, the other women, the anonymous women whose lives are tested by violence, rape, and murder are also raped by silence. In the back streets, in invisible streets, in those “deserved” lives, rape occur every night. Because those women live the lives they “deserve.” Because those who “live by the sword, die by the sword.” Because they deserve rape and death is written in their fate.

We have a Minister of Family and Social Policies, whose faint voice we hear after every case of rape and death. She is someone who disappears, becomes quiet, and shrugs when the issue is trans women and sex workers. She is someone who is complicit in the silence that rapes us…

I have a question for Minister İslam:

Dear Minister: I’m a trans and a sex worker, and I was raped. I was robbed, threatened, and insulted. I was mistreated when I called the police for protection from the violence that I suffered. One of your officers told me, “but you weren’t raped.” Another one lamented that, “this Tribe of Lot isn’t extinct yet.”

I am thankful that I am alive. What I do can’t be called living, but still. My friends advise me to look on the bright side and be thankful that I am alive.

Dear Minister: you are everybody’s minister, is that right? This “everybody” includes trans people and sex workers too, right? If your answer is yes, I ask, why are you silent about what happened to me? The investigations are ongoing and you’re still silent. If a lawsuit begins, are you going to stand by me? Are you going to get involved in it? Are you going to stand by a trans, sex worker, rights activist who was raped and brutalized?

Or am I, are we, going to be considered as people who “deserve” what happens to them? When one of us is killed tomorrow, will there be only 2-3 people to say a final goodbye? Are we, the members of the Tribe of Lot as some of you say, going to continue to be “disciplined” by violence, rape, and murder?

Dear Minister, is your silence fair? We may not be women in your eyes; we may be “immoral.” But are we not human either? Are your “conservatism” and your “religious and human values” silent in the face of violence?

I, your citizen, a trans, a sex worker, a rights activist, a victim… When were we made to be so lonely?

Dear Minister, I invite you, your Ministry, and your government to stand by me. I keep hoping for the faint possibility. If you take a step, it will send a message to rapists.

Before we die again…

The Campaign Against Homosexuality in Turkey’s Elections

Only days before Turkey’s upcoming parliamentary elections, unknown gunmen shot at the campaign office of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in the early morning hours of June 2 in Eskisehir, a city in northwest Turkey. More than 100 attacks have been carried out against election offices of the HDP, a left-wing and pro-Kurdish party, during this campaign season, according to Dicle News Agency. [1] Though no one was hurt in the Eskisehir attack, the HDP’s openly gay candidate Baris Sulu, who runs his campaign from that office, left the city over safety concerns.

Sulu has been receiving threats since he declared his candidacy for the HDP nomination in February. A seasoned activist, Sulu says he joined the HDP because the party supported rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex (LGBTI) people even at its nascent stage as the Peoples’ Democratic Congress in 2011. Sulu’s candidacy is highly notable in a conservative country where prejudice and harassment against LGBTI people is a fact of daily life. The number of threats rose in April with his official nomination but the dramatic increase came in May when pro-government media outlets started targeting him.

Pro-government Sabah and Star daily newspapers have called Sulu’s campaign “vile propaganda,” criticizing his tweets such as “recognize our sexual orientation” and for wanting “people to react normally to men kissing.” [23] The Turkish daily newspaper Yeni Akit, infamous for its attacks on LGBTI people, published blurred photographs of Sulu and his partner kissing under the title “Immoral prostitution images of the HDP’s perverted candidate revealed!” [4] The article was quickly reposted by other media outlets and social media users, which escalated the online threats.

In Turkey, media attacks often go hand-in-hand with similar statements from elected officials. President Erdogan, who has led the campaign for the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) despite the fact that his position calls for neutrality, lambasted the HDP on May 28 at a meeting in Ankara. “We don’t nominate so-called religious scholars in Diyarbakir [a pre-dominantly Kurdish city in Turkey’s southeast] and homosexuals in Eskisehir,” Erdogan said in reference to what he sees as the HDP’s pandering to opposing sensitivities of different regions of the country. [5]

Following Erdogan’s statements, two parliamentary hopefuls from the AKP, in an effort to garner votes from religiously conservative Kurds, have criticized the HDP for nominating an openly gay candidate, arguing that homosexuality cannot be reconciled with Islam.

At a campaign stop in the southeastern province of Siirt, AKP candidate Yasin Aktay criticized the HDP’s nominations and said, “You are the child of a Muslim. The Kurds are Muslim and if there are, excuse me, 3 homosexuals on the list of Muslims who defend man’s marriage to man, then I will ask you ‘who are you?’” Aktay concluded that “it is impossible for Muslim society to affirm a man’s marriage to a man.” [6]

Former Interior Minister and AKP candidate Efkan Ala expressed fear that the HDP would give gays and lesbians “all sorts of rights” such as the recognition of same-sex marriages. Speaking to his “Kurdish brothers” on a Turkish news channel, Ala said, “We are against such things that our morality and our traditions reject.” He warned his listeners “the tribe of Lot was destroyed because of this; this is the destruction of humanity,” referring to the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, a trope often used against LGBT communities in the Muslim world. [7]

Sulu says that after each public speech, he has received threats on Twitter from AK trolls, supporters of the AKP who launch large-scale smear campaigns on social media. They called him a pervert “who will burn in hell.” He blocks at least 10 accounts every day, but “systematic swearing, insults, and threats continue to come to all of my social media accounts,” Sulu said.

Sulu believes that Erdogan’s statement in 2002 that “homosexuals must also be given legal protection for their rights and freedoms” was only to appear sympathetic to the EU. [8] Now at the brink of losing a significant number of parliamentary seats to the HDP, “all their hidden fears, all the times they were being disingenuous, are coming out to the surface,” in the shape of homophobia. President Erdogan confirmed this at a June 3 rally in the eastern province of Bingol, when he said, “The Armenian lobby, homosexuals and those who believe in ‘Alevism without Ali’ – all these representatives of sedition are [the HDP’s] benefactors.” [9]

Sulu is last on the list of 6 HDP candidates in Eskisehir and, thus, unlikely to be elected into office. However, the nomination of an openly gay man for parliament is highly notable in Turkey, where 87 percent of respondents to Bahcesehir University’s 2012 survey, “Turkish Values Atlas,” said they do not want gay neighbors. [10] Since 2010, 47 individuals have been killed due to their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. [11] In May alone there were 5 assaults on transgender individuals in Istanbul. [12]

The HDP’s nomination of an openly gay candidate has created campaign fodder for the AKP. While singling out Sulu could prove dangerous for the candidate, he remains hopeful. “If we as LGBTIs are taken so seriously, then we must be succeeding in our twenty year rights struggle,” Sulu said.

Zeynep Bilginsoy is a freelance journalist based in Istanbul. She’s also the founder and project manager of LGBTI News Turkey, an English translation resource on LGBTI issues in Turkey.

Mehtap Cansın, Suicide or “I could not do it!”

Source: Derviş A. Akkoç, “Mehtap Cansın, İntihar ya da “Yapamadım!” (“Mehtap Cansın, Suicide or “I could not do it!”” )Birikimdergisi.com, 07 January 2015, http://www.birikimdergisi.com/guncel/mehtap-cansin-intihar-ya-da-yapamadim

Trans woman Mehtap [Eylül] Cansın committed suicide by jumping off the Bosphorus Bridge on January 5, 2015. Death has become so ordinary in this society that I have no doubt this suicide will be brushed aside like the other suicides. It will be completely forgotten since the person who is dead is not one of “us” due to her sexual preference. I do not know if I should either say “what a pity!” or “such a shame!” Mehtap Cansın was only 24 years old. She recorded a video right before she committed suicide. At her last moment and with her last breath she voiced her complaint, trying to explain her situation one last time and to reach out to others:

I’m sending kisses to all of you. Today is the best of my days, I am very happy. But today will be another beautiful day for me. I thank everyone. I love everyone. Many were my friends, but apparently not. I leave everyone to their conscience, I can’t do this anymore. This is what I figured out. I do the things everyone wants, the way they would like it. I kiss all of you. 2015! I was born in 1992. I should be 24 right now, but I am ending my age at 24 instead. I kiss everyone. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it, because people did not let me. I could not work. I wanted to do things, I couldn’t do them. Do you understand? They constantly stood in my way. They victimized me. I leave everyone to God. And right now I am going towards Bosphorus Bridge. You will hear my name on the pages of the newspapers tomorrow, it can be on the 3rd or 4th or maybe on the 1st page. I kiss all of you, may God protect you. May God protect you…

Most probably newspapers will have bigger and more important agendas tomorrow, Mehtap Cansın’s name will probably not be mentioned on the first page, but on the later pages. She knows it too: “it can be on the 3rd or 4th.” Worse is that her name may not be there at all.  People will think, “What was she worth when she was alive? What does it matter when she is dead?” If the act of suicide means the subject pronounces herself through death,  opening the existence itself to the world through death one last time, then it is that life that causes death that needs to be questioned, not the death itself. There is no doubt that this life was a living hell for Cansın. No wonder she repeats “I couldn’t do it” so many times: “I wanted to do things, I couldn’t do it, they stood in my way.” And right after she adds: “Do you understand?” Do we understand what? “Can’t do it” anymore, getting stuck at a certain point, to be held back, to have her life and soul devoured. Is it these things we are to understand? These are all results. A life depreciated, meanings and values scattered, the limit of “living another day just to spite the enemy” far passed. These are all results too.

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Gani Met on Trans Deaths: “This Piece is a Denunciation for Humanity”

Source: Gani Met,  “Bu Yazı İnsanlığa Suç Duyurusudur”, (“This Piece is a Denunciation for Humanity”), 5harfliler.com, 5 January 2015, http://www.5harfliler.com/bu-yazi-insanliga-suc-duyurusudur/

Here I am releasing a denunciation to all of humanity, over and over again: You are destroying us each day. You are massacring us systematically and politically. See this! Hear this!

I don’t understand how I was able to manage this situation in the past. Not a day goes by without someone dying, someone being kicked out of their house, someone in need of care at some hospital…These pieces of news make me so sad now. My resistance decreases. I don’t know how I would be able to survive if it weren’t for the well-intentioned people around me. What kind of an arena is this where if you fall, you are shattered? What is the struggle behind this hopelessness? Why? I don’t know…

The psychology of war that we are made to experience is always with me. There are dead bodies everywhere. I used to know that one. I used to love that one. That other one was a nice girl. The latter was my friend. There are dead bodies everywhere or bad memories. I don’t know who the enemy is anymore.

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