Opinion

Opinion pieces 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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The New Domestic Security Bill and its Potential Implications for LGBTI Individuals

Source: İdil Su, “Yeni Güvenlik Yasası ve LGBTİ bireyleri için olası sonuçları”, (“The New Domestic Security Bill and Its Potential Implications for LGBTI Individuals”,) Cark, 4 December 2014, http://www.carkmag.com/yeni-guvenlik-yasasi-ve-lgbti-bireyler-icin-olasi-sonuclari/

The new legal measures are a clear sign of Turkey moving completely in the direction of a police state. This is because the authorities delegated to the police are the same ones given to security units in countries ruled by dictatorship and monarchy. There are perilous aspects that should be of concern to everyone in this new legislation. The following are the most striking regulations that would impact LGBTI individuals, particularly those who do sex work, as well as those individuals criticizing the government:

1- Police can search any vehicle and person they deem suspicious; the 24 hour detention period is being raised to 48 hours. Detainment in mass events may be increased up to four days through prosecutorial order.

In other words, the police can stop anyone on the road and detain them on the basis of “reasonable doubt” and the prosecutor can extend the detention period. This means the police can take into custody if they want a sex worker on the street or any individual out with their friends and family under “reasonable doubt” and can prolong their detention up to 48 hours.

2- The scope of crimes for asset forfeiture is expanding

They may seize our property which, in their definition, may be seen as illegally acquired. In other words, property acquired through actions legally defined as criminal can be seized by the state. But at this point, the law concerns only catalog crimes. Its scope may be expanded, though. For example, prosecutors and courts can seize the property of people who join protests if they are accused of upsetting the constitutional order through their participation in anti-government mass protests. In other words, anyone who criticizes the government can be classified as a gang member and their property seized by a court order.

3- Our homes will be searched more easily, our phones will be tapped more easily.

They will make life more difficult for sex workers. They will keep track of all our communication information. It sounds like phone records alone will constitute evidence, therefore the government will track all telephone and internet communications.

4- The law requires the notary to share with and report to the police all of our transactions.

5- Lawyers may not be able to examine their clients’ files during investigation; they may not be able to find out the charges and their bases.

In other words, prosecutors may choose not to show the files of people who will be tried while in custody to their lawyers. They will try to prolong detention.

6- Finally, the bill proposes a new crime, that of “threatening” civil servants.

This article paves the way for anyone who criticizes the government to be seen as a potential criminal. If we bear in mind that courts frequently convict people by charging them with the crime of “insult,” it is inevitable that the crime of “threat” will be used to silence oppositional voices. In other words, the government will track social media and will be able to prosecute people for threatening government. We will either have to show support for government’s every action or like in North Korea, we will all shed fake tears. It is truly very grim. Everything the government does will be seen as right. In short, we will say, “Oh Sultan, Long Live!” Or else, it is prison.

Evaluating Hate Murders based on SOGI in Turkey: Shortcomings and Proposals

Between January 2010 and November 2014, 47 individuals have been killed due to their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. These deaths are represented in the infographic below (pdf, source, license), with data collected by LGBTI News Turkey volunteers from various online news media and LGBTI associations.

LGBTI hate murders in Turkey 2010-2014

LGBTI hate murders in Turkey 2010-2014

It is important to note that these figures point to the lack of information regarding a significant part of Turkey. This scarcity of data may be caused by the intersection of several factors:

a) Issues of visibility in terms of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) in Turkey,
b) Lack of official data (the Republic of Turkey does not recognise SOGI as categories pertaining to discrimination and hate crimes),
c) Systematic lack of attention and reach by Turkish mainstream media sources to regions populated by religious and ethnic [Kurdish] minorities.

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News Media Analysis: “One less trans following each trans-related news”

Source: Michelle Demishevich, “Her trans haberinde bir trans eksildi,” (“One less trans with each trans-related news,”) P24, 13 October 2014, http://www.platform24.org/guncel/514/her-trans-haberinde-trans-kadinlar-bir-eksildi

The media has a direct responsibility for the discrimination and violence that target trans individuals.

For years, the media perceived news and updates on the LGBTI as if they were an undesirable workload. There are already very few journalists at news desks who have a mastery on the language of gender [as a social construct]. The making of LGBTI news requires significant sensitivity. Sentences should be carefully chosen. Yet a discourse of hatred, deployed through trans women, has been rampant in LGBTI news stories that appear in the media. Trans women have been represented as mean and wicked in news headings such as “transvestite terror,” “transvestites have spread horror,” “transvestites have entered into armed conflict with the police,” and so on. In the last few years, positive news stories by women who are sensitive to LGBTI, women, and gender have been effective, to a limited degree, in undoing this perception.

Whenever media published a story on trans women, a trans murder happened the very next day. Perhaps trans women were targeted by the news stories, or perhaps it was the deployment of the discourse of hatred that set the stage for hate crimes.

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A social selfie as reflected in Seda Sayan

Source: Birgül Demirtaş, “Seda Sayan aynasında sosyal selfie, (“A social selfie as reflected in Seda Sayan,”) Birgün, September 14, 2014,  http://www.birgun.net/news/view/seda-sayan-aynasinda-toplumsal-selfie/5467

Seda Sayan drew significant and rightfully widespread anger by hosting Sefer Çalınak, who murdered his two spouses, on her TV show and by presenting and advertising him as a killer with a smile[1]. However, we should approach this not as an individual issue but as part of the social hysteria that we live in. To treat the events as a case of calculated social hysteria that worships power and authority and that believes whoever holds power will provide us with clues about the bigger picture.

Indeed, the case of the police officer who took selfies[2] while a civilian was attempting suicide on the Bosphorus bridge on September 1st2 is directly related to the Seda Sayan phenomenon. Both [incidents] involve actors who are inured to death and who try to find fame and reputation even in an atmosphere of death. To try to get higher ratings while normalizing women’s murders by men is quite equivalent to the situation of the police officer who tried to increase his popularity by advertising to the world that he was witnessing a suicide.

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Tolga Yalçın On Figen’s Death: What if She Called?

Source: Tolga Yalçın, “Ya aradıysa?”, (“What if she called?”), kaosGL.org, 6 September 2014, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=17469

What if she called?

She was my friend. She had told me so. “You are my friend,” she had said. I was interning at [LGBTI association] Kaos. I was excited. A little nervous as well. I had been sent to [LGBTT association] Pink Life, with the words, “Go, have a look, let me know what you find” to follow up on Umut G.’s Case.* (Case? Is that a social service term? Would that make me a case worker? I was actually Umut’s friend) We arranged meetings that lasted hours. She felt helpless. So much so that she was ready to like even the pigeons on that balcony. She was in shock. I am in shock now. The colonel-militarism had abducted her love, we knew this, we knew this, we knew this, but no one would listen. The colonel had abducted her Umut from her, the colonel had abducted the man she loved.

“I love him very much, I cannot bear him gone,” she had told me, on that balcony. She used to smoke long Marlboros. She would offer me those cigarettes of hers’ too. I wouldn’t accept, for she would smoke a lot and I feared that she would run out if I did. I wish now that her pack hadn’t run out. I was hungry then. Unemployed, or at any rate, about to be unemployed in a few months. I was in love, as deeply as she was in love with her Umut. Her lover had been abducted by his colonel father, heterosexism had claimed mine. “You will recover, you are my friend, I am here for you,” she told me then. I had smiled. This woman, who was undergoing great tumult herself, smoking long Marlboros to calm herself, was able to concern herself with my lover. But she was telling me that it would pass, looking at the pigeons. I came to know her then.

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