Rights Violations in 2015

Rights violations on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in 2015 in Turkey

Lesbian Dating Site Banned Over “Obscenity” Back Online

Source: Çiçek Tahaoğlu, “Lesbian Dating Site Banned Over ‘Obscenity’ Back Online”, bianet, 17 November 2015, http://bianet.org/english/lgbti/169339-lesbian-dating-site-banned-over-obscenity-back-online

The administrative measure against lesbian dating site www.lezce.com, blocked over “obscenity”, has been lifted a few hours after the incident took place.

Web administrator Erman Paçalı telling the ban has been lifted after the incident took place and was in the media, said the following:

“They shut down the website and lifted the ban out of the blue. We haven’t made any change on the website as to the content. We hadn’t managed to contact an authority from TIB despite all our efforts. When we looked at the Presidency of Telecommunication’s (TIB) query panel, the administrative measure appeared on the screen. When we repeated the same query 20 minutes ago, it states there is no decision implemented as to this website.

“The decision to lift the ban hasn’t been issued to all service providers yet, but it will be by the end of the day”.

510_(1).jpg

What had happened?

Speaking to Bianet, web administrator Erman Paçalı had said that the site doesn’t have any content that could be a subject to blocking, they couldn’t find any addressee regarding the matter, and they will go to court to stop the execution.

Source: Çiçek Tahaoğlu, “Lesbian Website Blocked over “Obscenity”,” bianet, 17 November 2015, http://bianet.org/english/lgbti/169329-lesbian-website-blocked-over-obscenity

Turkey’s only lesbian dating website, http://www.lezce.com*, has been banned for “obscenity”.

“Since obscenity can’t be determined by looking at a user name and password page on our home page, it has obviously been aroused by the name ‘lezce’. We are face to face with an administration that is aroused by letters. These practices encourage homophobia by state itself”, said the administrator of the webpage that operates on a membership system.

Lezce.com content advisor and administrator Erman Paçalı speaking to Bianet said they couldn’t find any addressee relating to the blocking decision and that they will file a complaint with the administrative court to grant a motion for stay of execution.

“We’ve sent our petition to the Presidency of Telecommunication (TIB) but it is unclear when they will respond since there is no law imposing a time limit on TIB. TIB experts conveyed via central office that they won’t contact us directly. We can’t find any addressee. It is not clear what is obscene in the content and what sort of evaluation they made.

“This decision violates the principle of equality. We will go to the district administrative court to stop the execution. We want a verbal hearing because we want to express ourselves”.  

TIB doesn’t inform

Paçalı said they have tried to contact TIB but they couldn’t receive any information regarding even the grounds of the decision.

“Whenever we wish to contact the institution, they express that there is prime ministerial circular stating experts cannot be met with. Thus, as far as we understand there is a circular allowing them to not meet with anyone if they wish to do so.”

Paçalı added that TIB has taken the decision based on “reasonable doubt” and “in order to constitute reasonable doubt, there must be content in line with that. However, our home page doesn’t have any content except for username and password panel, and TIB doesn’t present any content as to the ‘doubt’”.

* Lez is shortened for lezbiyen, which means lesbian, and Lezce stands for Lezbiyence, which means lesbianish.

 

Defendant accused of murdering trans woman Çağla Joker gets a sentence reduction because of his age, then a reduction for having been ‘unjustly provoked’

In the case of Çağla Joker, the victim of a hate-crime killing in Beyoğlu last April, the court reduced the defendant’s sentence to ten years on the grounds of “unjust provocation.”

Source: Burcu Karakaş, “Çağla Joker’in katil zanlısına yaş indiriminden sonra bir de ‘haksız tahrik’ indirimi” (“Defendant accused of murdering Çağla Joker gets a sentence reduction because of his age, then a reduction for having been ‘unjustly provoked'”), Diken, 1 October 2015. http://www.diken.com.tr/cagla-jokerin-katil-zanlisina-yas-indiriminden-sonra-bir-de-haksiz-tahrik-indirimi/

Trans women Çağla Joker and Nalan suffered an armed attack in Tarlabaşı on the night of 20 April [2014], and 25-year-old Çağla Joker, wounded in the chest, lost her life at the site of the incident. H.T., sentenced to 16 years and getting a reduction for being 17 years old, said in testimony given in court:

“We met two persons who we supposed were women. We negotiated. He said he was a man. I asked him to give me back the money I had paid. He said he would not return the money and cursed vehemently.”

Though tried for intentional homicide and life in prison, the court reduced the sentence to 10 years in prison due to reductions for “unjust provocation,” “good behavior,” and on account of him being younger than 18.

Not returning the 50 liras was an unjust provocation

In its decision, the judicial panel gave its opinion that Çağla Joker’s failure to return the money that the defendant had paid constituted an unjust provocation. The following phrases appeared in the reasoning:

“The defendant wanted the 50 liras back, and when at every stage he demanded its return, the deceased asserted that they would not return the money; confronted with the declarations of the deceased, the defendant came under the influence of anger and distress, and under the influence of anger and distress drew his weapon.”

These punishments will not be effective in ending the murders

Lawyer Fırat Söyle, commenting on the decision for Diken, emphasized that the sentence reductions being applied to defendants accused of hate crimes would not help to end the murders, and said:

“Inflicting very severe penalties on those who act out of the hatred engendered by government and society will not put an end to hate-crime killings, nevertheless, we demand that the severest penalties be inflicted on defendants accused of hate-crime killings, in the name of satisfying a sense of justice within this system. Unless the material and moral culture of the government system and of society changes, the punishments handed down to defendants will, unfortunately, be ineffective in ending these murders.”

No one has taken ownership of the case

On the other hand, reacting to the fact that no one has taken ownership of the case, Söyle continued as follows:

“The slogans that slam the government, patriarchy, and transphobia, and the statements made by the press, fade away before three days have passed, and even before seven days have gone by, they are forgotten. Çağla, and people like Çağla, were not organized, and their circle was not ‘extensive.’ Çağlas are destitute people, and those who are left behind to weep and mourn for them are those who are like them. In the newspapers they get a single mention on the third page at most. The reactions immediately following their murders end up buried in deep silence as the trials progress.”

*Translator’s Note: The Turkish language does not have gender pronouns and translation into languages with gender pronouns poses a challenge. In this translation, we have opted to use several pronouns to describe the victim. In statements by the perpetrator, we used the pronoun “he” because the perpetrator argues that the victim was male. In statements by the court, we used the pronoun “they” because the sentences do not make clear how the court views the victim’s gender. This choice does not reflect an openness by the court to identify the victim as the gender-neutral pronoun “they,” but to reflect that the Turkish language does not have gender pronouns. In the journalist Burcu Karakaş’s narration, we have chosen the pronoun “she” as the journalist works on women’s and LGBTI rights issues.

Rainbow and Feminist Flags on LGBTI Activists’ Coffin Cause for Tip Off by “Informant Neighbor” and Police Questioning

Stepping into action in light of a tip off given by “neighbors” about a rainbow flag draped over the caskets of LGBTI activists Boysan Yakar and Zeliş Deniz, who lost their lives in a traffic accident, police went to the mourners’ home wanting to take a statement.

Source: “‘Muhbir komşu’ işbaşında: Tabuta örtülen gökkuşağı bayrağına ‘yasa dışı’ ihbarı”, (“The ‘Informant Neighbor’ is back at work: ‘Illegal’ tip off given about rainbow flag wrapped around casket”), Diken, 10 September 2015, http://www.diken.com.tr/muhbir-komsu-isbasinda-tabuta-ortulen-gokkusagi-bayragina-yasa-disi-ihbari/

We are coming because of the tip off

Ayşe Yıldırım, a writer with Cumhuriyet, explained what happened in her column today: “The garden gate was opened. Three civilian men with radios and papers in their hands came inside. It was around 11:00 in the morning. “Is the family of the funeral here?” they asked everyone sitting in the garden. The crowd pointed to Neriman Deniz. When the three men came came towards Neriman, because of the radios in their hands, she thought, “They are either police who came to express their condolences from the municipality or police who are going to give some information about the crash.” One of the men took out his ID and said, “I am a police officer, we are coming because of a tip off.”

boycan-cenaze

According to Yıldırım, the police said that they had come after getting a tip off that the funerals had been performed with an illegal organization’s flag. Neriman Deniz, who asked whether the feminist movement’s flag and the LGBTI movement’s rainbow flag were considered illegal, got “no, of course not,” as an answer.

Those flags were at Şişli Mosque, the police were there too

When Neriman Deniz asked, “Well then, why have you come?” the police said that they had taken action because of a tip off received from a neighbor. As a response, she said, “Do you all have no intelligence information at all? The television networks and newspapers covered the funeral. Did you not see that either? How can you come up to a wounded mother, to a house in mourning like this?”

When the police asked, “Wasn’t this the accident in Gallipoli?” Neriman Deniz said this in reaction: “You know that, but you do not know what flags were at the funeral. Those flags were at Şişli Mosque and the police were there too. The real terrorist in Turkey is the state, it is ISIS, let the police deal with them.”

Is it a crime to be a leftist in this country?

Following Neriman Deniz, the police this time headed towards Zeliş Deniz’s sister, and indicated that they had gotten a complaint about the funeral being performed with a PKK Flag. They then asked for Neriman Deniz’s ID to record a statement, but were forced to leave the house when the family said, “We will not give it to you, inform your superiors.”

Neriman Deniz, who was clearly very upset and angry about the police’s approach, showed her reaction by saying, “In the middle of the casket there was an LGBTI flag, at the head there was a socialist feminist flag and a purple kerchief, and at the foot there was a red flag. It was embroidered with roses and pictures. Is it a crime to be a leftist in this country? They cannot come into my house like this.”

Rampant Transphobia in Turkey: Trans Dentist Ece Loses Her Job But Is Defiant

Ece is a 41-year old dentist and a trans woman. A week ago, she lost her job, because her colleagues refused to work with her. Ece wants everybody to know that there is a trans dentist in Turkey.

Source: Yıldız Tar, “Bir Trans Kadın Mükemmel Olmak Zorunda” (“A Trans Woman Has to be Flawless”), kaosgl.org, 23 August 2015, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=20063

In Turkey, being a trans woman is associated with one single thing: hate crimes. We associate trans women with bodies ruled by violence and life that resists violence. However, transphobia is not just hate crimes. Discrimination is ordinary and rampant. Making a living, finding accommodation, having access to medical treatment like everybody else are treated like excessive demands when they come from trans people.

Recently I received a phone call about this sort of discrimination. Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association told me about a 41-year-old trans woman who recently lost her job. Ece was fired from the clinic where she worked a week ago.

ecehanim1

I called Ece and introduced myself. Speaking hurriedly, she told me about herself and what she’d been going through. We scheduled an interview right away.

I first saw her in front of the French Cultural Center. She was sitting next to street musicians and listening to their music while waiting for me. We talked all the way down to Cihangir. She spoke with the palpable excitement of having finally found an audience.

“I thought I couldn’t find a job because I didn’t have experience”

Ece graduated from Marmara University in 2000. Two years later, she started working at the clinic where she was recently fired from:

“No one gave me a job back then except for them. At the time I didn’t understand what was wrong. I thought I couldn’t find a job because I didn’t have experience. The truth turned out to be different.”

Ece continued her work all the while knowing that something was wrong. Then she left for New Zealand, Thailand, the US, and the Netherlands. Back in Turkey, she returned to her former employer.

“The saddest part is not being accepted by my colleagues”

“I went back to my former employer because I had to: they were the only ones who treated me fine. I started immediately and went on for two years. At first, I felt accepted. Then I started putting on makeup. The other girl did too; why wouldn’t I? What mattered was my work. I wanted them to respect me the way I was and approach me knowing who I was. The truth is, no matter what I did, I wasn’t appreciated. Patients picked others over me.

“My colleagues called me ‘Bey’ [‘Mister’]. I asked them not to: I wanted them to simply call me ‘Doctor.’ The patients were confused by this.

“Finally my boss told me that he couldn’t tolerate the complaints about me anymore. He said we couldn’t work together anymore but it didn’t have anything to do with my work as a doctor. I offered to finish the scheduled work with my patients. He said no. I think the other doctors at work didn’t want me either. And that is the saddest part: that my colleagues would not want to work at the same place as me. I had to leave immediately.”

Ece reminds persistently that she was good at her job and that her boss acknowledged her skills too: “I love my job. I believe that I do it well. I’m certain that I’m not inferior to my colleagues and that I often approach my job more humanely than them. Money has never been the goal for me.”

ecehanim2

“Should I become a prostitute at this age?”

Having lost her job due to transphobic pressures, Ece asks if she is supposed to start prostitution for the first time to support herself. She doesn’t know what to do. On the other hand, she says she will start hormonal treatment in a couple of months. Hormonal treatment and the surgery to follow require money, a lot of money…

“I’ve always felt like a woman. I’ve always been trans but I’ve been lied to. Not one person told me that I was trans. And I didn’t consider myself trans either. Being gay and being trans are mixed up often. I think it has to do with the fact that most trans women are forced into prostitution. Even I believed that you weren’t trans if you didn’t do prostitution. Because I wasn’t a prostitute, I felt conflicted.

“I’ve been teased for acting like a girl, I’ve been lonely, I haven’t made friends. When you’re pushed into loneliness, you try turning into a man. I couldn’t see the truth that everybody else could. I’m really angry with myself.

“Being strong keeps you from seeing certain things clearly. I was not aware of my intelligence. I was not aware that I could perform pretty well. I tried to perform that I was a man. They thought I was a good performer, I thought I was terrible.”

“A trans woman has to be flawless”

I broach the topic of family. Without any reservation, she says she does not talk to them and goes back to discussing her employment:

“I haven’t talked to my family in 4 years. I was tired of hearing that I should get married every time I saw them. They were literally teasing me. My father passed away recently and I kept working even then. Nobody else would do that. I had to do it not to lose my job. Even though I didn’t talk to him, he was my father after all. You could say he was cold and heartless, but it’s more complex than that. A trans woman has to be flawless. Being average is not enough. So I am trying to be flawless. I try to conform to every situation. I even try to conform with my clothes, but I’m at my limit.”

Ece thinks she will face discrimination in any job:

“It won’t be different if I work as a sales clerk. They will tease me, stare at me, giggle, and complain to the boss. Now I understand why people go on to prostitution. I was mad at the people who chose prostitution but I think I understand them now. If you don’t have money, I don’t think there’s anything else for you to do.”

Ece explains that many trans women retreat into themselves because of their life experiences: “We shut ourselves in our homes. We shut ourselves off from the world.” And she asks:

“Is it okay when rock stars do it and not so when I do it?”

“Why am I harmful if I don’t bother anyone? What did I do to you? How have I done harm? Why do you care what I wear? Do I tell you what to wear? Is makeup for women only? Don’t men put makeup on too? Is it okay when rock stars do it and not so when I do it? Do you really have to be a rock star? The thing I want most is to be pretty. Nothing else. Why are they against beauty so much? What’s so wrong if we’re dolled up freely? I’m more comfortable with women’s clothes, that’s all.”

Ece says she stays strong despite everything and she will keep up the fight. I realize at that moment that I’m talking to an Amazon warrior like many other trans women. Her poise and words prove me right:

“They don’t like seeing a trans woman who has self-confidence. They don’t like seeing that we are strong despite everything. I want everybody to know that there is a trans dentist in Turkey. Knowing that would help the next trans doctor or dentist. We will free ourselves when we come together.”

Ece will continue fighting for her right to work. She will meet with the Chamber of Dentists and look for jobs with her open identity. Time will tell if her colleagues will show solidarity with a woman who has nothing left to lose except for her wish to tell the world that there is a trans dentist in Turkey.

Homophobic Attack in Datça

Yasin Keskin of Vegisso Kitchen suffered a homophobic attack in Datça. Another person alleged to be a plain-clothes police officer participated in the attack. The police who responded to the attack then mocked Keskin rather than catching the attacker.

Source: Yıldız Tar, “Datça’da Homofobik Saldırı” (“Homophobic Attack in Datça”), KaosGL.org, 17 August 2015, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=20030

On the night of Saturday, August 15th, Vegan LGBTI activist Yasin Keskin suffered a homophobic hate crime in the town of Datça in Muğla province. Keskin, who first encountered disconcerting looks while dancing at the bar he went to have fun, later took a punch from an unknown person as he left the bar. Following this, a person alleged to be a plain-clothes police officer attacked Keskin with a pipe.

They saw him inside the bar and attacked outside

Keskin explained his experiences to KaosGL.org:

“We went to Datça for a one-day holiday as three friends. In the evening we went out to have fun and were dancing. While there I noticed that a group of men was giving us dirty looks. At the end of the night we came across a fight outside. A group of men was fighting.”

“At that point, although we had nothing to do with the fight one of the people from inside who had been giving us bad looks suddenly came up to me and smacked me. The area under my eye is still deep purple. After being hit I started yelling. The person who hit me ran away but then someone else started to attack me, this time with a pipe. Later the people around us said that the second attack was by an undercover police officer. And the bar owner, rather than helping us, threw us outside.”

Homophobic Discrimination from the Police

Immediately after the attack, Kesin called the police. He then recounted the attack to the police squad that came, but the officers laughed at him instead of taking his statement:

“The police came a while after I called them. I ran to the police car right away, but they didn’t pay attention to me. When I explained what had happened, the police and other people there laughed at me. I experienced violence, but they were preoccupied with making fun of me, probably because they were thinking, ‘What are we going to do with a fag?’” I said for them to take me to the police station and take my statement but they would not take me. They refused to carry out the procedure.”

Keskin reminded us that while he was living in Istanbul, he had faced violence from the police because of his homosexuality, and that following the homophobic attacks he has suffered in the past he again encountered discrimination at the police station and in the justice system. “Both because they laughed at me and because of my previous experiences, I distanced myself from the police,” he said.

“They were already watching you…”

While Kesin and his friends were trying to get away from Datça, two motorcyclists began following them. According to what Keskin explained, the motorcyclists’ words summarize the events of the night:

“The people inside were already watching you all. Be careful and get out of Datça. They will lynch you here. They are dangerous.”

Knife Attack on Trans Woman in Afyon

A trans woman in Afyon was attacked in her home by an assailant wielding a knife. The assailant also attempted to rob the woman. Buse Kılıçkaya from Pink Life Association commented on the attack: “Aggressors get encouraged when hate crimes go unpunished. We are treated like abandoned children.”

Source: Yıldız Tar, “Afyon’da trans kadına bıçaklı saldırı”, (“Knife Attack on Trans Woman in Afyon”), kaosgl.org, 5 August 2015, http://www.kaosgl.com/sayfa.php?id=19965

Trans woman Buse was attacked in her home by an assailant wielding a knife yesterday (4 August). After the hate crime, Buse was treated at the hospital and the assailant was caught and arrested by the police.

He attacked with a knife, attempted to rob

The assailant called and visited Buse, a sex worker, disguised as a customer. Immediately upon gaining access to her apartment, he stabbed her on the right side of the stomach. The assailant attempted to rob the trans woman, as she lay injured on the floor. When Buse told him that she had no money, the assailant fled.

Buse called her friend Derin, who came to her rescue on time. Buse was taken to the hospital and spent a day in intensive care. Her treatment continues.

Her friend saved her life

The assailant, a phone vendor allegedly named Süleyman, was caught thanks to Derin’s assistance to the police. Derin spoke to KaosGl.org:

“I immediately came to the scene when my friend called me. She told me about the incident before she lost consciousness. I found the number of the assailant in my friend’s phone and reported it to the police. That was how the police were able to find him.”

“We have been receiving threats on the phone”

Derin, also a trans woman, noted that she remains nervous because of the incident:

“I’m nervous and scared. I don’t want to communicate with anyone. I live alone just like Buse. I don’t have anybody. We have been threatened on the phone before but this is the first time a physical attack happened.”

“Aggressors get encouraged as crimes go unpunished”

We solicited the opinion of Buse Kılıçkaya, president of Pink Life LGBTI Solidarity Association and trans activist, on the attack: “Aggressors get encouraged as the attacks on trans people go unpunished.”

Kılıçkaya noted that this was a hate crime:

“This attack is called robbery and wounding in law. But in a country where trans people are not secured the right to live and treated like abandoned children, these attacks are beyond just robbery and wounding. If you don’t punish aggressors, trans sex workers will get treated as if they are objects.”

“The state’s and the aggressor’s mentalities are the same”

Recalling the posters about the “Tribe of Lot” in the streets of Ankara and the calls to massacre, Kılıçkaya remarked: “This is the country of trans people who are stabbed in the middle of the street, who can’t get anyone’s attention when screaming for help, and whose demonstrations get pepper sprayed.”

Noting that the state’s and the aggressor’s mentalities are the same, Kılıçkaya highlighted the discrimination that trans women experience in the legal process:

“Courts call trans victims “terrorists:” they nurture the attitude that “perverts” deserve their lot. As long as this climate of discrimination and hate is in place, the hate crimes go unpunished, and constitutional protection is unavailable, these attacks will sadly increase.”

Knife Attack on Young Trans Woman in Izmir

On August 11, a young trans woman by the name of Türkan who lives in Izmir suffered a transphobic attack.

Source: “İzmir’de Genç Trans Kadına Bıçaklı Saldırı” (Knife Attack on Young Trans Woman in Izmir”), Pembe Hayat, 12 August 2015, http://pembehayat.org/haberler.php?id=813

A young trans woman was subjected to the actions of a group of transphobic young people and was stabbed in the leg in front of Albayraklar on Bornova Street on August 11 in Izmir.

“Those are men, they’re faggots, they get f*cked in the *ss”

According to Türkan’s statement, the six young people, four men and two women, made verbal insults and engaged in harassment while passing through the hub where [Türkan and other trans women] were standing. After verbally harassing and laughing at the trans woman, the group attacked the trans woman who attempted to respond to her harassers.

Using transphobic statements, one of the men insulted the trans woman, saying things like “Those are men, like us. They are faggots, they get f*cked in the *ss.” Later the trans woman objected to these insults and a verbal altercation started.

“The men looked at each other, pulled up the courage and attacked”

Upon seeing that his friends approved of his transphobia, the young man making insults and harassing Türkan gained the courage to attack Türkan, injuring her with a knife.

The other trans people standing at the hub saved Türkan, who received a nine-centimeter-deep wound from being stabbed with the knife. They went to the police station and filed a report about the attacker and his friends, who had fled the crime scene.

“The attacker’s uncle called me and asked me to retract my police report”

While Türkan was giving her statement at the police station, the uncle of the attacker who had injured her with the knife called, saying, “My nephew just got out of prison, I’ll pull his ear, retract your report.” Türkan, who turned on her phone’s speaker so that police officers could also witness the call, did not retract her report.

The officers at the police station also told Türkan not to rescind her legal complaint and explained that she had a right to demand a lawyer during the litigation process.

Türkan, who is receiving treatment at the hospital, is currently struggling to stand up and walk. Despite being deemed to be in generally good health, she noted the wound in her groin has a depth of nine centimeters.