Trans woman sex worker missing since September 2014

Twenty-six-year-old trans woman Damla Araz, who was working as a sex worker out of necessity in the Şişli district of Istanbul, has been missing for one month [since September 2014]. Araz’s friends insist on the possibility that the trans woman was kidnapped by members of an Islamic cemaat [congregation, community].

Source: Michelle Demishevich, “Seks işçisi trans kadın, bir aydır kayıp” (“Trans woman sex worker missing for one month”) T24, 5 October 2014, http://t24.com.tr/haber/seks-iscisi-trans-kadin-kayip,272928

Was the trans woman murdered?

Along with two trans friends of hers, Damla Araz, who lived on Halaskargazi Avenue, survived by working as a sex worker at nights, again on the same avenue. One of her housemates, Roza Yılmaz, said that they had not been able to get news of Damla Araz for a long time and went to the Şişli Police Station and asked for help. But when the police officers on duty at the Şişli Police Station explained that only close relatives of the first degree were to come and file a missing person report, Roza Yılmaz and her friends began a search on their own resources. Roza Yılmaz said, “We are worried that Damla has been killed. We asked the police for assistance, but they have not done much. Damla was a beloved person in her circle.”

Halaskargazi Avenue, Istanbul (Source: Openstreetmaps)

Halaskargazi Avenue, Istanbul(Source: Openstreetmaps) 

Rozerin Seda Kip, a lawyer from the Istanbul Bar Association, responded to the failure of the Şişli Police Center to take Damla Araz’s friends’ request seriously, saying: “Missing person reports are expected to be filed first by members of the family. The police were obligated to evaluate Damla Araz’s personal information together with the report submitted by her friends. Because here the issue is a trans woman, and the possibility of a hate crime is a high-priority matter. In the laws there is no such provision; this is entirely an arbitrary approach taken by the police.”

The last person to see Damla Araz was her hair dresser, Güneş Nişantaşı. Nişantaşı said the following concerning the disappearance of Damla Araz:

“On the day she last came, she was cheerful and smiling, as usual. Moreover, she mentioned having a happy relationship with her boyfriend. She went in front of the mirror and said, ‘I am a very beautiful woman,’ and applied her lipstick and left. I am afraid; I hope she was not the victim of a hate crime.”