Istanbul LGBTT

Trans Woman Attacked, Forced to Leave Istanbul Neighborhood

Kıvılcım Arat, LGBTI activist, was forced to leave her home of five years due to continuous attacks from a group of young men living in her neighborhood.

Source: Çiçek Tahaoğlu, “Trans Kadına ‘Bu Mahalle Gezici Değil’ Saldırısı”, September 21, 2016, BiaNet, http://bianet.org/bianet/lgbti/178863-trans-kadina-bu-mahalle-gezici-degil-saldirisi

Kıvılcım Arat is a board member of the Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association as well as the spokesperson of the Democratic Women’s Movement.

She was forced to abandon her home in Beyoğlu due to fear for her personal safety. She has moved to another city and is temporarily living in an acquaintance’s house. She plans to work and save some money before returning to Istanbul and seeking new accommodations.

Due to Arat’s concern for her safety, we cannot include the name of the neighborhood or her current whereabouts in the piece.

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“They have screenshots of my news interviews”

Arat told the story of how a group of young men harassed and threatened her on her way in and out of the neighborhood:

“I have been living in the same neighborhood for the last five years. I had no previous problems with these kids. About a month ago, just as I was entering my home, they stopped me, “Wait for a second.” I tried to enter the apartment building but one of them was at the door, both holding but also trying to block the others’ way in.

“They showed me screenshots of my interviews with bianet, Jinha and İMC TV broadcasts before shouting ‘this is not a Gezi-spirited neighborhood.’ They went on to shout sexist slurs and threaten me with rape. ‘Nobody will be able to save you from us,’ they told me.”

“You will never be on TV again”

“I managed to walk into my home then but they continued their threats in the following days, adding ‘you will never be on tv again.’ They would bring their own foldable chairs outside and sit there in the middle of the neighborhood. For a few days, I asked for help from my neighbors to get home. They escorted me from the end of the street to my apartment building.

“10 days after the first attack, I and a friend of mine from the solidarity association came home. They were waiting at the entrance. It was a tense moment but we managed to walk in the building. After that we heard a commotion outside. As a trans friend of ours was entering the building, the group attacked them shouting, ‘Whore! Is that your pimp?’

“Four days after this event, they threw bottles at me. I could not take it anymore, so I transferred my rent contract. My whole life is upside down. I need to find a new home now.”

Alderman tried to evict Arat from her apartment

Arat also claimed that the neighborhood alderman had taken part in the events, and that the alderman had tried to evict her from her apartment:

“When my neighbors went to the neighborhood alderman’s office for some paperwork, the alderman asked them for my landlord’s number. When they asked why, he claimed that I was a sex worker and added ‘we do not know who comes in and out of the apartment.’ My neighbors reacted to this statement and told the alderman, ‘we have been living in the same building for years. We have not seen any strangers come and go. Furthermore, she was attacked. She cannot come to her own home for a week now.’”

When the neighbors could not convince the alderman, the alderman of a near neighborhood, Çiğdem Nalbantoğlu, intervened and reminded that it is not within an alderman’s rights or duties to evict residents and persuaded against calling Arat’s landlord. The alderman later said ‘Kıvılcım Hanım (Arat), should come to visit us for some tea.’

“They attacked a 60 year old woman, they could easily kill me”

Arat added that she was not the only target of these men in her neighborhood:

“A Romanian woman lives across the street. Since her apartment is on the ground floor, you can see her television. They keep harassing her, saying ‘why don’t you turn your tv off during the call to prayer?’

“On July 16th, they attacked a woman who lived here for years with her two kids. The woman had just asked these people to be quiet. They threatened her. The woman had to escape back into her building. They yelled ‘traitors’ on the street.

“I am not safe on that street. They behave with such impunity. Anyone who attacks a 60 year old woman who abides by all norms of society, would not shy away from killing me.”

Arat, who says she had to leave Istanbul in a hurry, will file criminal complaints, through her lawyer, with the prosecutor’s office for public nuisance, sexual harassment, intimidation, using threats and intimidation to intervene in others’ way of life. 

Cyber-attack against Istanbul LGBTI’s Website

The website of Istanbul LGBTT Solidarity Association was hacked. Kıvılcım Arat from the Association said “LGBTIs used not to be perceived as a threat. Attacks increased as they became the subject of/in politics.”

Source: Çiçek Tahaoğlu, “İstanbul LGBTİ’nin Web Sitesine Siber Saldırı” (“Cyber Attack against Istanbul LGBTT’s Website”), bianet, 6 July 2015,  http://www.bianet.org/bianet/lgbti/165826-istanbul-lgbti-nin-web-sitesine-siber-saldiri

The website of Istanbul LGBTI [LGBTT] Solidarity Association was hacked by a group called “Armania”.

510Hackers changed the first news heading of the website to “WE ARE SONS OF BITCHES YEAHH”. The website at http://istanbul-lgbtt.net is still accessible but news items display an error.

Istanbul LGBTI’s Kıvılcım Arat reported that “As it turns out, they had found a vulnerability in the website a while ago but waited for a controversy before hacking it. They took advantage of the order of the day where the police attacks the Pride Parade and LGBTIs continue to be targeted [for violence] and posted their messages to the website.”

Kaos GL’s website was targeted with a DDoS attack simultaneously with the police attack against the Istanbul LGBTI Pride Parade on June 28th.

Arat, who reported that online attacks against LGBTIs are increasing in addition to the already widespread physical and verbal assaults, expressed that the reason for the increase in attacks is the visibility of the LGBTI and LGBTI’s presence in the political arena:

LGBTIs used not to be perceived as a threat; we were seen as a group that keeps their head down at all times. But this perception dissipated after Gezi. A certain discomfort emerged from LGBTIs’ becoming political subjects in the last election process and their solidarity around the slogan ‘We will not let you become the President’.

It was indeed not Ramadan but the discomfort of the election process that lead to the attacks during the Pride Parade, which has been organized for 13 years. After all, a week ago and again during Ramadan, the 6th Trans Pride Parade was organized on the same street.

A message of ‘you better tread lightly, not get into politics, withdraw into your shell’ is being given with these target-ful statements, news articles, and assaults. Because Turkey’s LGBTI movement is one of the most political ones in Turkey. It seems that attacks will continue, unfortunately.

Thousands march for trans pride: We need a law of our own!

The 6th Trans Pride Week organized by Istanbul LGBTT Solidarity Association concluded with the Trans Pride Parade at the Istiklal Avenue with the participation of thousands.

Source: Yıldız Tar, “Binler trans onuru için yürüdü: Bize bir yasa lazım!” [“Thousands marched for trans pride: We need a law of our own!”], Kaos GL, 21 June 2015, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=19662

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A 60-meter long giant blue-pink trans flag was displayed during the march. The slogans of the crowd who carried rainbow flags included “Trans is Life,” “Gender Identity in the Constitution,” and “We will not be Normalized.” A bilingual Kurdish-Turkish “We need a law of our own” placard was also displayed during the march.

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Police barricade against the march

As a result of the police barricade at the Taksim Square, the march started in front of the French Cultural Center. Police did not allow the crowd through Istiklal Avenue, using the [anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist] Allied June Movement [started after the Gezi protests] march as an excuse. After negotiations, the barricade, which was protested with chants of “Police, become prostitutes instead, keep your dignity,” was removed.

Other slogans from the enthusiastic crowd included “we are transvestites, we are here, get used to it,” “so what if we are trannies, we are everywhere, get used to it,” “run Tayyip run, the trans are coming.”

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Istanbul LGBTT Activist: “Assailants say ‘you can murder fags, there is no penalty for that’”

7 trans women were assaulted in Istanbul in the last month. Kıvılcım Arat of Istanbul LGBTI said: “It is the government, which avoids producing legislation [against hate crimes] and which issues press statements that point people out as targets, who is responsible for the increase in assaults.”

Source: Çiçek Tahaoğlu, “Saldırganlar ‘İbne Öldürmenin Cezası Yok’ Diyor” (“Assailants say ‘you can murder fags, there is no penalty for that’”), Bianet, 1 June 2015, http://www.bianet.org/bianet/lgbti/164977-saldirganlar-ibne-oldurmenin-cezasi-yok-diyor

7 trans women were assaulted in Istanbul in the last month [May 2015].

Some assaults occurred out of nowhere while women were walking on the street, some occurred in women’s homes. Other trans women who heard that trans women have been assaulted rushed to the hospitals and waited outside the ER in solidarity, even when they did not know the victim.

Yet, the attacks continue and very few of the women apply to rights organizations regarding what they experienced and initiate legal procedures.

Istanbul LGBTI [sic- correct name Istanbul LGBTT], one of the organizations working for trans rights, reported that only three trans women applied [for support] following the attacks. Two of them did not continue the necessary legal procedures afterwards; one is waiting for her recovery.

Why is it that these women, who struggle for their lives every day, do not engage in a legal struggle? Kıvılcım Arat, member of the board of directors of Istanbul LGBTI [sic], responded to this question: “Because they do not trust the judiciary.”

“They are reluctant [to pursue cases] because they do not trust the judiciary. Activists need to intervene at that stage. Unfortunately, that is not always possible.”

Arat tied the high number of assaults during the month to the statements by government authorities. While they have avoided issuing statements regarding LGBTIs up until now, government authorities have begun bringing the issue to the forefront as the elections are approaching. Arat reminds us of the statements by President Erdoğan, “We do not put forth homosexual candidates,” and by Prime Minister Davutoğlu, “Homosexuals caused the destruction of the tribe of Lot.”

“Ever since the HDP [which has an LGBTI candidate and actively campaigns for LGBTI rights -Trans.] started its election campaign, the statements by government authorities about LGBTIs have been encouraging people to commit hate crimes. Recently, following the statement by the President, two trans women were assaulted.”

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Psychological, legal, and social support for Trans Guesthouse

Istanbul LGBTT is launching the Eylül Cansın Transhouse Project to provide psychological, legal, and social support for the residents of the Trans Guesthouse. [To contribute to the Trans Guesthouse, please contact the Istanbul LGBTT Solidarity Association.]

Source: Yıldız Tar, “Trans Misafirhanesi’ne psikolojik, hukuki ve sosyal destek sağlanacak” (“Psychological, legal, and social support for trans guesthouse”), KaosGL, 26 May 2015, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=19500

Istanbul LGBTT Solidarity Association is launching the Eylül Cansın Transhouse Project to address the psychological, legal, and social support needs of the Trans Guesthouse. Supported by the Netherlands, the project will provide vocational training programs as well as psychological support for trans residents on a regular basis.

The residents of both the Çingene Gül Guesthouse, which was initiated some years ago by Istanbul LGBTI, and of the Eylül Cansın Guesthouse, which is being developed through Trans Angels’ support, will now be able to receive legal counselling, attend accessory design workshops, and produce and sell handmade accessories.

All proceeds from the accessory design workshop will go to the guesthouse

In our conversation about the Association’s new project, Deniz Tunç noted that the Eylül Cansın Transhouse Project will greatly contribute to the institutionalization of the guesthouse. Tunç remarked that so far the guesthouse has survived through solidarity:

“Till now, the basic needs of the guesthouse were being met by the visitors. This project will enable the trans women who reside here to have their basic needs met. The end results of the accessory design workshop will be displayed for sale on 20 November, the Transgender Day of Remembrance; as part of the week’s activities, we will hold a charity sale and exhibition for the accessories. All proceeds will go to the guesthouse.”

Yearlong psychological counseling

Tunç noted that group therapy and one-on-one counseling will be made available to trans residents: “Trans people are discriminated against in every domain of life. The trans people who come to the guesthouse are usually people who have been excluded from social life and who experience extreme isolation. Many trans women don’t even want to go outside. They have been getting counseling from volunteer psychologists, but we’ll systematize that service.”

Legal support for LGBTI war victims

The project includes services for LGBTI refugees as well. Istanbul LGBTI will provide legal support for LGBTI war victims’ applications to the UN. Legal support will not be limited to refugees. The new transhouse website will provide both online and face-to-face consultancy to trans residents.

The utilities of the guesthouse are being paid through the proceeds of the fashion show held by Trans Angels on 20 November 2014 and other charity events. However, the guesthouse needs contributions.

To contribute to the Trans Guesthouse, please contact the Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association.

Free Health Support for Trans Guesthouse from Beşiktaş Municipality

Taking the lead, the Beşiktaş Municipality [in Istanbul] has begun offering free health service support to the Trans Guesthouse. As part of the support, trans women lodging at the guesthouse underwent a medical check-up on 30 January.

Source: Yıldız Tar, “Beşiktaş Belediyesi’nden Trans Misafirhanesi’ne ücretsiz sağlık desteği” (“Free Health Support for Trans Guesthouse from Beşiktaş Municipality”), KaosGL.org, 30 January 2015, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=18608

Additional support has come from the Beşiktaş Municipality for the Trans Guesthouse, which was opened by Istanbul LGBTI for trans women who are elderly or find themselves in difficult circumstances, and which in recent days has been expanded with the contribution of Trans Angels. [A solidarity group across Turkey] As part of the right to social service and health, the Beşiktaş Municipality began to offer free and anonymous health service to trans women lodging at the guesthouse. The first of the health screenings scheduled to be conducted periodically each month took place today. Municipal health personnel came to the guesthouse and gave the trans women medical check-ups. misafirhanesaglik Sedef Çakmak: Right to health and shelter are two key issues SPoD LGBTI activist Sedef Çakmak, one of the Beşiktaş Municipality mayoral consultants personally overseeing the health screening, made a statement about her work to KaosGL.org. Noting that as the Beşiktaş Municipality they would continue to support LGBTI people’s fight for equal citizenship, Çakmak continued her remarks as follows: “Health and shelter are one of the two most important issues for the LGBTI movement as well. In spite of the fact that Tarlabaşı is not within the borders of the Beşiktaş Municipality, the LGBTI issue inevitably encompasses all Istanbul. Since we have made progress on the way to becoming an LGBTI-friendly municipality, we will try to deliver health services to our friends who have needs in this area.” (more…)

Turkish Bath owner, who did not let a trans woman in, receives a 3,000 TL fine for discrimination

The owner of a Turkish bath who did not let a trans woman enter the establishment was charged and fined for discrimination. Lawyer Eren Keskin stated that this is the first time a punishment was given under this article related to trans individuals and said “I think that this verdict will give confidence to trans individuals on this matter. If the Supreme Court approves this verdict, they may live life a bit easier.”

Source: İsmail Saymaz, “Trans kadını içeri almayan hamamcıya, ayrımcılık suçundan 3 bin TL ceza” (“Turkish Bath owner, who did not let a trans woman in, receives a 3 thousand TL fine for discrimination), Radikal, 30 January 2015, http://www.radikal.com.tr/turkiye/trans_kadini_iceri_almayan_hamamciya_ayrimcilik_sucundan_3_bin_tl_ceza-1282917

İpek [Ebru] Kırancı, a trans individual who was not let into the historical Galatasaray Bath in İstanbul, where she went with a female friend, filed a complaint about the owner who said “We do not let in trannies like you, go to a bath of your own!” The owner received a fine of 3,000 TL [1240 USD] for the charges of “discrimination” regulated in Article 122 of the Turkish Penal Law (TCK). Kırancı’s lawyer Eren Keskin noted that this was the first time a sentence was given under this article and said “I think that this verdict will give confidence to trans individuals on this matter. If the Supreme Court approves this verdict, they may live life a bit easier.”

İpek Kırancı, who lives in Istanbul and who changed her sex to be a woman years ago, allegedly went to the Galatasaray Bath on December 26, 2013, with her friend Helga Maria Margereta to take a bath. Ahmet Karagüney, who owns the bath, rejected Kırancı and her friend, saying “You absolutely cannot enter!” even though she showed her pink ID card. Thereupon Kırancı filed a complaint through her lawyer Eren Keskin. A lawsuit against Karagüney was opened, on the charges of “discrimination based on language, race, color, sex, political opinion, philosophical belief, religion, sect and similar reasons”  regulated by the Article 122 of the Turkish Penal Law, with a request of imprisonment from six months to a year.

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