trans rights in Turkey

“Where is Hüseyin?” Trans Woman Reports Lover Assaulted and Kidnapped by Family in Turkey

Deniz, a transwoman, recently called Pink Life LGBT Association to notify them that her lover Hüseyin was kidnapped by his family and has been incommunicado. Concerned that the family who have physically assaulted Hüseyin and Deniz might further hurt Hüseyin, we ask: Where is Hüseyin?!

Source: “Hüseyin Nerede?” September 22, 2016, Pink Life , http://pembehayat.org/haberler.php?id=1241

Deniz, a trans woman who lives in Bursa, contacted Pink Life Association’s lawyer Rıza Yalçın Koçak and told him that Hüseyin’s family cut in front of them in their car while the two of them were walking on the street. After physically assaulting both, the family fired shots into the air with their guns, forced Hüseyin into the car and drove away, reported Deniz.

Directed by lawyer Rıza Yalçın Koçak, Deniz went to the Bursa Public Prosecutor’s Office and filed criminal charges. The Prosecutor’s Office started the process and issued a protection order for Deniz in compliance with Law 6284.

“They don’t want their son to be lovers with a transvestite”

Lawyer Koçak directed Deniz to the family’s summer home in Küçük Kumla as the most probable location where Hüseyin might be detained. Following the correspondence over the phone with the Küçük Kumla Gendarmarie Station, a request was made to the station to send the gendarmerie, accompanied by Deniz, to check the addresses to find Hüseyin. The commander at the station spoke with lawyer Koçak and told him, “Don’t worry, we will take care of this.” However, later that night the same station told Deniz that the address in question was not within their jurisdiction and sent her to the Gemlik Police Station. A military officer who identified himself as the station commander and spoke to lawyer Koçak made the following statement that lays bare their approach to the issue: “Hüseyin is alright, we met with the father, he is not going to hurt him, but he does not want his son to be lovers with a transvestite, either.” Despite lawyer Koçak’s efforts, the Küçük Kumla  Gendarmerie Station did not call the family into the station to take their statement.

Lawyer Koçak contacted the Gemlik Police Station where Deniz was sent. At the station, Koçak explained the urgency of the situation and requested that the family be brought to the station for a statement. Gemlik Police Station first claimed lack of jurisdiction over the address. When Deniz and lawyer Koçak persisted, they told Deniz that they would conduct a raid at the address, took Deniz with them, and instead of raiding the address, they dropped Deniz off in Bursa city center.

The following day, Çelik Özdemir from Istanbul LGBTT Solidarity Association spoke with Pink Life lawyer Rıza Yalçın Koçak and offered their support. Ali Sevilen and Gülbiz Alkan from Bursa Free Colors (Bursa Özgür Renkler, an LGBT association) also joined the process in solidarity.

First, the group met with Bursa MP Orhan Sarıbal and requested that he should demand information about the situation. The group also contacted Bursa MP Nurhayat Altaca Kayışoğlu to ensure that the representatives were informed about the situation.

Deniz was subsequently directed to the Merinos Police Station after Pink Life received information that the family gave a statement at the station located in the Bursa city center. Lawyer Koçak also met with the police at the station. The police merely stated that Hüseyin was alright with no further comment or information.

Accompanied by activists from Bursa Free Colors, Deniz first went to the Gemlik Police Station. Here activists were told Hüseyin was fine, that he even filed charges against Deniz and did not want to see her. The station produced no evidence in support of these claims. Lawyer Koçak inquired at the Bursa Public Prosecutor’s Office by submitting Hüseyin’s ID and determined that Hüseyin had not filed any charges against Deniz.

“No Police Officer on Duty”

Activists from Bursa Free Colors were told by the Gemlik Police Station to go to the Merinos Police Station to give supplementary statement without which, they claimed, they could not do anything. Activists took Deniz to the Merinos Police Station but were told that there was no police officer on duty thus no statement was taken.

Upon lawyer Koçak’s request, Bursa MP Orhan Sarıbal went to the Merinos Police Station and reported the following: “Merinos Police Station told me Hüseyin is fine. But they have not seen him. We told them they would be culpable for anything bad that happens and left the station.”

Deniz subsequently went to the Bursa Governor’s Office and filed a petition that Hüseyin is missing and that there is concern about his safety. Governor’s Office forwarded the petition to Bursa Security Directorate. Lawyer Koçak met with Bursa Security Directorate and explained the situation.

Bursa Security Office Arrogation Bureau stated that they were on the case, but as of September 22, 8:00 pm, lawyer Koçak was told on the phone that Hüseyin gave a statement at the Merinos Police Station and he was fine.”

However, during the last meeting, Merinos Police Station had claimed that they had not taken Hüseyin’s statement and were unaware of the matter.

“The picture that has emerged makes us all the more concerned for Hüseyin’s safety”

Pink Life lawyer Rıza Yalçın Koçak made the following statement regarding the case:

“As we are trying to explain,

Both law enforcement officers, gendarmerie and police have adopted a partisan attitude and refused to fulfil their official duties. In the face of conflicting information given by them, we are led to conclude that law enforcement is being dishonest. The picture that has emerged makes us all the more concerned about Hüseyin’s safety.”

Hüseyin may currently be detained by his family.

Hüseyin may currently be subject to torture and maltreatment.

What we have experienced strengthens this thought and we hereby declare to the public that Gemlik Police Station, Küçük Kumla Gendarmerie Station, Merinos Police Station, Bursa Security Directorate and Bursa Governor’s Office, and foremost, Hüseyin’s family will be culpable for anything bad that happens to him. We reiterate our concern and ask one more time:

Where is Hüseyin?”

 

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. 

Trans Man Faces Discrimination in Istanbul Gym

The famous gym chain MACFit’s Anadolu Hisarı branch in Beykoz, Istanbul was the scene of transphobic discrimination. Trans male Çağlar Hamza was first warned by the gym’s managers, where he was a member, by being told “You have a pink ID card, you cannot use the men’s changing room”, and then was forced to freeze his membership.

Source: “Ünlü spor salonu zincirinden transfobik uygulama: Üyeliğini dondur!”, SoL, 20 September 2016, http://haber.sol.org.tr/toplum/unlu-spor-salonu-zincirinden-transfobik-uygulama-uyeligini-dondur-169646 

Çağlar Hamza, a trans male who is originally a graphic designer, but still working on ships as a vice captain, was subject to the transphobic discrimination of the managers of the gym chain MACFit’s Anadolu Hisarı branch, of which he has been a member for a year. Çağlar Hamza was warned by a fitness instructor the previous evening with the words “You cannot use the men’s changing room, go use the women’s side”. Çağlar Hamza stated that he is a man, that he had not applied to the court and had his ID card changed yet, but he would be continuing to use the men’s side. He was forced the next day by the gym management to have his membership frozen.

ÇAĞLAR HAMZA: THIS IS A CLEAR TRANSPHOBIC DISCRIMINATION!

Çağlar Hamza, who spoke to soL, said “They gave me three choices. They wanted me to either get dressed and take showers in the women’s side, get dressed outside the premises, or freeze my membership. This is a clear transphobic discrimination. I condemn this”.

Demonstration in Istanbul for Hande Kader: We want to die of natural causes

Those who came together, in spite of a police barricade in Istanbul against transphobia, said “Trans murders are a political matter. We want to die of natural causes”.

Source: Yıldız Tar, “Hande Kader için İstanbul’da eylem: Ecelimizle ölmek istiyoruz”, kaosgl.org, August 21, 2016, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=22125

Reactions against trans woman Hande Kader’s murder by burning continue. Led by Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association and upon the call of LGBTI organizations, hundreds of people condemned the murder of Hande Kader and commemorated those who lost their lives due to homophobic and transphobic hate murders.

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“Justice for Hande, justice for all”

Those who come together in Beyoğlu Tünel against homophobia and transphobia opened the banner that reads “We won’t lose one more. Justice for Hande, justice for all”.

In the demonstration, participated in by women’s associations and many political parties as well as LGBTI organizations, slogans such as “Trans murders are political” and “Hande Kader’s here, where are the murderers?” were chanted. The names of those who lost their lives due to hate murders were announced as well.

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MPs were present too

Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Istanbul MP Filiz Kerestecioğlu and Republican People’s Party (CHP) Istanbul MP Sezgin Tanrıkulu were present at the demonstration for support. Kerestecioğlu indicated that LGBTI rights were essential for democracy and Tanrıkulu stated “We have to respect gender identities.”

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President of Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association Ebru Kırancı and trans activist İdil Su read the press statement. The declaration demanded legal protection against hate murders, and it was stressed that transphobic hate murders were political. The declaration also commemorated those who lost their lives in the attack on a wedding in Antep yesterday.

The demonstration took place with police surrounding the participants, the participants dispersed in Istiklal Avenue, chanting slogans.

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Photos: Barış Paksoy & Yıldız Tar

 

The Hande Kader murder: No one hears our voice

The struggle to stay alive in Turkey where trans individuals are pushed to the city’s peripheries as well as the struggle to prove their existence finds life in a sentence that is repeated, emphasized, written at every demonstration: “Don’t be silent, shout, trans exist.”

Source: Rengin Arslan, “Hande Kader cinayeti: Kimse sesimizi duymuyor”, BBC Türkçe, 20 August 2016, http://www.bbc.com/turkce/haberler-turkiye-37141548

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“Hande was one of the nicest people in the world. She was very calm normally but also hyperactive. She always went to the LGBTI marches. She pursued a cause that she felt right until the end.”

This is how flat mate Davut Dengiler describes the 23 year old trans woman Hande Kader whose body was found in a forest in Istanbul last week. She was last seen entering a client’s car one night. Davut Dengiler, long hopeful to find Hande alive, ended up finding her in the morgue for unidentified persons in Yenibosna.

“I was about to leave the morgue. I felt a sense of lightness for not having found her there. At the last minute, a doctor there said, ‘there’s also a burned body, look at that as well.’ I did. I told them identifying features. They then looked at the computer, at the report. The doctor put his hand on my back and gave his condolences. I lost myself,” he says of that day.

He then explains Hande’s responses to other deaths, to trans deaths:

“She would go crazy when trans individuals were killed. She’d be so sad. She’d be so courageous the moment she left the house. She’d also be very restless sometimes. She had been stabbed and beaten before. This doesn’t happen only to Hande, it happens to all of them.”

‘The highest number of trans murders in Europe take place in Turkey’

According to Trans Europe’s data, the highest number of trans murders in Europe take place in Turkey. Globally, Brazil is the least safe country for trans individuals.

But “there is no safe country for trans people” as the institution’s 2016 report states.

Hande was someone who tried to call attention to trans murders in Turkey and the injustices she reacted against. She was among those who were in the front rows of demonstrations.  

But perhaps it is the images of Hande Kader that has been shared innumerable times on social media that best explain the trans woman who is still waiting to be buried due to identification, autopsy, and DNA testing processes. In 2015, police had banned Pride March organized every year by LGBTI in Taksim and tried to disperse the crowds using pressurized water, rubber bullets, and pepper spray. Despite it all, Hande Kader had not “dispersed” and stood against the police with stubbornness.

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At some point in a naive anger, she reproached the journalists who were recording the events. She said, “You take pictures but you do not publish them, no one is hearing our voices.”

Hande Kader and other trans individuals’ unheard voices came this time with the news of her death. In a way that no one wants to think or imagine: by being burned.

Her life, which she tried to earn through sex work, was always in danger. Just like all the other trans individuals who are forced to this, she worked on the street. Just like the others, she sought a way out but could not find it. Her close friend Funda says, “she did not like this work,” and adds, “but who would like it anyway.”

“There are very few trans individuals who die of natural causes”

The trans individuals I spoke to have two commonalities. One is that they are heartbroken by society with the reminder that people went out on the streets in millions after the murder of Özgecan Aslan, who was similarly burned and killed. The second is that nearly all of them have a story on how they “escaped death.”

Kemal Ördek is one of them. Ördek answers my questions and says they were “lucky” to survive an attack in their home.  

“There are very few trans individuals who die of natural causes. Nearly none. There are very few trans individuals in Turkey who have reached the age of 50 or 60. When you are pushed to sex work, it’s not possible for people to reach old age. They are killed. I don’t know how I survived. That’s the sad part,” Ördek says.

Ördek completed a degree in international studies in Bilkent University with a scholarship after ranking at the top in the exams and is pursuing graduate studies in sociology in Middle East Technical University. Ördek earns their living mostly through sex work.

“Do they have to be sex workers?”

Kemal Ördek is also the president of Red Umbrella, an association that defends the rights of trans sex workers. I ask them one of the questions that society often asks trans individuals: Do they have to be sex workers?

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Ördek says, “We are viewed not as people who can integrate into society but as the dirt of society. What grabs our attention most when we are walking on the street are the looks that see us as sexual objects. That the people who diss us do so through words that suggest they want to be with us. It doesn’t matter if it’s a woman or a man. We are humans who are sexual objects.”

In a time when women who make up half the world combat against inequality and discrimination in the workplace, it appears that trans individuals finding employment in the fields of their education is impossible.

“A never-ending mourning”

Ördek describes their feelings as “a never-ending mourning” when talking about the insecure, vulnerable, and fragile conditions trans individuals face and says,”

“When I first became an activist, I would not be able to sleep thinking about the kind of news I’d get in the middle of the night. Even now, my phone is at the highest ringtone when I sleep at night. I wait for news, someone will be stabbed, someone beaten and I’ll get called and I’ll have to go there immediately. This is a never-ending mourning and state of trauma.”

The identity reassignment process for trans individuals in Turkey is a long and painful one and many don’t dare to because of this. Because of this, trans women can’t change the [gendered] color of their IDs and can’t work in brothels where they may have more security.

Sinem Hun, a lawyer who works closely on trans identity reassignment cases, interprets the relevant gender reassignment article in Turkey’s Civil Law as “the whole of the processes that embody too many rights violations.”

“24 states in Europe require by law that trans people undergo sterilization”

Hun says the state “wants to see” that both trans men and trans women have to received surgeries for their genitalia to establish that the gender reassignment process has been done physically. At the same time, she says sterilization is mandatory.

Hun gives the example of Argentina where gender reassignment is based on the person’s statement and says they have applied individually to the Constitutional Court for the cancellation of the article that forces surgery. She hopes the article could be annulled.

“There are trans individuals who cannot change their identity for 5-6 years,” says Hun and emphasizes that there are very few competent microsurgery doctors for these surgeries and that these surgeries in Turkey are expensive and bring forth a difficult process.

Sterilization is an issue that European countries have yet to agree on. According to Trans Europe’s Trans Rights Europe Index, there are 24 countries that require sterilization for gender reassignment. Among them are Turkey, Russia, France, and Switzerland.

Hungary and Albania do not have legal gender recognition

Sterilization is not mandatory in 15 countries, including Sweden, the United Kingdom, Italy, and Spain.

Gender reassignment is not considered legal in Hungary, Cyprus, Moldova, and Albania, according to the Europe Index.

The struggle to stay alive in Turkey where trans individuals are pushed to the city’s peripheries as well as the struggle to prove their existence finds life in a sentence that is repeated, emphasized, written at every demonstration: “Don’t be silent, shout, trans exist.”

The struggle for society to accept their existence and the struggle to stay alive is together. Legal processes and democratic wins may determine when they’ll be equal citizens in Turkey and other countries but trans, LGBTI individuals, and their allies hope that Hande Kader will be a turning point in trans murders.

 

Why can’t we fit gays and transsexuals into this huge world?

We fit murderers, thieves, rapists, child-abusers and any kind of foulness in this world. Why cannot we fit gays and transsexuals who do not have any designs on the rights of others? Why don’t we “stand up” for Hande as well, as we did for Özgecan?

Source: Nurcan Baysal, “Bu koca dünyaya eşcinselleri, transları neden sığdıramıyoruz?”, T24, 18 August 2016, http://t24.com.tr/yazarlar/nurcan-baysal/bu-koca-dunyaya-escinselleri-translari-neden-sigdiramiyoruz,15267

Hande was lost since August 6. Her friends and partner put out a missing persons report. She was found by the road in Zekeriyaköy. She was burned.

Hande Kader was a transsexual woman and a sex-worker. Last year, during Trans Pride, she demonstrated against police intervention by sitting in front of the anti-riot water cannon vehicle (TOMA). She was brave.

I had a look on her Facebook page in order to get to know her and read her posts. She wrote on November 30:  

“I’ve accumulated great misery inside that there is no place to live other feelings…”

Hande is not alone in accumulating misery/pain. Transsexual individuals enormously accumulate pain in this country. They are driven to suicide or slaughtered as the result of social pressure, exclusion, violence and defamation that they are exposed.

Eylül Cansın was only 23 years old when she threw herself off the bridge by saying that “I couldn’t; they didn’t let me.”

Roşin Çiçek was 17 years old yet when he was killed with 14 bullets by his own father.

İrem Su was 28 years old when she was barbarously killed with 12 stabs.

Two years ago, on August 24, transsexual woman Figen committed suicide in Mersin. She “spat in our face and left” when she was committing suicide, with the words of her close friend. At that time, I wrote that “We could not fit her in this huge world.”

Just 10 days ago, Muhammed Wisam, a gay refugee, was slaughtered by being cut.

People are killed by being burned, they are slaughtered by being cut, and we keep quiet. We keep quite because these people are homosexual or transsexual. We are in a disgusting silence.

We fit murderers, thieves, rapists, child-abusers and any kind of foulness in this world. Why cannot we fit gays and transsexuals who do not have any designs on the rights of others?

Why don’t we “stand up” for Hande as well, as we did for Özgecan?

A downtrodden and battered woman’s body was burned. Why don’t we raise our voices?

Homophobic and transphobic murders are fed on our silence.

It should not be that hard to protect the human dignity.

Don’t be quiet!

Pride Committee: “We will be on the streets on Sunday to demand justice for Hande Kader and to stop hate crimes”

We feel great anger: our beloved friend Hande Kader was burned to death. The burned body of 23 years old trans woman Hande Kader was found in Zekeriyaköy almost a week ago. Hande was a person who raised her voice against hate crimes and encouraged everyone to raise their voices too.

We are constantly shouting at LGBTI+ Prides, Trans Prides and other protests that homophobic and transphobic statements are leading to hate crimes, murderers often escape unpunished, and hate crime laws are urgent. Unfortunately, our Prides have been banned in the last two years, yet we need to be seen, to be on the streets and to shout our demands in order to end hate crimes.

According to a Transgender Europe report, Turkey is the first in Europe and ninth in the world in trans murders. Trans women are forced to be sex workers and then they are labeled (as prostitutes) because of their jobs. We wish a world without homophobia, transphobia or ‘prostitute-phobia’.

Münevver, Özgecan, Wisam, Hande… We demand justice for all that lost their lives for being a woman, a trans or a gay. We are aware that the people who burned Hande to death got their strength from those who burned people alive in Maraş, Madımak, Cizre. We are repeating once again that the only way to stop hate crimes is to raise our voice together against hatred and hate crimes.

We are inviting every individual from this society to our march from Tünel to Galatasaray where we will demand justice for Hande Kader on Sunday, 21 August, 7 PM.

Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week Committee