Trans sex workers in Turkey

Two transphobic attacks in Istanbul on 12 May

On Tuesday, 12 May 2015, 2 trans women sex workers were attacked in different districts in Istanbul (Fındıkzade and Bağdat Boulevard).

Source: Pembe Hayat, “İstanbul’da Dün Gece 2 Yerde Transfobik Nefret Saldırısı Yaşandı”, (“Two transphobic attacks in Istanbul on 12 May”), pembehayat.org, 13 May 2015, http://pembehayat.org/haberler.php?id=766

Migel, a trans woman sex worker living in Fındıkzade, was attacked in her own apartment by a group of men. She was brutally injured with deep cuts on several parts of her body. She was brought to Sisli Etfal Hospital by her friends. The attackers were caught after statements to the police and prosecutor’s office. The attackers had previous records for robbery and assault and are in custody.

One night, two attacks

The same night, Işıl, another trans woman sex worker in Bağdat Boulevard, was attacked by a group of 5 men. She was assaulted and her jaw was broken. She is receiving treatment in a hospital. Her situation is stable but there are bruises on her body due to the assault. The attackers have not been found.

Attacks on trans women are increasing

Last week there were 4 attacks on trans women sex workers in 3 different cities (Istanbul, Izmir and Kocaeli). Pembe Hayat/Pink Life LGBTT Solidarity Association protested these attacks in Ankara with a press release.

Ankara Bar Association provides pro-bono legal support for right violations against LGBTIs. Trans residents of Ankara can contact the Gelincik Center for pro-bono legal aid from the Bar Association.

4 Trans Sex Workers Attacked in One Night

4 trans sex worker women were attacked last night [May 2, 2015] in the cities of Istanbul, Kocaeli, and Izmir.

Source: Bianet, “Bir Gecede 4 Trans Seks İşçisi Saldırıya Uğradı” [“4 Trans Sex Workers Attacked in One Night”], bianet.org, 3 May 2015, http://bianet.org/bianet/lgbti/164272-bir-gecede-4-trans-seks-iscisi-saldiriya-ugradi

In Istanbul’s Şişli district, a woman named Gülşen was found stabbed in her home. According to the statements by Gülşen’s friends, two men who were previously her clients came to her home and attacked her with a knife and a skewer. Trans women, sex workers, and supporters arrived at Şişli Etfal Hospital, where Gülşen was taken to. Gülşen was transferred to the ICU in critical condition following a long surgery.

Those who went to Şişli Etfal for solidarity reported that another trans sex worker woman was shot and brought to the hospital around 6am. The woman is reported to be in stable condition.

In Izmir, again on the night of 2 May 2015, a trans sex worker woman was stabbed in the back by unidentified persons.

The same night, in Kocaeli – Gebze, three trans women were assaulted by an armed client in the house where they had just moved in. One woman was hospitalized with leg wounds.

The Red Umbrella Sexual Health and Human Rights Association called on all trans women and sex workers for solidarity and said, in their press release:

“We are calling for respective law enforcement officers to find the assailants immediately and for the judicial branch to punish them accordingly. We are inviting the government and all sects of the society to act with genuine solidarity with trans sex worker women and meet their demands.”

Transphobic Attack Against Sex Worker in Mersin

İpek, a trans sex worker, was assaulted in a hate crime yesterday by two people after agreeing on terms. She was beaten, stabbed, and left for dead in a deserted orange grove.

Source: Alican Kalan, “Mersin’de seks işçisi kadına transfobik saldırı!” (“Transphobic Attack Against Sex Worker in Mersin”) KaosGL, 2 March 2015, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=18858   

Last night, İpek, a trans sex worker got in the car with two men. She was attacked before she could understand what was happening. She was then driven to an orange grove out of town, where she was stabbed and beaten to the brink of death before being left there.

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Sex Workers Penalized after Business Cards were Deemed ‘Pornographic Material’

Source: İsmail Saymaz, “Seks İşçisinin bastırdığı karta ‘Pornografik Ürün’ Cezası Verildi” (“Sex Workers Penalized after Business Cards were Deemed ‘Pornographic Material’”), radikal.com.tr, December 24, 2014, http://www.radikal.com.tr/turkiye/seks_iscisinin_bastirdigi_karta_pornografik_urun_cezasi_verildi-1257674

19 individuals, consisting of alleged sex workers and those who allegedly printed and distributed their business cards, were handed down prison sentences by an Ankara court yesterday.

An unusual decision was made by a court in Ankara yesterday regarding 19 people – among them sex workers and their acquaintances, who allegedly distributed calling cards in public. These cards, which until today were processed as a misdemeanor for “pollution,” were deemed “pornographic material.” This way the court was able to hand down criminal sentences for “obscenity in places open to children.” The cards’ owner was sentenced to one and a half years of prison time in addition to a 5,000 TL  (2160 USD) penalty, and the person who allegedly distributed the cards was sentenced to two years of prison time as well as a 5,000 TL penalty.

An anonymous tip to the Ankara Police Department in 2012 reported that “passers-by are being harassed by way of dispersing and distributing cards for prostitution in front of businesses, schools and bus stops around the vicinity of the statue in Ulus Square.” The police responded by gathering the cards around the reported area and requested that the Presidency of Telecommunication and Communication determine which women and trans individuals the phone numbers on the cards belonged to. The defendants were then identified.

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Police Harassment, House Raids and Detainment in Istanbul

Source: “İstanbul’da Polis Tacizi, Ev Baskınları ve Gözaltı”, (“Police Harassment, House Raids and Detainment”), Pembe Hayat, December 4, 2014, http://www.pembehayat.org/haberler.php?id=594

Over the last week the police have targeted trans women and sex workers in Istanbul. House raids were conducted targeting the homes of trans people working and living in Findikzade and Haseki regions.

The police arbitrarily detained trans women street sex workers the previous week and took them to the Venereal Diseases Hospital, also known in slang as“Can Can”. This past week they conducted house raids. The women were released after being subjected to blood tests.

The police acquired trans women’s phone numbers and addresses through the internet and social media and raided their homes. Women were detained without cause and some of the women’s residences were sealed by the police.

Transwomen who have been harassed by the police and who point to the recently passed “Domestic Security Blanket Bill” as the cause behind these arrests and raids, will object to the fines they are issued based on the Law of Misdemeanors. The new bill has created major concern among the LGBTI community and trans women sex workers.

Read “the New Domestic Security Legislation and Its Potential Implications for LGBTI Individuals” to access trans activist and lawyer Idil Su’s report.

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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Çingene Gül, Trans Woman, Murdered in Istanbul

Source: Çiçek Tahaoğlu, “Trans Çingene Gül Öldürüldü,” (“Çingene Gül, Trans Woman, Murdered in Istanbul,”) bianet, 9 October 2014, http://www.bianet.org/bianet/lgbti/159065-trans-cingene-gul-olduruldu#

Çingene Gül, a trans woman, was found dead in her Istanbul apartment on October 8. While the autopsy is yet to be completed, it is suspected that she was murdered two days ago because her friends didn’t hear from her for two days.

Her neighbor Melek Emir said,  “Two nights ago, I heard noises from the apartment building. Gül never makes noise. At first, I thought somebody was trying to break in, then I heard the door open and close. I supposed Gül couldn’t find her keys or something. I never reckoned such a thing would ever happen.”

Gül’s street is crowded with police officers investigating the events and onlookers after her friends found her body. All the women in the neighborhood recognize Gül. “She smiled all the time, she would greet everyone on the street. She wouldn’t disturb anybody.”

Gül’s trans friends argued with the police in order to see her one last time. Police said they could do so in small groups provided that they wouldn’t cry out, touch her or bring disorder to the crime scene.

Her friends claim that trans sex workers are usually murdered by their clients – which they think was also the fate of Gül. They also said Gül didn’t receive customers in her apartment and preferred to use hotels or other venues. They also brought up the possibility of burglary. However, police said that it was not possible to know that at the time.

Utku who found Gül’s body and said, “I went to her apartment after not hearing from her. I knocked on the window, I tried the doorbell, but she didn’t respond. Then her upstairs neighbor buzzed me into the building. I had to break into Gül’s apartment via the backyard. She wasn’t in her bedroom. When I went to the living room, I saw her lying on the floor and I ran away screaming.”

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