transphobia in Turkey

Suspect who attacked trans woman with an iron stick: I am not done with you!

After being caught, one of the people who attacked trans women with an iron stick threatened them by saying ‘I am not done with you’ in Ankara Bülbülderesi. The attacker was released pending trial.

Source: “Trans kadınlara demir sopayla saldıran zanlı: Sizinle işim daha bitmedi!” T24, 3 September 2016, http://m.t24.com.tr/haber/trans-kadinlara-demir-sopayla-saldiran-zanli-sizinle-isim-daha-bitmedi,358251

According to Pink Life’s news, the captured attacker went to trans woman S’s house pretending to be a customer and tried to extort her.

The attacker first left when the trans women did not file a complaint, but then came back with three others, in a car without a license plate, to threaten the women there.

The attacker was caught when the licence plate of the first car was detected. The attacker then threatened the trans women who went to the police station to identify him.

Rıza Yalçın Koçak, a lawyer from Pink Life Association, called the police headquarters to demand protection after the attacker’s attitude.

The policeman, who approved Koçak’s demand of protection on the phone, rejected the demand by saying ‘We are extremely busy, we cannot deal with you’ to the trans women.

The attacker was released pending trial.

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.

 

Trans Woman Burned and Murdered in Turkey

Hande Kader, a trans woman based in Istanbul, disappeared a week ago. Her friends and lover filed a missing person’s announcement. Hande Kader’s burned body was found in Zekeriyaköy.

Source: “Trans Kadın Yakılarak Katledildi”, Pembe Hayat,  12  August 2016, http://pembehayat.org/haberler.php?id=1187

Trans sex worker Hande Kader was last seen getting in her customer’s car about a week ago and has not been heard from since. Her friends and partner have reported Hande’s disappearance to the police.

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Following the report, police initiated a search and rescue. During the operation, they found a burned trans woman’s body near Zekeriyakoy.

Hande Kader’s partner D. mentioned that Hande was wearing prosthetics which helped identify her burnt body.

In order to confirm the body’s identification, Hande’s family has been informed and the burial will be on hold until they arrive.

 

Transphobic Murder in Çorlu

In Çorlu, offender F.T. stabbed and killed Aleda, a trans sex worker with whom he engaged in a fight. F.T. admitted the murder in the cab he took.

Source: “Çorlu’da Transfobik Nefret Cinayeti” (“Transphobic Murder in Çorlu”), Pembe Hayat, 20 March 2016, http://pembehayat.org/haberler.php?id=1032#.Vu7WLKVvJdk

The transphobic murderer and Aleda started fighting in Aleda’s home for mysterious reasons. Subsequently, he stabbed Aleda and fled the crime scene. He then took a cab, with his clothes covered in blood, and told the driver he killed someone. The driver called the cops as soon as he dropped off F.T. Police found Aleda’s dead body at the address provided by the driver. Aleda’s body was taken to Çorlu State Hospital morgue for autopsy.

Security forces found the murderer F.T. in his home and detained him approximately an hour after the incident. F.T. was taken to  Çorlu Police Station, officials announced that investigation continues.

Transphobic Murder in Istanbul

 

Trans woman Buse lost her life as a result of a hate crime in her home in Istanbul’s Bakırköy district. The district attorney’s examinations of Buse’s home are still underway. Camera footage will be inspected to verify the identity of the attacker.

Source: “İstanbul’da transfobik nefret cinayeti” (“Transphobic Murder in Istanbul”), Kaos GL, 4 March 2016, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=21241

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A trans woman named Buse was found dead in her home in Istanbul’s Bakırköy district.

Buse’s friends, who had not been able to get in touch with her, went to the house Buse lived in. When the door would not open, they had a locksmith open it and saw that Buse had died as a result of a transphobic hate crime. The friends then informed the police of the situation.

The body of Buse, who was killed with a sharp object, showed signs of battery all over her. It is estimated that the hate crime occurred two days before her body was discovered. No information about the attacker has been obtained yet.

The district attorney’s investigation of the home is still ongoing. It is thought that the attacker was a young man. Camera footage will be examined to find the murderer.

Another transphobic hate crime was experienced in Istanbul in recent weeks. Asya Özgür, who had previously been a candidate in the local elections (2014) for municipal council membership, was attacked in Fındıkzade, where she had worked the previous night. Özgür’s condition is improving.

 

Another Transphobic Murder in Istanbul

 

On the evening of 2 December at approximately 20:30 in the Avcılar district of Istanbul, a trans woman was stabbed in the heart and killed on the street she worked.

Source: “İstanbul’da Yine Transfobik Cinayet!”, (“Another Transphobic Murder in Istanbul”), pembehayat.org, 2 December 2015, http://pembehayat.org/haberler.php?id=933

The trans woman, Alev, lost her life as a result of being stabbed through the heart by a man who approached her as a customer while she was working on the street.

While Alev died at the crime seen as a result of the transphobic hate crime that occurred around 20:30 today (02.12.2015), her friends rushed to the police station. The Avcılar police department also brought in Alev’s trans woman friends for questioning about the murder, which occurred in the Haramidere neighborhood.

Alev’s friends said that the murder was carried out by a man who approached her like a customer.

While the investigation about the crime is still ongoing, the murder suspect has yet to be caught.  

In the past ten days in Istanbul there have been two back to back transphobic hate crime murders. On the afternoon of November 23rd, a woman named Nilay was stabbed in front of her own home in Maltepe and then strangled with the sash of her robe. Following this, Alev lost her life as a result of a knife attack.

Following the lynching attempts at the Meis apartment complex, which began in 2012, many trans women in Avcılar have become a target for hate crimes.

Previously, a mob gathered in front of the homes of the many trans women who live in the Meis complex hurled threats at the women with torches in hand, and shot bullets into their houses. A lawsuit filed about the Meis complex attacks on the premise that they interfered with the right to housing is still ongoing.

Transphobic discrimination from the police

The Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association, which accompanied a lawyer to the police station after the murder, criticized the police officers’ disinterested, discriminatory and transphobic attitudes through a post on their social media. Istanbul LGBTI shared that while waiting with the lawyer, they heard the police officers say “There are so many fags, friend:”

“Alev gets stabbed in the neck with a knife in the area she works. She runs to the truck lot located in the area behind it and asks for help. But because her carotid artery was severed, she collapses to the ground before an ambulance can even be called.

“The murderer is among us right now. He could be sitting next to us on public transportation. Or he could be walking right behind us when we walk home.

“The police are saying, ‘There are so many fags.’ Now, let’s sit and think about this. Is the murderer only the person who pulled the knife on Alev? Of course not! The murderer is also the police and the state who say, ‘There are so many fags’ and take no notice of our right to life, instead of finding the perpetrator!

“Trans murders are political!”

The attack will be protested in Ankara

Following the transphobic murders that have occurred recently, the Ankara LGBTI organizations Pink Life, High School LGBTI, and Kaos GL have sprung into action. On 3 December at 18:30 there will be a press release to protest these hate crimes in front of the Yüksel Human Rights Monument.

 

Trans Support Line Set Up; Victims of Violence Will Not be Left Alone

The project carried out by the Istanbul LGBTTI Solidarity Association and supported by the Open Society Foundation aims to provide legal assistance to trans individuals and protect victims of violence. Work for the Istanbul LGBTTI Trans* Rights project began on 10 November 2015. 

Source: “Trans Destek Hattı kuruldu; şiddete maruz kalanlar yalnız bırakılmayacak” (“Trans Support Line set up; victims of violence will not be left alone”) Pembe Hayat, 30 November 2015, http://www.pembehayat.org/haberler.php?id=928

The project aims to prevent rights violations.

In tandem with the initiated  project, trans individuals in need of a lawyer will be able to use this help line in the event that they are victims of acts such as robbery, bodily injury, police violence, home invasions, or attempted murder. As this project is to be carried out in Istanbul, there will be a lawyer reachable 24/7 on both the European and the Asian sides of the city.

The General Secretary of the Istanbul LGBTTI Solidarity Association, Kıvılcım Arat, states that the aim of this project is to have the unrecorded trans-targeted violence, which therefore have no legal proceedings initiated, reported and brought to justice. Arat further noted, “We would like to bring the physical attacks to justice at the end of the year by reporting and recording them. Accordingly, we want to put pressure with lawyers in order to eradicate impunity in cases of violence targeting trans individuals.”

Arat, expressing that violence has become a mundane part of the lives of trans women sex workers, further stated, “Trans individuals put on their make-ups and continue working, right after being victims of violence, and they keep living as if it is an ordinary matter. The violence they suffer is not prosecuted even if they go to hospitals or to the police. We want to put an end to the cooperation of the police, the judicial system, and the state against trans individuals. Nothing is recorded when trans women who have undergone violence go to the police. We will prevent this violation of rights.”

*The word “trans” is used as an umbrella term. Anyone who defines themselves as a trans woman or man, transgender, transvestite, drag queen, or cross-dresser can ask for assistance in the event that they find themselves in a similar situation.

The phone number that trans individuals may call in the event they need a lawyer is 0538 560 32 22