transphobia in Turkey

Defendant accused of murdering trans woman Çağla Joker gets a sentence reduction because of his age, then a reduction for having been ‘unjustly provoked’

In the case of Çağla Joker, the victim of a hate-crime killing in Beyoğlu last April, the court reduced the defendant’s sentence to ten years on the grounds of “unjust provocation.”

Source: Burcu Karakaş, “Çağla Joker’in katil zanlısına yaş indiriminden sonra bir de ‘haksız tahrik’ indirimi” (“Defendant accused of murdering Çağla Joker gets a sentence reduction because of his age, then a reduction for having been ‘unjustly provoked'”), Diken, 1 October 2015. http://www.diken.com.tr/cagla-jokerin-katil-zanlisina-yas-indiriminden-sonra-bir-de-haksiz-tahrik-indirimi/

Trans women Çağla Joker and Nalan suffered an armed attack in Tarlabaşı on the night of 20 April [2014], and 25-year-old Çağla Joker, wounded in the chest, lost her life at the site of the incident. H.T., sentenced to 16 years and getting a reduction for being 17 years old, said in testimony given in court:

“We met two persons who we supposed were women. We negotiated. He said he was a man. I asked him to give me back the money I had paid. He said he would not return the money and cursed vehemently.”

Though tried for intentional homicide and life in prison, the court reduced the sentence to 10 years in prison due to reductions for “unjust provocation,” “good behavior,” and on account of him being younger than 18.

Not returning the 50 liras was an unjust provocation

In its decision, the judicial panel gave its opinion that Çağla Joker’s failure to return the money that the defendant had paid constituted an unjust provocation. The following phrases appeared in the reasoning:

“The defendant wanted the 50 liras back, and when at every stage he demanded its return, the deceased asserted that they would not return the money; confronted with the declarations of the deceased, the defendant came under the influence of anger and distress, and under the influence of anger and distress drew his weapon.”

These punishments will not be effective in ending the murders

Lawyer Fırat Söyle, commenting on the decision for Diken, emphasized that the sentence reductions being applied to defendants accused of hate crimes would not help to end the murders, and said:

“Inflicting very severe penalties on those who act out of the hatred engendered by government and society will not put an end to hate-crime killings, nevertheless, we demand that the severest penalties be inflicted on defendants accused of hate-crime killings, in the name of satisfying a sense of justice within this system. Unless the material and moral culture of the government system and of society changes, the punishments handed down to defendants will, unfortunately, be ineffective in ending these murders.”

No one has taken ownership of the case

On the other hand, reacting to the fact that no one has taken ownership of the case, Söyle continued as follows:

“The slogans that slam the government, patriarchy, and transphobia, and the statements made by the press, fade away before three days have passed, and even before seven days have gone by, they are forgotten. Çağla, and people like Çağla, were not organized, and their circle was not ‘extensive.’ Çağlas are destitute people, and those who are left behind to weep and mourn for them are those who are like them. In the newspapers they get a single mention on the third page at most. The reactions immediately following their murders end up buried in deep silence as the trials progress.”

*Translator’s Note: The Turkish language does not have gender pronouns and translation into languages with gender pronouns poses a challenge. In this translation, we have opted to use several pronouns to describe the victim. In statements by the perpetrator, we used the pronoun “he” because the perpetrator argues that the victim was male. In statements by the court, we used the pronoun “they” because the sentences do not make clear how the court views the victim’s gender. This choice does not reflect an openness by the court to identify the victim as the gender-neutral pronoun “they,” but to reflect that the Turkish language does not have gender pronouns. In the journalist Burcu Karakaş’s narration, we have chosen the pronoun “she” as the journalist works on women’s and LGBTI rights issues.

Rampant Transphobia in Turkey: Trans Dentist Ece Loses Her Job But Is Defiant

Ece is a 41-year old dentist and a trans woman. A week ago, she lost her job, because her colleagues refused to work with her. Ece wants everybody to know that there is a trans dentist in Turkey.

Source: Yıldız Tar, “Bir Trans Kadın Mükemmel Olmak Zorunda” (“A Trans Woman Has to be Flawless”), kaosgl.org, 23 August 2015, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=20063

In Turkey, being a trans woman is associated with one single thing: hate crimes. We associate trans women with bodies ruled by violence and life that resists violence. However, transphobia is not just hate crimes. Discrimination is ordinary and rampant. Making a living, finding accommodation, having access to medical treatment like everybody else are treated like excessive demands when they come from trans people.

Recently I received a phone call about this sort of discrimination. Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association told me about a 41-year-old trans woman who recently lost her job. Ece was fired from the clinic where she worked a week ago.

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I called Ece and introduced myself. Speaking hurriedly, she told me about herself and what she’d been going through. We scheduled an interview right away.

I first saw her in front of the French Cultural Center. She was sitting next to street musicians and listening to their music while waiting for me. We talked all the way down to Cihangir. She spoke with the palpable excitement of having finally found an audience.

“I thought I couldn’t find a job because I didn’t have experience”

Ece graduated from Marmara University in 2000. Two years later, she started working at the clinic where she was recently fired from:

“No one gave me a job back then except for them. At the time I didn’t understand what was wrong. I thought I couldn’t find a job because I didn’t have experience. The truth turned out to be different.”

Ece continued her work all the while knowing that something was wrong. Then she left for New Zealand, Thailand, the US, and the Netherlands. Back in Turkey, she returned to her former employer.

“The saddest part is not being accepted by my colleagues”

“I went back to my former employer because I had to: they were the only ones who treated me fine. I started immediately and went on for two years. At first, I felt accepted. Then I started putting on makeup. The other girl did too; why wouldn’t I? What mattered was my work. I wanted them to respect me the way I was and approach me knowing who I was. The truth is, no matter what I did, I wasn’t appreciated. Patients picked others over me.

“My colleagues called me ‘Bey’ [‘Mister’]. I asked them not to: I wanted them to simply call me ‘Doctor.’ The patients were confused by this.

“Finally my boss told me that he couldn’t tolerate the complaints about me anymore. He said we couldn’t work together anymore but it didn’t have anything to do with my work as a doctor. I offered to finish the scheduled work with my patients. He said no. I think the other doctors at work didn’t want me either. And that is the saddest part: that my colleagues would not want to work at the same place as me. I had to leave immediately.”

Ece reminds persistently that she was good at her job and that her boss acknowledged her skills too: “I love my job. I believe that I do it well. I’m certain that I’m not inferior to my colleagues and that I often approach my job more humanely than them. Money has never been the goal for me.”

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“Should I become a prostitute at this age?”

Having lost her job due to transphobic pressures, Ece asks if she is supposed to start prostitution for the first time to support herself. She doesn’t know what to do. On the other hand, she says she will start hormonal treatment in a couple of months. Hormonal treatment and the surgery to follow require money, a lot of money…

“I’ve always felt like a woman. I’ve always been trans but I’ve been lied to. Not one person told me that I was trans. And I didn’t consider myself trans either. Being gay and being trans are mixed up often. I think it has to do with the fact that most trans women are forced into prostitution. Even I believed that you weren’t trans if you didn’t do prostitution. Because I wasn’t a prostitute, I felt conflicted.

“I’ve been teased for acting like a girl, I’ve been lonely, I haven’t made friends. When you’re pushed into loneliness, you try turning into a man. I couldn’t see the truth that everybody else could. I’m really angry with myself.

“Being strong keeps you from seeing certain things clearly. I was not aware of my intelligence. I was not aware that I could perform pretty well. I tried to perform that I was a man. They thought I was a good performer, I thought I was terrible.”

“A trans woman has to be flawless”

I broach the topic of family. Without any reservation, she says she does not talk to them and goes back to discussing her employment:

“I haven’t talked to my family in 4 years. I was tired of hearing that I should get married every time I saw them. They were literally teasing me. My father passed away recently and I kept working even then. Nobody else would do that. I had to do it not to lose my job. Even though I didn’t talk to him, he was my father after all. You could say he was cold and heartless, but it’s more complex than that. A trans woman has to be flawless. Being average is not enough. So I am trying to be flawless. I try to conform to every situation. I even try to conform with my clothes, but I’m at my limit.”

Ece thinks she will face discrimination in any job:

“It won’t be different if I work as a sales clerk. They will tease me, stare at me, giggle, and complain to the boss. Now I understand why people go on to prostitution. I was mad at the people who chose prostitution but I think I understand them now. If you don’t have money, I don’t think there’s anything else for you to do.”

Ece explains that many trans women retreat into themselves because of their life experiences: “We shut ourselves in our homes. We shut ourselves off from the world.” And she asks:

“Is it okay when rock stars do it and not so when I do it?”

“Why am I harmful if I don’t bother anyone? What did I do to you? How have I done harm? Why do you care what I wear? Do I tell you what to wear? Is makeup for women only? Don’t men put makeup on too? Is it okay when rock stars do it and not so when I do it? Do you really have to be a rock star? The thing I want most is to be pretty. Nothing else. Why are they against beauty so much? What’s so wrong if we’re dolled up freely? I’m more comfortable with women’s clothes, that’s all.”

Ece says she stays strong despite everything and she will keep up the fight. I realize at that moment that I’m talking to an Amazon warrior like many other trans women. Her poise and words prove me right:

“They don’t like seeing a trans woman who has self-confidence. They don’t like seeing that we are strong despite everything. I want everybody to know that there is a trans dentist in Turkey. Knowing that would help the next trans doctor or dentist. We will free ourselves when we come together.”

Ece will continue fighting for her right to work. She will meet with the Chamber of Dentists and look for jobs with her open identity. Time will tell if her colleagues will show solidarity with a woman who has nothing left to lose except for her wish to tell the world that there is a trans dentist in Turkey.

Knife Attack on Young Trans Woman in Izmir

On August 11, a young trans woman by the name of Türkan who lives in Izmir suffered a transphobic attack.

Source: “İzmir’de Genç Trans Kadına Bıçaklı Saldırı” (Knife Attack on Young Trans Woman in Izmir”), Pembe Hayat, 12 August 2015, http://pembehayat.org/haberler.php?id=813

A young trans woman was subjected to the actions of a group of transphobic young people and was stabbed in the leg in front of Albayraklar on Bornova Street on August 11 in Izmir.

“Those are men, they’re faggots, they get f*cked in the *ss”

According to Türkan’s statement, the six young people, four men and two women, made verbal insults and engaged in harassment while passing through the hub where [Türkan and other trans women] were standing. After verbally harassing and laughing at the trans woman, the group attacked the trans woman who attempted to respond to her harassers.

Using transphobic statements, one of the men insulted the trans woman, saying things like “Those are men, like us. They are faggots, they get f*cked in the *ss.” Later the trans woman objected to these insults and a verbal altercation started.

“The men looked at each other, pulled up the courage and attacked”

Upon seeing that his friends approved of his transphobia, the young man making insults and harassing Türkan gained the courage to attack Türkan, injuring her with a knife.

The other trans people standing at the hub saved Türkan, who received a nine-centimeter-deep wound from being stabbed with the knife. They went to the police station and filed a report about the attacker and his friends, who had fled the crime scene.

“The attacker’s uncle called me and asked me to retract my police report”

While Türkan was giving her statement at the police station, the uncle of the attacker who had injured her with the knife called, saying, “My nephew just got out of prison, I’ll pull his ear, retract your report.” Türkan, who turned on her phone’s speaker so that police officers could also witness the call, did not retract her report.

The officers at the police station also told Türkan not to rescind her legal complaint and explained that she had a right to demand a lawyer during the litigation process.

Türkan, who is receiving treatment at the hospital, is currently struggling to stand up and walk. Despite being deemed to be in generally good health, she noted the wound in her groin has a depth of nine centimeters.   

Knife Attack on Young Trans Woman in Istanbul’s Şişli District

In the early hours of August 10 at approximately 04:00, two men injured a trans woman by the name of Ada Su with a knife in Istanbul’s Şişli neighborhood.

Source: “İstanbul Şişli’de Genç Trans Kadına Bıçaklı Saldırı” (“Knife Attack on Young Trans Woman in Istanbul’s Şişli”), Pembe Hayat, 10 August 2015, http://www.pembehayat.org/haberler.php?id=837

Ada Su, a young trans woman, was attacked early this morning. The attack happened on the street where she works after the woman said “no” to two men on a motorcycle who asked her, “Are you working?” The attackers, who got off their motorcycle, stabbed the young woman in three places with the sharp weapons they were carrying. The attackers then got back on their motorcycle and fled the crime scene after robbing the young woman.

Ada sustained severe injuries to her leg and was taken to the hospital by her friends. After receiving 17 stitches in her leg during surgery, the young trans woman was discharged and taken to the hotel where she lives.

Ada went to the police station to file a complaint about her attackers following the attack and hospital treatment. Police requested that city surveillance cameras be examined to find descriptions of the two attackers, whose identities have yet to be determined. The attackers, whose identities will be verified through the recordings from the surveillance cameras, will be charged with voluntary injury of another person and robbery.

Friends of Ada, whose financial situation was indicated to not be good, have made a call for solidarity.

Syrian Trans Refugee Mişa: Trans Guesthouse has become a home for me

Discussions on trans refugees were held as part of the trans pride week. Mişa, a Syrian trans refugee woman, lamented “I imagined that I would be happy in Istanbul. Apparently, I was wrong.”

Source: Yıldız Tar, “Suriyeli Trans Mülteci Mişa: Trans Misafirhanesi evim gibi oldu” (“Syrian Trans Refugee Mişa: Trans Guesthouse has become a home for me”). Kaos GL, 20 June 2015, http://www.kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=19661

Organized by the Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association, 6th Trans Pride Week continues. As part of the various panels and workshops taking place during the week, a discussion on trans refugees was held. Problems of trans refugees seeking shelter and various solutions to their problems including the trans guesthouse were presented.

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The panel, held at the İsmail Beşikçi Foundation, was moderated by Deniz Tunç. The speakers were Mişa, a trans refugee woman and occupant of the trans guesthouse; Zeynep Kıvılcım of the Istanbul University Political Sciences Faculty, Cansu Alözkan of the Refugees and Immigrants Solidarity Association and Selin Berghan of the Pink Life Association.

Trans Guesthouse provided shelter for 50 people

In her opening speech, Deniz Tunç provided updates on the Trans Guesthouse.  According to Tunç, the trans guesthouse provided shelter to almost 50 people. “We have hosted as many as 20 LGBTI refugees from war and we will continue to accommodate them as long as our resources allow us. It is, however, time to stand in solidarity with the guesthouse.” Tunç continued.

“I imagined that I would be happy in Istanbul, Apparently I was wrong”

First panelist Mişa, a Syrian trans refugee woman, talked about the hardships of being an asylum seeker and what she went through in Istanbul.

“When I first got here, I imagined that I would be very happy here and that I would have a good future. I thought people would be open-minded and respectful but apparently I was wrong. I escaped Syria because it is a homophobic country and I was not respected there. In Istanbul though, every day is a different adventure. I do not have a job. Istanbul is an expensive city. I do not have an ID card. I have no income to speak of. The only place I can live in is the Taksim area and it is very expensive here. I have thought about returning to Syria after going through all of these problems. I risked going back, even though my life was in danger there. That is when some people told me about the Trans guesthouse and that I could stay there. I met the people in the organization and they told me that I could stay with them until I get my life in order. Later, I registered with the United Nations as a refugee. If it were not for the Trans Guesthouse, I would be on the streets now.”

(more…)

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.”

(more…)

Transphobic violence in Istanbul on 23 May

Eylül, a trans sex worker, was subjected to an attempted robbery in Istanbul’s Tarlabaşı neighborhood while in a commercial vehicle. The young woman, who was wounded with sharp objects, was taken to the Şişli Etfal Hospital.

Source: “Istanbul’da transfobik şiddet durmuyor” (“Transphobic violence continues in Istanbul”), Pink Life, 24 May 2015, http://pembehayat.org/haberler.php?id=769

Transphobic hate attacks continue in Istanbul.

Last night [23 May 2015], a young trans woman who got into a cab with two men with whom she had established work terms was subjected to attempted robbery. Eylül, a trans sex worker, struggling against the perpetrators, was stabbed three times. The assailants wanted to grab Eylül’s bag but were challenged by her resistance and stabbed the young woman three times causing her large intestine to be ruptured.

The young woman was taken to Şişli Etfal Hospital, where she received primary medical care. She will be taken in for surgery today [24 May 2015]. Her friends reported that her condition remains serious.