Systematic Attacks Against Turkish Transgenders Continue

Submitted by Pink Life

Systematic Attacks Against Turkish Transgenders Continue Press Statement by Pink Life January 17, 2007

Buse Kilickaya who is a member of Pink Life Association issued a press statement with supports from other LGBT organizations including Kaos GL and Lambda Istanbul to protest the latest violent attacks against the transgender community in Ankara.

On January 16, 2007, some people who were in a green Ford Taunus attacked the transgender people who were walking down on Kolej and Baglar Streets of Ankara. Four transgenders were injured seriously.

This wasn’t the first time we were attacked. In April 2006, in Eryaman district of Ankara, we were systematically targeted. Most of the transgender people were injured and were forced to move out. The same car, green Taunus, was present during those attacks as well. In the last 2 weeks similar incidents occurred in other districts of Ankara as well.

The question that we should ask is how these attackers can be so out of control. As the citizens of Turkey, we also have the right to live free.
The governmental institutions that are responsible to protect us do not do anything to help us although we provided the security officials the plate number of the cars and detailed descriptions of the attackers.

We know that pretending not to see the crime is being a part of that crime. For this reason we are warning the officials: You are committing crimes! All the chances for us to study, work or live like the remaining of the society is taken away from us therefore we are forced to become sex workers. As long as you don’t take away the barriers built for us we will continue to face violence and discrimination and you will be a part of this crime.

Transgender rights are human rights.

Law is for everyone. Everybody should be entitled to have equal rights and not face discrimination based on ethnic origin, language, religion, gender, sexual orientation or sexual identity. We will continue to fight to gain our basic rights to live like human beings.

Transgender rights are human rights. We invite everyone who believes in human rights to support us.

Pink Life’s Email: Pink Life’s Phone: ++312-433-8517

Turkey’s transgender people have become more visible especially starting from 1990s. Under the military regime in the early 1980s, any form of social deviance was severely repressed—and sexual deviance, or flouting norms for gendered conduct, was seen as particularly dangerous.
Sex-reassignment surgery was banned in Turkey, and when Bulent Ersoy, a celebrated singer, obtained an operation abroad, her music was also prohibited. After a long legal struggle, in 1988 the 29th clause of the Turkish Civil Code was finally amended, to state that “In cases where there has been a change of sex after birth, documented by a report from a committee of medical experts, the necessary amendments are made to the birth certificate.” Male-to-female postoperative transgender people could obtain the “pink card” certifying their new gender.

Yet many transgender people did not want the surgery; others could not afford it. The lack of a state ID corresponding to their apparent gender left them in a legal limbo. Prejudice continued to be enormous. In Turkey, newspaper articles routinely paint transgender people not as victims of violence, but as dangerous aggressors. Denied employment, most transgender people practice sex work—which redoubles the prejudice against them.

Memories of repression run long. In the months before the 1996 United Nations Human Settlements Program (Habitat) conference was to be held in Istanbul, authorities evidently decided on further steps to clean up the city. A community of dozens of transgender people had grown up in Ulker Street, in the Cihangir district of the city. One police officer, Suleyman Ulusoy, determined to drive them from the area. Over months, transvestites were arrested on the street and subjected to brutal torture.
Even after the community was broken up, persecution of transvestites in central Istanbul continued unabated.

Since 1996, many transgender people have been driven from the heart of major cities, the communities they formed disbanded. But the abuses go
on. Transgender people still tell stories of torture and sexual abuse at
the hands of police. In Turkey, prostitution in licensed brothels is legal, but the Penal Code bars unlicensed sex work. Only women are allowed to work in the licensed brothels—and few if any post-operative transgender people, even with the pink card, have gained that right; hence transgender sex workers are driven onto the street, at the mercy of the police. There, they are subject to arbitrary arrest, prohibitive fines, and repressive regimes of medical testing: a steady round of humiliations.

There are (3) legally registered LGBT organizations that gained non-governmental organization status by the Turkish government: Kaos GL in the city Ankara, Rainbows Association in the city of Bursa and Pink Life in the city of Ankara. Lambda Istanbul which is the most vocal LGBT organization in Istanbul is still awaiting for its petition.

Kaos GL, which was founded in 1994, finally applied to Interior Ministry and attained legal status in July 2006 but it faced the risk of closure.
An official demand to ban Turkey's first LGBT rights association was rejected by a prosecutor on October 12, 2005, allowing the KAOS Gay and Lesbian Cultural Research and Solidarity Association to continue to operate.

On March 3, 2006 Rainbow Solidarity and Cultural Association for Transgenders, Gays and Lesbians was established in the city of Bursa, becoming the second legally registered LGBT organization in Turkey. An official demand to ban this LGBT rights association in the city of Bursa was rejected by a prosecutor on October 6, 2006, allowing the Rainbow Solidarity and Cultural Association to continue to operate.

Turkey's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transvestite and Transsexual Solidarity Association formally founded the "Pink Life" support association in capital Ankara on June 30, 2006 in wake of a growing number of attacks and discrimination targeting the country's transgendered community. However it faced the risk of closure. But the official demand to ban “Pink Life” was rejected by a prosecutor Kursat Kayral on November 2, 2006, allowing the association to continue to operate.

Kaos GL and Pink Life organizations in Ankara as well as Lambda Istanbul in Istanbul have numerously called on the government to improve the lives of the Turkish transgender community including:

- Enacting legislation providing protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

- Eliminating vague and sweeping laws against “indecency,”
“exhibitionism,” and “offenses against public morality,” which can be used to harass or persecute people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity especially on transgendered people.

- Developing programs, in cooperation with transgender communities, to open employment possibilities outside sex work for transgender people desiring it.

- Training all criminal justice system officials on principles of human rights and non-discrimination, including those relating to sexual orientation and gender identity; develop these training programs in cooperation with civil society groups, including lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender people and sex workers.

- Ending restrictive requirements for sex reassignment surgery and subsequent change of legal gender, particularly the requirement that person be sterilized before sex reassignment surgery can take place.

- Eliminating repressive regulations allowing involuntary registration and medical testing of sex workers.

- Enacting standards for therapeutic interventions with transgender people, including sex reassignment surgery, in consultation with transgender people.

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