LGBT+ community in Turkey facing brutal attacks

Turkey’s LGBT+ community has endured back-to-back attacks on its members in recent weeks, with at least three transwomen suffering injury and death.

“The male-dominated justice system does not care about us,” Efruz Kaya, an activist at the transgender rights group Pink Life told Deutsche Welle on Tuesday. “There is no trust in the judicial authorities.”

There have been at least 54 murders of transgendered persons in Turkey since 2008, DW said, citing a study by Pink Life.

Yıldız Tar, from LGBT group Kaos GL, told DW that suspicious deaths and suicide attempts were not included in statistics, and that there were possibly a large number of deaths where victims were not registered as trans.

Law enforcement in Turkey promotes homophobia and transphobia, according to lawyer Levent Pişkin. “Far from being objective, vague concepts like morality and honour are used to justify a policy of impunity,” Pişkin said on the courts’ approach towards hate crimes against transgendered persons.

In February, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said there was “no such thing as LGBT”. LGBT student groups and activists played a prominent role in protests against Erdoğan’s appointment of a party loyalist as rector of one of Turkey’s most prestigious universities in January.

Nine people, the majority of whom were transwomen, were detained in a march ahead of International Women’s Day on March 6. A prosecutor demanded their arrest, but they were later released from police custody. Two are under house arrest.

A transwoman who went by Miraş Güneş was found dead in her apartment in Izmir on March 12. Her body was wrapped in a blanket after she had been beaten to death by a blunt object, according to police reports. The body was discovered when neighbours complained about the smell. Güneş had been reported missing on March 1, according to LGBT news portal Kaos GL.

Four men were detained in relation to the murder in the following days, and three of them were arrested, Kaos GL reported on Wednesday.

On March 9, a 17-year-old Syrian refugee identified as Asya suffered an acid attack to her face allegedly by Emre B., who is 18 years old, in Istanbul’s central Beyoğlu district, Kaos GL reported.

Asya, who identifies as trans, almost completely lost her eyesight in the attack and suffered severe chemical burns on her torso. Her friends said Emre B. was Asya’s ex-boyfriend, who had been violent before.

Emre B. faced a judge on March 13, and was arrested for causing bodily harm on March 15, according to Kaos GL.

A man who sexually assaulted a transwoman in Istanbul was released on March 10. According to Kaos GL.

Harun S. assaulted Asel Oktay on March 2 at her home. The man insisted on not using a condom, and pulled a gun on Oktay.  She managed to run out of the apartment and called the police, who detained the man. At the station, Harun S. said he “thought (Oktay) was a woman, turned out to be a man”.

Pişkin told Kaos GL that a court decision releasing Harun S. despite laws requiring his arrest for aggravated sexual assault was “prejudicied”. The so-called trans panic legal defence, in which perpetrators of violence say they were tricked about their victim’s gender identity, “creates a regime of impunity”, Pişkin said.