Turkey – new Chief of Police for Istanbul. Will this bring an end to the “undeclared war” against trans women?

June 15, 2009

Turkish flagOver the last six months I’ve posted regularly (almost once a fortnight) about the ongoing hate campaign which seems to have as its goal the murder of every last trans woman in Turkey. The situation has been particularly bad in Istanbul where the police seem tacitly to approve of what the LGBTT Rights Platform has called “an unidentified war” against trans people.

So is it too much to hope that the departure of the current Chief of Police, Celalettin Cerrah, may pave the way for an end to the transphobic hate crimes? According to Bianet (link here), many trans rights activists, as well as women’s and gay rights groups, welcome the news:

According to transexual Beren, “During the six years that Celalettin Cerrah has been Istanbul Chief of Police, the violence against transvestites and transexuals (TT) has risen very noticably. His time in office has been a turning point for the worse.”

Compared with the previous Chief of Police, so Beren, Cerrah has made Istanbul a much more difficult city to live in:

Beyoğlu, a central district of Istanbul, used to be a centre for TT people to meet, but the police has raided the square, the nearby Gezi Park and night clubs systematically to make sure TTs leave the area.

TTs working as sex workers in the Şişli and Beyoğlu areas and other districts have been targeted especially. Police detention was followed by discriminatory approaches. Under Article 225 of the Turkish Penal Code, they were taken to court for “indecent exposure”. According to Beren, TT persons have experienced at least 10 trials a person. Most of the trials end in acquittal, but the message is clear.

Plain clothes teams have beaten TT individuals with sticks and truncheons or taken them from central districts and thrown them out of the police vehicles in outlying districts.

Beren remembers that Cerrah’s predecessor Selefi Hasan Özdemir had called a group of TT individuals to the police station to talk to them. She acknowledged that street sex work was a problem, but argued that it would not be solved with violence.

So now we wait for the announcement of Celalettin Cerrah’s successor. I can only hope that whoever is appointed has a more enlightened attitude to gender variance, and that the undeclared war against my trans sisters is brought to an end.

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