Unsafe haven: LGBT asylum seekers and refugees in Turkey

July 8, 2009

ORAM logoORAM, the Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration (link here) has published its report, Unsafe Haven: The Security Challenges Facing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Turkey (direct link to PDF). The report is based on in-depth interviews with 46 LGBT asylum seekers and refugees
living in Turkey, most of whom are Iranian.

Many of those interviewed described a lack of sufficient police protection in response to their complaints of violence, including admonitions that they stay at home or dress “like a man” to avoid being targeted. Others reported being evicted from their homes on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The few able to work described being violently forced off the job when their LGBT status became known.

The report is a detailed and depressing read which seems unable to suggest any immediately effective ways of reducing the abuses against asylum seekers and refugees based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. The “introduction of education and training”, while a worthy aim, does not help the trans woman who, having escaped persecution in her home country, must live in a small town while she waits anything up to three years to be recognised as a refugee by the UNHCR before she can be
resettled in a third country. In that time, she is likely to be afraid to leave her home in case of violence from the local communities, as well as having very limited access to medical care, social support or employment.

In my opinion, the immediate problem is a society in which rampant transphobia is the norm, and where even the authorities are complicit in a war against trans women regardless of their nationality. Yes, education and training are essential parts of the longer-term process of dragging Turkey into the 21st century – but in the meantime, it’s estimated that my trans sisters are being subjected to an attack every three days and a murder every 15 days, and I see no sign of any direct, short-term action being taken to address that.

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