In January I wrote (link here) about the trial for the 1997 murder of Robyn Browne by a cis man for a fee of £500, a depressingly small value to place on the life of any human being, trans or cis. Unfortunately, time and a global recession seem to have reduced the tariff even further, if a report by CNN Turkey (link here) is accurate.
“One time I was in a hairdresser and they got me out and took to the police station. They fined me for disturbing the society as 35€ according to the Misdemeanor Law. Another time, I had bought meat and bread and was walking, they fined me again. At some occasions, they even fined me twice in a day. I did not sign some of the fines and signed some. They terrified me. They use violence and threaten to inform our families about our situation. Now we are afraid of getting out. We do not disturb the people, on the contrary, the police do.”
(At the time of writing 35€ is worth approximately £32 here in Britain; or a little over $50 in the U.S.)
It seems that for the last couple of months trans women are routinely fined if they so much as even step outside their front doors: leaving the bakery, while grocery shopping, at the hairdresser’s, you name it. If you’re a trans woman in Istanbul then you’re a target. The harassment is justified under the 37th article of the Misdemeanour Act, a Turkish criminal law which cites “disturbing others in the streets for selling goods or services” as an offence. In this case, its use seems to play on the transphobic trope that all trans women are sex workers.
According to the LGBTT Association, this ramping up of the ongoing campaign of harassment has only happened since the new Chief of Police, Huseyin Çapkin, was appointed (link here). At the time, many trans rights activists, as well as women’s and gay rights groups, welcomed the news of the departure of Chief Çapkin’s predecessor (Celalettin Cerrah), but it seems to be a case of ‘here comes the new boss, same as the old boss’.
Apparently there is a new system of incentives in place within the police department, whereby officers earn points for each fine they issue – which effectively translates into bonuses in their pay packets. Given the recent history of the undeclared war against trans women in Turkey it’s a surprise that the police need any further incentive. They were already carrying out a concerted campaign of transphobic violence with considerable enthusiasm anyway, as I’ve written on many previous occasions (see below for links to my previous posts).
The CNN Turkey report tells us that Chief Çapkin was on record (in his previous position as Chief of Police of Izmir) as being sworn to clear “this pile of shit” (trans people) from Izmir. And the purpose of this suppression, apart from increasing the social acceptance of transphobic bigotry and violence?
The aim is to isolate trans women from the rest of the people and make their lives miserable. To exile them from the daily life… We surely know this type of brutality shown against the minorities from the past and current wild Fascist regimes.
ETA: Further information received suggests that the situation on the ground may be worse than previously thought. Eye witness reports are filtering through from Istanbul in which the following actions have been, and continue to be, carried out:
- Trans people held without charge in police stations for hours at a time before being fined 60€ (£55 in Britain; about $90 in the U.S.) for traffic violations
- Trans people detained under unofficial house arrest
- Trans people evicted and made homeless
LGBTT Association members have begun regular demonstrations against these actions by the police, and plan to continue their protest until the state sanctioned violence is ended.
Previous related posts:
- Turkey: Trans novel banned (August 15, 2009)
Curtsey to Justus on the TGEU listserv for the heads up