The shocking murder of trans activist Hande Kader says much about Turkey today

On Aug 23, 2016 The Guardian published this article: In the course of only a couple of months, citizens of Turkey have endured rising political tension, a series of terror attacks, and a horrific coup attempt that traumatised the entire nation and left nearly 300 dead. This week a Kurdish wedding in Gaziantep was attacked by Isis and many of the victims were children. The suicide bomber who ruthlessly slaughtered innocents was himself a child of around 12-14, recruited and brainwashed by Islamic extremists. It feels as if every week something new and darker happens. There is no time to stop and contemplate, even less to digest; from one tragedy to the next, we citizens are being thrust like pebbles into a gushing river that has lost its way.

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In a country situated in a turbulent region, a country where politics remains heavy and divisive, one of the most difficult subjects to bring up is sexuality. Not even the most liberal segments of society have the will to talk about gender politics as there are apparently more urgent issues to deal with. Thus women’s rights and LGBT rights are being postponed, again and again, under the pretext that, “now is not the right time”. But that much-awaited “right time” never arrives. Meanwhile, domestic violence escalates, honour killings continue, and the laws remain ineffective in dealing with rising femicide. In its 2016 report, Human Rights Watch stated: “Despite Turkey’s ratification of the Council of Europe convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, violence against women remains a significant concern.”
This month a mutilated and burned body was found in an upmarket residential area in Istanbul. It was revealed to be Hande Kader, a 23-year-old transgender woman and well-known LGBT activist. She had been repeatedly raped and tortured by a gang. Kader was familiar to millions of Turks due to the fact that last year when the Istanbul Pride parade was suppressed with rubber bullets, water cannons and pepper spray, she was at the forefront of the resistance against police force, making her a figurehead for LGBT rights in Turkey.

Like many others in Turkey’s trans community, Kader was a sex worker because she had no other choice. She needed money to pay for gender reassignment surgery; she needed money to live. “They don’t give us any jobs, they don’t even let us rent a house or a flat in a decent neighbourhood. So we have to go and look for places in crime-ridden neighbourhoods,” explains Michelle Demishevich, a trans journalist and activist, over email. “Every day I wonder who among us will die next,” she adds. “I can’t even remember the number of funerals I attended in the last years.”

Turkey has a higher rate of trans murders than anywhere in Europe. For those who manage to stay alive, every day is a new ordeal. As I was writing this article it emerged that Azize Ömrüm, a trans sex worker in İzmir, had taken her own life. Last year, Eylül Cansın did the same. They both said in their last statements that they could not deal with the oppression and discrimination any longer.

Read more at: The shocking murder of trans activist Hande Kader says much about Turkey today | Elif Shafak | Opinion | The Guardian

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