The recent murders of two transgender women in Turkey highlight an ongoing pattern of violence and the urgent need for stronger protection measures by the government, four Turkish and international human rights organisations have said in a letter to Turkish authorities.
Since November 2008, at least eight transgender people have been murdered in Istanbul and Ankara. The most recent killing was of a transgender woman called Aycan Yener on Feburary 16, in the Fatih area of Istanbul.
Yener, whose legal given name was Fevzi, was killed in her apartment. Her throat was slit, and she was stabbed 17 times. Assailants also stabbed her roommate, Seyhan Ã–zmemiÃ¾, 32, who survived. According to Turkish media, witnesses reportedly observed three people fleeing the scene, but no one has been arrested.
On February 8, Derya Y., a 35-year old transgender woman, was killed in her home in the AltÃ½ndaÃ° district of Antalya. Police found Derya Y. in her bedroom with her throat cut and multiple knife stab wounds to her face and body.
The organisations behind the letter said that the targeted killings of transgender women are part of a broader pattern of violence against LGBT people in Turkey. According to Turkish media, the police found 56-year old Ãžinasi HalimoÃ°lu, who had arranged a date with another man, dead on his bed on January 28 with multiple knife wounds to his back and neck.
The groups called on Turkey to remedy the conditions that place transgender people at risk from acts of violence by enacting anti-discrimination protections, instituting programs to combat prejudice and hatred, and repealing laws that provide an opportunity for police to harass stigmatised groups.
The letter was sent by Pembe Hayat “Pink Life,” Human Rights Watch, the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.
“Protecting people and preventing violence means more than investigating after the fact,” said Juliana Cano Nieto, researcher in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights program of Human Rights Watch. “Without meaningful government action to affirm their rights and ensure their safety, transgender people in Turkey will continue to live in fear.”
In the wake of the killings, the police have made efforts to investigate and resolve these crimes. In two of the earlier cases, suspects were caught and prosecuted and sentenced to life in prison and in two other cases suspects are in pre-trial detention. The remaining murders are being investigated. However little has been done to protect LGBT people in Turkey, especially transgender people, from future acts of violence, the groups said.
“All citizens of Turkey, including transgender citizens, are entitled to live without fear of murder or persecution,” said Hossein Alizadeh, Coordinator of IGLHRC’s Middle East and North Africa program. “The homophobic killings need to stop, and for this we need the Turkish government to take concrete action to protect transgender people.”
European bodies have called on Turkey, a member of the Council of Europe, and on other states to protect LGBT people from violence. The European Union, to which Turkey is seeking admission, adopted a progress report this month, reminding the Turkish government of the need to safeguard all minorities, including LGBT people.