The Turkish capital Ankara

Turkish police have been slammed for allegedly assaulting five transgender activists and then charging them with resisting arrest.

According to reports, four police officers from the Esat Police Station in Ankara stopped the car in which the activists were in late at night on May 17 and accused them of intending to commit sex work.

The women phoned for help, prompting 25 local human rights observers to go to the scene. The police allegedly forced the five activists out of the car, beat them with batons, kicked them, sprayed them with tear gas and made anti-gay comments.

Police allegedly handcuffed the women, forced them to kneel, and beat their heads and legs while one policeman told them their activism would not protect them. All five women, visibly bruised, were forced into a police van and taken to the police station. Police held them in custody until the next morning.

The activists were charged with resisting arrest and their trial is set for October 21. If convicted, they face up to three years in prison.

In a letter to Turkey’s Interior and Justice ministers, five human rights organisations said that the police officers responsible for the attack should be held accountable and called for an end to violence against transgender people.

“Police ought to protect transgender people and their advocates, not attack them,” said Hossein Alizadeh, Middle East and North Africa regional coordinator at the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. “When police turn into perpetrators, it becomes painfully clear that official apathy allows leeway for attacks on transgender people.”

The letter to the Justice and Interior ministers was signed by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), Human Rights Watch, COC Netherlands, GATE – Global Advocates for Trans Equality, and the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans & Intersex Association (ILGA-Europe).

“The Turkish government is turning us trans people into criminals, for no other reason than existing. Being trans in Turkey means being judged and condemned just because of what we are,” said Mauro Cabral, co-director of Global Advocates for Trans Equality (GATE). “We are the crime: the government abuses us and forces us to live and die outside of the law, instead of protecting us.”

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