Moviment Graffiti and We Are – The University of Malta LGBTQQI Organization would like to mark IDAHO, the international day against homophobia and transphobia, by referring to the situation of trans persons in Turkey. We believe it is important to bring attention to the conditions faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and especially trans people in Turkey. There have been at least two cases of murder as a hate crime in the last few months, with some estimates reaching 20 murders of trans persons per year. In this EU candidate country it is unacceptable to see such widespread crimes related to sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
When the Turkish Minister for EU Affairs and Chief Negotiator Egeman Bagis was in Malta a few weeks ago, he spoke of how Turkey's accession negotiations are improving the country, even saying that Turkey's full membership was not so appealing as was the prospect of achieving a freer and more open society. Mr. Bagis also spoke eloquently on the European Union as a peace project. Commendable words, to be sure, but reeking of hypocrisy when noting that Turkey has among the worst records of investigating hate crimes of this sort.
A young woman by the name of Tugce was murdered in Izmir, her body unrecognizable from the assault. Another woman, Nuket, was stabbed 40 times, but the murderer claimed he lost consciousness and could not remember using the knife so many times. Another case in Istanbul highlights this dire situation even more clearly – a police officer shot a trans sex worker in the back after she refused to pay a fine.
While hate crimes cannot be attributed to the state, we encourage a system of tough laws as deterrence to such crimes, along with the education needed to encourage tolerance and acceptance of diversity. However the incident of the police officer is particularly troubling in that it is symbolic of the greater system that is acting like this, breeding intimidation and fear also from the institutions.
We are therefore re-iterating our belief that Turkey needs to crack down on such crimes, hard, if their candidature is to be taken seriously. Mr. Bagis claimed that negotiations take time and over time Turkey is improving. We say that improvement is not enough, we want an immediate change in policy on trans people and an end to systematic violence and discrimination against LGBT people. The Turkish government is obliged to introduce and implement hate crime laws, including crimes against LGBT people. We state, “Freedom of choice is an almost sacred right in our societies. Staying silent in the face of crimes done in order to stop people from choosing for themselves, in order to intimidate and to spread fear, is unacceptable. If Turkey wants to be part of Europe, it must go from paying lip-service to the ideals held by the member states to acting by them.”