Bahar Ünlü / DUVAR
Trans woman Ajda Ender, an Istanbul resident, has issued a plea for justice from her Twitter account after not being able to enter her own home for months due to the transphobic physical violence and death threats she has received. Ender’s lawyer, Human Rights Association (İHD) co-president Eren Keskin, said that Ender is a victim of transphobic violence and discrimination which has become commonplace in Turkey.
I dealt with physical violence
Ender has lived in a home owned by her mother in the central Istanbul district of Şişli since 2003, and she said that violence and discrimination against her began in 2005:
“The violence came in small steps. They would say ‘You’re a tranny, you’re involved in prostitution.’ They even complained about my perfume and insulted me. Last March, after receiving threats, I filed a criminal complaint for the first time, and the situation turned physically violent,” Ender said.
After filing a criminal complaint against her neighbors, Ender said that they beat her with clubs and carved scratches into the door of her apartment, adding that the neighbors themselves called the police and threatened her in front of the police when they arrived.
Claims that violence occurred due to her “appearance”
Ender said that she faced discrimination the first time she went to the police station to file the criminal complaint:
“Going to the police is already a task in itself. When I went to file the complaint I was humiliated and discriminated against. They narrowly accepted my criminal complaint but when writing it up they said ‘the reason these things happen is because of your appearance,’” Ender said.
She said that a lawyer hired by her neighbors was violent toward her, harassed her, and threatened to kill her by throwing acid in her face:
“I was forced to leave my home. On my street and around my apartment there are always men wandering around. I’m staying at my friends house. I can’t go out on the street alone. I’m scared,” Ender said.
This violence goes beyond me, it’s against all trans people
“Because I am a trans woman, they are trying to silence me, render me helpless, and isolate me.They’ve taken away my right to live. I represent LGBTQ people. This violence is actually committed against all women and trans people. I don’t bother anyone in society, and try to be an example, because I am a representative of trans women. They slandered me by saying that I am engaging in prostitution, but I do not, though I do would never condemn those who do. In our country, trans women face difficulties in terms of employment, even if they are university graduates, they can’t find work in their fields and they are forced to become prostitutes. I’m lucky, I was able to have my own work,” Ender said.
Ender runs her own small-scale textile business, and previously worked as a store manager. However, she is unable to continue with her work because her storage room is located in her home, which she cannot enter and she is thereby unable to access her materials.
“I am selling clothes I bought on credit on social media in order to get by. If I could get a hold of the outfits in my home, at least with the money that would come from that, I could get by for a few months,” Ender said.
I’m afraid, but I’ll complain until I die
Ender’s criminal complaint and the complaint she filed with the Istanbul Bar Association against her neighbors’ lawyer have not yet been resolved. She is still unable to enter her apartment due to the fear of being threatened and facing violence:
“They know that I won’t back down. I’m scared but if I die, this is an incident of violence against women, and it is clear who will be responsible. I issued all of my complaints. The responsibility for my death would lie with those who committed crimes against me and those who didn’t do what they were supposed to. The authorities who didn’t do what they were supposed to do are responsible for what has happened to me,” Ender said.
The judiciary, the police and society are transphobic
Ender’s lawyer and human rights activist Eren Keskin said that since trans women are outwardly visible, they are frequently exposed to violence:
“Transphobia and homophobia is common, particularly in the judiciary and the police and in all segments of society. For example, a trans woman walking on the street is stopped by police and fined with a misdemeanor crime. The reason behind the crime is that they are ‘tarnishing the area’ and ‘harming the surrounding area’! This is a transphobic and racist approach. The state is like this but society is no different,” Keskin said.