On the night before International Women’s Day, police officers in Istanbul arrested and harassed 20 transgender women.
Around 4pm yesterday (7 March), police officers broke down their doors with sledgehammers and forced them to go to Beyoglu police station on the basis of ‘providing space’ for sex work.
The majority of the women are allegedly sex workers, and living together for security.
A lawyer from the Social Policies, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Studies Association in Turkey (SPoD) criticized the arrest, saying it was not legal.
Rozerine Seda Kip said: ‘The police did not respect the procedures and related policies.
‘The court did give permission for “search” and “right to use force”, but it was not necessary to break their doors with sledgehammers.
‘Police did not show any ID or the court order and did not give any reasoning. They just broke all the doors, and they left.
She continued: ‘Around 20 women were taken to Beyoglu Police Station as victims of sex work.
‘The police even tried to not let lawyers contact them. As the lawyers of SPoD, we experienced physical and verbal violence when we asked to see the court orders and police reports.
‘Afterwards they were taken to the hospital for STD tests, and then released.’
Onur Fidangül, a LGBT activist in Turkey, told Gay Star News the police had probably watched them beforehand because it is ‘public knowledge’ they were there.
While sex work is not illegal in Turkey, transgendered women are not allowed to work in regulated brothels.
Fidangül said: ‘What the police have done is not legal, first of all, the manner is not okay.
‘Second of all, it is not the solution. It happened again in another district, and some people tried to kick the trans women out.
‘Police came and arrested them and closed their house on the basis of providing sex work, and some of them are now on the street. They had to change all of their lives.
‘The state does not give them an option for employability. If they want to be sex workers, then of course they should be. But the majority of these women are forced into it.’
Fidangül also suggested the arrests were so well organized it could be symbolic.
‘We do not have any proof whether they did it on purpose but, of course, they knew the day after was International Women’s Day,’ he said.
‘We’re not talking about arresting one person. They arrested 20 trans women, broke all their doors, and it was very well organized.’
There will be a protest by LGBT organizations at Beyoglu Police Station later today (7 March).
Turkey has the second highest level of hate crime against trans people in the world.