The killing of Ebru Soykan, a prominent transgender human rights activist on March 10th in Istanbul, Turkey, has led to calls for the Turkish government to protect trans people.
Soykan, 28, who worked for Lamda Istanbul on ending police violence against trans people, is the second murder victim in the organisation in the last year.
In July 2008, 26-year-old Ahmet Yildiz was shot and killed as he was leaving a café near the Bosporus. As yet, no one has been charged.
According to Human Rights Watch, Soykan had asked for police protection from a man who had beaten her on several occasions and threatened to kill her. Lambda Istanbul was told that a few weeks ago police detained the man but released him two hours later. The same man is under police custody as the murder suspect.
“The Turkish police have a duty to respond to all credible threats of violence, whoever the victim,” said Juliana Cano Nieto, researcher in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights programme at Human Rights Watch. “Investigating violence against LGBT people, prosecuting suspects, and passing effective legislation to ensure equality are all critical to ensuring that these murderous abuses end.”
Lambda Istanbul has said that in 2007, it submitted a file of 146 cases they had documented to the Istanbul Provincial Human Rights Board, many dealing with reports of violence against transgender people, including cases of violence by the police. Several of these cases had been reported to the police.
According to the organisation, the then-deputy governor of Istanbul told Lambda Istanbul that the governor’s office had found no records of these allegations and complaints in the police districts involved.
“Until an anti-discrimination law is in place to protect the LGBT community and the police take seriously their duty to protect everyone, these murders will continue,” said Cano Nieto. “Turkey cannot continue to ignore its obligations when lives are at stake.”