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The New Arab Staff

Turkey transgender woman sues neighbours over years of harassment

File photo showing Istanbul Trans Pride celebrations in 2015 [Getty]

Date of publication: 17 June, 2020

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Turkish trans woman Ajda Ender has finally had her lawsuit accepted by a court after more than a decade of 'gender-based harassment' and 'threats'.
A Turkish court has launched criminal proceedings against the neighbours of a transgender woman, who are accused of a long campaign of harassment and abuse against her.

Ajda Ender, a transgender woman from Istanbul, has long sought legal protection against the transphobic abuse but found the state unwilling to help.

Last year, she was served with a restraining order which left her unable to enter her own apartment for seven months.

A lawsuit lodged by Ender against her neighbours has now been accepted by prosecutors, she said this week.

"I have been struggling since 2005. While I was thinking that I could not stand all of these any longer, I got the news of this lawsuit," Ender told bianet.

"This trial is very important for me, because my right to life was taken away from me and my reputation was impaired. I was disregarded... all of my rights were usurped," she said.

"I hope that my neighbours who want to destroy my reputation before society and disregard my material and immaterial rights will be penalised," she added.

In addition to a criminal conviction, Ender's attorney is also seeking 20,000 lira ($2,917) in damages from the neighbours.

"Ender is subjected to discrimination, insults and even physical attack by the defendants living in the apartment [complex]," lawyer Eren Keskin told bianet

"My client cannot go to her house and stays with a friend...  due to the physical and verbal attacks and successive restraining orders [filed against her]," he added.

Ender moved in to the Istanbul apartment in 2003 after fleeing her family home, where she says she faced "psychological violence" and hate speech.

Her neighbours began to physically and verbally harass her two years later, Ender says. One of her neighbours even threatened to throw acid in her face, she said earlier this year.

It is unclear whether Turkey's courts have ever succesfully prosecuted someone in relation to transphobic abuse. 

There are no legal protections from discrimination against sexual orientation or gender identity in Turkey.

Courts have even excused violence against the LBGTQ+ community, handing down lighter sentences to killers of LGBTQ+ individuals by utilising a selective reading of the penal code.

While homosexuality and gender transition are legal in Turkey, LGBTQ+ individuals face routine discrimination in public life, while trans women are particularly exposed to violence. At least four trans women were killed last year.

Trans men and women seeking legal recognition of their transition face a variety of obstacles, including a mandatory mental health diagnosis and forced sterilisation.

LGBTQ+ events including Istanbul Pride have been banned and targeted by police in recent years.

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