The international campaign for sexual and bodily rights titled “One Day, One Struggle” organized simultaneously by the Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies (CSBR) member organizations every year on November 9 was realized in 8 countries this year with various events held by 20 organizations.
Two separate events were organized in Turkey as part of the international campaign. CSBR member Kaos GL Association supported by the Foundation for Society and Legal Studies (TOHAV) organized a “Workshop on Psycho-Social Support” for LGBTI activists in Ankara, while CSBR members Women for Women’s Human Rights-New Ways (WWHR) and Lambdaİstanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association partook in the campaign with a “Panel on the Sexual and Bodily Rights of Refugee Women and LGBTI” held in İstanbul Bilgi University Social Incubation Center in İstanbul.
Convening at the “Workshop on Psycho-Social Support” co-organized by Kaos GL Association and TOHAV, LGBTI activists discussed ways of “healing” together in the aftermath of the Ankara massacre, easing the pains through solidarity, and continuing the struggle by preserving the hope amidst our current environment of war and violence. The most important outcome of the workshop that lasted two and a half hours was the emphasis on standing together as a powerful impetus in resisting for peace.
Şehnaz Kıymaz Bahçeci of WWHR-New Ways delivered the opening speech of the “Panel on the Sexual and Bodily Rights of Refugee Women and LGBTI” which was heavily attended by individual participants as well as representatives of numerous non-governmental organizations working in fields of women, LGBTI and human rights. Information on CSBR and the “One Day, One Struggle” campaign was relayed in the opening speech conveying that the coalition was established in 2001 as an international entity with the aim of creating a common line of struggle for sexual and bodily rights advocates and expanding the fields of struggle for feminists, activists and rights advocates in face of increasing pressure created by religion and traditional norms and rising conservative policies in the political arena. Bahçeci explained that since 2009 CSBR has been organizing the “One Day, One Struggle” campaign every year on November 9 in order to draw attention to sexual, bodily and reproductive rights and the struggle carried out for these rights. She emphasized our ever growing need to come together against the problems of refugees, which we witness everyday especially in big cities, escalated by the ongoing war in Syria. She underlined the importance of the women’s movement acting in solidarity with refugee women and LGBTI.
The panel was moderated by İstanbul University Faculty of Political Sciences lecturer Associate Professor Zeynep Kıvılcım who conducts field research on Syrian refugee women and LGBTI. Proffering examples from the dialogues that take place during her research, Kıvılcım said, “We are in the fourth year of the war that erupted in Syria and we are responsible for our reticence. We must take action on this issue all together. This ongoing state of the Syrians’ lack of status must be ended immediately.”
In her speech titled “The Gender of Immigration” Özgül Kaptan, who has been working in the field with refugee women for almost two years on behalf of Women’s Solidarity Foundation (KADAV) and Women Without Borders, explained the terms that define emigrants such as immigrant, asylum-seeker, refugee, guest, illegal alien, undocumented, etc. Noting that the term “illegal alien” used for paperless immigrants who have not been registered has an escalating effect on hate speeches against immigrants, Kaptan emphasized the importance of dialogue and solidarity for the solution of these problems.
Nilgün Yıldırım Şener of the Human Resource Development Foundation (İKGV) stated that sexual violence is used as a method of war between the fighting parties in Syria. Giving examples from the cases they encounter in the counseling center for Syrian asylum-seekers set up in Esenler, İstanbul, Şener stressed that 10 out of every 100 asylum-seekers applying to the center have been subjected to sexual violence. She said that among the case files opened at the center during the January-July 2015 period, 89 of the sexual violence victims were women, 37 men, and 9 were LGBTI individuals. Delivering a summary of the sexual and bodily rights violations of women and LGBTI, Şener underlined that housing is the gravest problem along with the very widespread fear of harassment and rape. She also talked about the prevalence of major problems such as the constantly changing practices regarding access to health care services, and the impossibility of access to services such as birth control and abortion.
Diyarbakır Metropolitan Municipality Fidanlık Yezidi Camp director Müzeyyen Anık Aydın expounded the conditions and difficulties in the Yezidi camps maintained with the efforts of municipalities in the region without any financial or infrastructural support from the state. She said that presently in the camps there are around 4,000 Yezidis among whom there is a prevalent practice resembling the caste system, and that all decisions concerning women are taken by men. Aydın underlined that immigrant Yezidi women cannot practice their sexual and bodily rights and that there are severe rights violations. Further explaining that municipalities try to provide all services including shelter, health and education for the Yezidis who do not receive any form of state support, Aydın stated there are major shortages primarily in terms of human resources.
Lawyer Fırat Söyle of Lambdaİstanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association stated that as Lambdaİstanbul they have established a commission for refugees and are providing legal support for LGBTI refugees who apply to them. Noting that the rights violations experienced by LGBTI in Turkey are experienced also by refugees, Söyle observed that despite the immigration administration put in place the system is run by the police, and that the number of LGBTI refugees who have to do sex work in order to meet their needs for shelter and food is increasing by the day. Söyle added that the trans individuals held in camps in satellite towns cannot access the health services and medicine they require for their transition process.
The panel which was concluded with a question-and-ans
Kadının İnsan Hakları – Yeni Çözümler Derneği / Women for Women’s Human Rights-New Ways (WWHR)
Tel : (+90) 212 251 00 29
Lambdaİstanbul LGBTİ Dayanışma Derneği / LambdaIstanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association
0549 490 90 71
Kaos GL Derneği / Kaos GL Association
Tel : +90-312-2300358
Faks : +90-312-2306277