Justice for Dora and Jasmine!

Report by Irem Az.

Dora Ozer, who was a transwoman sex worker in Kusadasi, Turkey, was killed by one of her clients on July 9th. Two days after her murder, Petite Jasmine was killed by her abusive ex partner who unbelievably had been given custody of their children “because of” Jasmine’s job. To protest violence against sex workers and transgender individuals, hundreds came together in 31 cities all over the world on July 19th. Coordination of protests among European countries was made by International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE) although the demos in each city were organized by local sex workers’ and LGBT organizations.

image001On June 25th, sticking to a plan I made earlier this year and sadly leaving Gezi Park resistance, I came to London to volunteer with the Global Women’s Strike at the Crossroads Women’s Centre. The Centre is home to many independent women’s organizations and a men’s group. I went to the demo for Dora Ozer and Petite Jasmine outside the Swedish Embassy with the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP). The ECP is an independent sex workers’ organization and a member of International Prostitutes Collective. The demo was co-ordinated by the ECP and the Sex Worker Open University. Other groups like Queer Strike and x:talk attended as well as individual supporters. This was one of the most lively and loud demos that I have participated in since I came to London.

The July 19th protest was against hate crimes that cost many lives like Dora and Jasmine’s and against governments that criminalize sex work as in Sweden. But before that, on July 15th, LGBTIQ activists and supporters gathered for Dora and against all hate crimes in seven cities around Turkey[1]. I think that the fact that LGBTIQ activists have been involved in many unexpected and constructive contacts with people and groups of diverse ideologies during Gezi Park protests had a positive impact on the powerful voice of these protests in public spaces[2].

Since 2002, 70 transsexual individuals have been killed in Turkey according to the existing records. Social stigmas against LGBTIQ individuals and governments’ indifference about the systematic violence faced by transwomen mean trans people are more likely to be targeted for attack. When Niki Adams from the ECP suddenly put the megaphone in my hand I tried to emphasize this particularity of the context in Turkey concerning transsexual individuals and sex workers.

During the protests for Dora, LGBT Block in Turkey called out the Justice and Development Party government who legitimizes violence against transsexual people and all hate crimes with their sexist and homophobic discourses and indifference.  Their statement was as follows:

It is obvious that this is not the first and unfortunately will not be the last. We have been shouting on streets for ages: Trans murders are systematic and political. The state allows trans murders by covering them up and thus encouraging the murderers. This means “Trans people are stress balls of the society, you can vent your spleen on them.”

The holders of power, the sovereigns, the masters! Those who don’t hear us; those who know us only from the third page of the newspapers [where the mainstream media reports the murder of women and LGBT people in a sensationalised way]! We know what these successive murders mean and we are angry. Do not ever forget that!

[…] We know these unlawful killings are not peculiar to trans people. We are keeping track of 5 lives we have lost during Gezi Park resistance, tens of arrests and losses. Increasing women killings, young people who fall victim to the war, rape and all women and children who are facing patriarchal violence are the other faces of Dora’s murder.

LGBT Block[3]

On the other hand in Sweden, although being a sex worker is not legally forbidden sex workers cannot even keep custody of their children because of their job. Petite Jasmine had been fighting for custody for years through the courts after her child was taken from her. She was also an activist against the criminalisation of sex work. Since the clients of sex workers were criminalised in Sweden in 1999, sex workers have been put more at risk and are less likely to report the violence they are facing.

Unfortunately rape and other violent attacks against sex workers, women, children and people of colour in particular, are common in Britain just like in Turkey. Despite the major difference in political structures between Turkey and Britain, the corporate media has a similar approach to covering these cases – cover them up! That is why I think, the best placard of the demo for Dora and Jasmine was the one below.

No Single Mother Deserves Violence
No Sex Worker Deserves Violence
No Transwomen Deserve Violence
No Women Deserve Violence
We Are All Jasmine
We Are All Dora

[1] “7 Ilde Nee Cinayetlerine Protesto”, 15 Temmuz 2013, http://bianet.org/bianet/lgbtt/148476-7-ilde-nefret-cinayetlerine-protesto

[2] Sebnem Kenis, “’Direnisle Dirilis’: Bir Imkanlar Alani Olarak Gezi Direnisi”, Haziran 2013, http://www.feministyaklasimlar.org/sayi-20-haziran-2013/direnisle-dirilis-bir-imkanlar-alani-olarak-gezi-direnisi/

[3] Zeynep Akkus, “LGBT Dernekleri Istanbul’da da Oldurulen Dora Icin Yurudu”, 15.07.2013, http://www.kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=14491