The West Must Stand Up For Vulnerable Trans People

Hande Kader, a 23-year-old transgender woman and well-known LGBT activist's mutilated and burned body was found this month in an upmarket residential area in Istanbul.

Hande Kader, a 23-year-old transgender woman and well-known LGBT activist's mutilated and burned body was found this month in an upmarket residential area in Istanbul.

A tragic death occurred recently in Istanbul. I waited for two weeks before I wrote about this subject. I waited because I wished to be proven wrong; I wished to see that the western media is not transphobic. It is a sad reality that most people in the west are uncomfortable with trans people, and the murder of a trans person is not treated with the interest or outrage that the killing of anyone else in the LGBT community would receive.  

When a gay or a lesbian person is killed in the Middle East we read about their stories in many media sources. Why do we not do the same for trans members being murdered? The beheading and mutilation of a young gay man in Istanbul two weeks ago, inspired by a murderous interpretation of Islam, received widespread and worldwide condemnation.  Just a few days after his murder Islamists burned a trans person to death in Turkey but most western media paid little attention to this horrific crime. My heart is breaking since I got the news from some of my friends in Turkey about the death of Hande Kader. I find it a duty to write about her story.

Hande was a trans woman and LGBT rights advocate in Turkey. Kader is a very common last name taken by trans people in Turkey. Kader means destiny in Turkish.  Like most of us, trans people want to control their own destiny. Hande Kader was one of those who tried to do this by challenging the patriarchal and Islamic social system in Turkey. She was one of the most outspoken and well-known LGBT activists in Turkey, and when police attacked the Istanbul Pride parade last year with water cannons and pepper spray, she was at the front of resistance to the police brutality. She became the visible face of LGBT rights in Turkey. Two weeks ago Hande Kader was burned alive by Islamists in Istanbul at the age of 23. Before her death she had been repeatedly raped and tortured.

Hande worked hard to build a future for herself and for other LGBT people in Turkey, but brutal intolerance fueled by radical Islam cut her life tragically short. Life is hard for all LGBT people in Turkey and the Muslim world, but trans people are the targets of exceptional brutality. This was not the first time this will happen and sadly it will not be the last. Canadians must speak for them. We must stand up and fight for trans rights.

Hande Kader’s story emphasizes the importance of a Canadian immigration and refugee policy that recognizes groups that are living under imminent threats. I call on Canadians to put pressure on the Trudeau government’s Citizen and Immigration Department. Trans people are under imminent threat in most patriarchal societies and they are living with the fear of murder on a daily basis. Trans people in the Middle East are afraid to leave their homes because of this fear. I ask you, who are the most vulnerable? Who needs our help more?

Yusuf Cheliyan
Ottawa