Vigil held for trans woman killed outside her front door in Istanbul

Dozens of trans activists and supporters protested the alleged murder of a trans woman in Istanbul, Turkey.

Esra Ateş, a sex worker, was attacked on Saturday morning outside the apartment where she lived in the central neighbourhood of Beyoğlu following an argument with one of her clients, Turkish news outlet Evrensel reported.

The killer was filmed by nearby security camera cut her throat with a knife before stealing money and her phone and fleeing the scene.

A man was arrested in connection to the crime and charged with plunder and murder. He reportedly admitted to the crime and said he didn’t know whether Ateş was a man or a woman.

The alleged murder shocked and angered the trans community in Turkey, a country that records the highest number of killings of trans people in Europe.

Trans people in Turkey face widespread discrimination, which often prevents them from accessing jobs, and numerous hurdles if they want to change their legal gender marker—until recently, these included compulsory surgical sterilisation.

(Joris van Gennip/Courtesy of Nakka LGBTİ+)

The vigil was organised by the Nakka LGBTİ+ rights group and held outside Ateş’s home on Monday night, which is located just a few meters away from a police station.

“We want justice, both when we live, and after we’re dead,” the press statement advertising the event read.

“We know Esra’s killer,” the vigil organisers said on Monday, quoted by the Kaos GL rights group. “We know that perpetrators of trans murders are born, fed, and derived from a male-dominated, LGBT-phobic, militaristic system—we are fighting against this system.”

(Joris van Gennip/Courtesy of Nakka LGBTİ+)

Trans beauty queen Cagla Akalin was among who shared Nakka LGBTI+’s call for the demonstration. “Those who do not go to the memorial for Esra today will ask for support for themselves tomorrow,” she wrote on her Facebook page on Monday, highlighting the sense on insecurity felt among the trans community.

A few days before Ateş was murdered, another killing was reported in Bursa, in northern Turkey. The victim, identified as a 45-year-old trans woman known as Begum, was burnt to death, trans journalist and activist Michelle Demishevich wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.

The killing, Demishevich noted, took place on the second anniversary of the murder of prominent Turkish trans rights activist Hande Kader.

(Joris van Gennip/Courtesy of Nakka LGBTİ+)

Her mutilated and burnt body was found near a village north of Istanbul two weeks after the 23-year-old was reported missing by her friends. No suspects have been arrested.

According to Kaos GL, the majority of hate crimes committed in Turkey take place in public spaces, like the street in which Ateş was killed, often in front of eyewitnesses.