In a spirit of solidarity, we publish here the open letter to the President of Turkey, from Kıvılcım Arat, a trans militant, and extend our respects to Eren Keskin.

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From the pen of a trans
Open letter to the President of the Republic of Turkey
And in hommage to Eren Keskin


While the accursed war process in which we entered following the attacks in Suruç was dispersing tens of thousands of families, “persecution” had already managed to replace it in our lives in all four corners of the country, from the universities to the factories, from villages to metropolises. In this climate where intimidation, denunciations and treason swept the land; takeovers, lies and pillaging became ordinary where custody and arrests became systematic; images of torture and execution were proudly served up to the media, and none of us were safe any longer.

Every morning of every day that begins, waking up in this climate, being unable to make any projects whatsoever, devastates the integrity of every citizen, wounds that are difficult to heal open up in the social memory. Wounds similar to those of the Armenians, a historical people of Anatolia, the scars of which have been hidden by the gangs of Ittihat.

This obscured History, now weighing down on every person with reason and conscience, has continued to evolve for one hundred years, in denial and destruction, in order to finally give birth to an heir in its image, political Islam. The reason for this repetition was precisely the century-old refusal to acknowledge the deed.

This sour taste born a century ago, on the tongue and on the spirit of the Armenians, is now on our tongues, in our spirit. This hundred year old ball of lead is now lodged in each one of our throats, as if it was never to disappear.

The adventure

I want to say that the adventure of writing this letter began when I awoke one morning feeling that sour taste. They had raided the newspaper Özgür Gündem, its staff had been taken into custody. On the published photos, handcuffed journalists, looking exhausted , wearing torn clothes, were led into the Special Forces’ vehicles. Looking at these images, anger, sadness and despair gushed in my mind, united and embraced my body in a sensation impossible to describe. The home of then editorial director Eren Keskin was searched by special police forces and heavily armed snipers.  You might have thought that this raided house did not belong to a lawyer, a member of the Bar who has spent her life  and continues to walk the corridors of justice, a person respected and loved by tens of thousands. But perhaps the house was that of a cell of the ISIS gang? Luckily, Eren Keskin was not at home.

Despite  no information being communicated concerning the fact she was to appear in court to testify, and despite the fact no preparations were made for this, we managed to assemble. Everyone was there. From parliamentarians to defendors of rights, from Mothers for Peace to jurists,  representatives from civilian organizations, political parties, LGBTI+ associations, conscientious objectors… every organization and person who had heard the news had converged on the Palace of Justice. Following the procedures for Eren Keskin’s deposition, our venerable prosecutor who acknowledges neither rights nor justice, submitted his request for her arrest, thus throwing the ball to the judges. The hallway, which in principle appears rather short, but which in our loving eyes stretched out to infinity, resonated to slogans such as “elbow to elbow against fascism!”, “Eren Keskin is not alone!” . The chanting cries transformed into spring snowdrops in each of us, announcing spring. All of us were waiting for the news that would come out of the hearing room.

At last…the decision came. Eren would be tried under temporary release!

The reason for the letter

The trials began immediately after the political operation targeting Özgür Gündem. This is when, as one of Eren’s clients,  I wanted to write a text for her. Even if I have no trouble expressing what is on my chest, orally or in writing, I did not manage to do it. I couldn’t do it because neither my spirit consented to write a single sentence, nor did my tongue agree to carry a single word. For this reason, a draft that could have led to five different texts waited patiently for months on the left side of my screen.

The draft I had prepared was under the title “Open letter to the President of the Republic from an unacceptable citizen”. Thinking in a country where freedom of thought and of expression do not exist, and not satisfied with thinking, but putting them down on paper is a dangerous matter. For you may attract the sovereign’s ire and benefit from his violence.  If it were only that… You can quickly be transferred from the jail in my country which is surrounded by three seas to a fourth, hemmed in by tanks, into a cell with four concrete walls. In this context, I shared the draft only with a few close friends.  Their reaction was intense from a security point of view. For a text aimed at the public to provoke such a reaction, it must normally have contained a sexist content, racist, bellicose, praising crime and criminals… Yet, in that draft, I spoke of the hunger for fundamental notions such as freedom, equality, justice, rights, freedom of opinion and expression. And I conveyed my worries to a person with whom I lived in the same country and to whom I was linked by citizenship…the President of the Republic.

While my text, containing not a single criminal element, waited in a corner, the wish to share the reality produced in my mind put me into action again. This time, taking into account my friends’ worries, I began to go through all the videos of our dear Reis, beginning in the days when he was still mayor, particularly in the time when he was incarcerated. My objective was to show everything that had been imposed to my person and to millions of other citizens subjected to this treatment, on the basis of these videos.

Did we not claim in these lands that “the word that leave the mouth becomes a testimonial”? Did we not have expressions linking the fact of being a man to “being a man of his word”? But this fiction was an immature dream. Present practices, the reign of hypocrisy, the justice system, and the price paid by the friends who had shared by dreams in search of rights, had been of a totally different nature. And everything I considered as a precautionary measure was nonsense.

It was nonsense because we were faced with a power capable of saying white today what it considered black yesterday, capable of disowning at night what it had declared in the morning, and who considered one half of the country as terrorists, and the other half like a flock of sheep to be led.

The Atlas of contradictions or the orchestra of opposites

Turkey is such a country that has the power to place contradictions in a coexistence that should be impossible. If a few examples are needed… Religion is the strongest thesis used to argue that a transexual identity must be repressed. The trans live a very great sin and sell their soul to the devil and their bodies to men. Since Allah created humans in the most perfect fashion, surgeries for esthetic reasons are sinful. They express a dissatisfaction with God’s creation, and a revolt against him. If you go down in the street and put the question, this is the answer you will receive from every average Muslim. Which is to say that religion is the fundamental argument for this average Muslim’s considering trans as sinful. The trans is sinful for not being content with what god has created and for interfering with this creation.

When this average citizen goes to the urns to vote, religion will again be the basic coloring for his or her vote. Which is to say, the relationship the party has with religion. Therein lies the contradiction. A number of AKP voters declare trans are sinful, but they have nothing to say about politicians’ wives, botoxed all over. Trans are rebels against god, but the politicians’ wives with their breast implants are not rebellious, and the bulletins flow into the urns.

Another? When the sovereign on a visit to Germany in 2010 declared “assimilation is a crime against humanity” and reinforced his words by adding that this is not his personal view, but that derived from Science. This earned him words of appreciation. But a Kurd can be lynched or spend a lifetime in jail for having spoken his tongue on his lands.  And this with the appreciation, the confirmation of the masses, or their silence…

When the topic veers to political Islam and the type of human being it creates, this kind of contradictions is almost unavoidable. Those who led the country yesterday with Fetullah Gülen (now declared an enemy), imprison people who have spent their lives fighting against Gülen or similar organizations and now criminalize these institutions and associations by fabricating implausible links with Gülen, with a creativity worthy of Hollywood scenarios. The magnificent scenario dreamt up and published by the rag called Takvim,  explaining the link between LGBT+ associations and Gülen is one of the finest examples of this.

From the thought to the word, from the word to the act: Open letter to the President of the Republic

Dear President of the Republic,

The writing of this letter involves a slightly complicated and painful process. Even though it has negotiated many hurdles, the thought of adressing a letter to the new President of the new Turkey has come to fruition. Every time I told someone that I was going to write a letter, I was met with worried looks. My friends haven’t stopped explaining with examples that this act would draw attention on my person, and that a chain of events would be set in motion leading to my arrest.

Mister President, I mostly want to talk to you about who I am. Although your intelligence units can establish my profile, I don’t think you should trust them. For this reason, I think it important that you listen to me talk about myself so that I may be understood. My first name is Kıvılcım. Even if this is not terribly important for me, it does possess a qualification that goes beyond a name: I am a trans woman.

My thirty-one year life adventure (more than half of which lived under your direction) has been a struggle against the culture of violence, which is the benefit of this qualification which defines me as if branded with a hot iron.

If I may be permitted to illustrate with a few small examples:

On July 15 (2016) as you filled the the public spaces with the enthusiasm of the beginning of a distingued new period, I, your subject, in my neighborhood decorated with quotations from Sedat Peker, lost my living space following attacks by a group of your followers.

While you proudly showed off jails that never emptied and launched tenders for the building of new ones, I, your subject met with the prosecutor’s indifference when I asked for accounts following my throat slit with scalpels, “in periods where the continuity of the State is in question, there is no time for this kind of business”, I was told.

While you were answering the criticism against you on social media with night raids and throwing the critics between four walls, I, your subject, noted that the only thing lacking was a medal to the owner of the six bullets that left a rifle and rained on me.

While you declared that you were adopting as your principle the Al-Ma’ida Sura*, I, your subject, spent time in a tête à tête with the raped and dismembered bodies of my friends. And again, while you talked of god’s justice, I was witness to the fact that your justice rewarded our assassins.

Al-Ma’ida: “The reward for those who war against God and His messenger, and who attempt to sow corruption on earth is to be killed, or crucified, or to have their opposite legs and hand cut off, or to be thrown out of the country. This will be their ignominy on earth: in the afterlife, they will suffer an enormous punishment.”

Dear President,

When there is question of persecution, the examples of You and I your subject could go on and on. I would rather talk to you about a beautiful person whose fate troubles my heart and whom you also know very well: dear Eren Keskin.

As trans, our meeting with Eren Keskin goes back to the nineties. Those years which you and your movement criticized during the whole peace period, sometimes with tears, was also a difficult period for the trans, a History with a heavy legacy.

On orders from Süleyman Ulusoy, alias “Suleyman the pipe”, chief of the patrols in Beyoglu, declared a “patriot” by the powers of the times but who goes down in history for his crimes against humanity, there were attempts to impale the trans. Concerning this practice of impalement, he tells her “you defend terrorists, all right, we understand that, but those, why do you defend them, they are not even humans.”

 Do you know who that lawyer was?

Eren Keskin…

 Yes, Mister President!

She is a jurist, a defendor of rights, a travelling companion, a friend explaining to everyone the importance of solidarity with the trans whom you curse in the system you have created, who resists with us in the custodies,  in the police stations, from the torture chambers to the hearing rooms, from the legal hospitals to the grounds of resistance where we are subjected to the violence of your police forces, and who does all that with no financial expectations. She is the one who taught us and applies the principle: “Humans are human only with their rights. Human rights are for everyone.”  

 Yes, Mister President!

In order to punish us trans, the system you represent uses the family, the smallest unit in society, as a means of oppression and condemns us to isolation by sundering our family links. All the knowledge we have acquired,  our personal achievements, our social relationships, our family ties and even our diplomas which are the result of decades of study are taken away from us. This is why we are invisible human beings. We go out at night. When, exhausted from the benefits of the day and of the sun, you leave worrisome darkness and retire into your family appartments, Mister President…Us trans, in this life given to us, consider the dog, the cat, the bird, the insect  as our family. Most of us consider them as children. This is why our relations are always positive with species other than the human one. There are certain links to which we attach tremendous importance.  Those links do not derive from having come from the uterus of the same mother or from the ovaries quickened by the sperm of the same father. And these links don’t necessarily carry across  blood lines from one generation to another. Because we cannot choose the sister,  the brother, and the parents.

There you are, Mister President, Eren Keskin represents such a link for us trans.

She is not the knowledgeable lawyer defending her clients, she is the friend and also the big sister. When she must, she is the voice for the cry we let out against the violence you exercise.  She is one of the vital veins irrigating our resistance. She is the extended hand toward those who, like me, lose their strength at every dilemna, or who cannot find the strength to fight against your persecution and drift off toward the void. She is our reason for surviving.

Now, Mister President, the justice system you have created attempts to silence this precious voice, to send it to the carpet, and leave us without a sister, without a friend, without a travelling companion, without a lawyer. Silence is like a spiral. A thought convinced it is a minority  does not express itself, the spiral widens until a madman appears to express this thought. Thus is a spark formed transforming the silent spiral into a cry. Erin Keskin is that spark.

Yes, Mister President, my identity and the thoughts churning in my mind may have awoken a negative impression in you, as is often the case in the current society but think about it, I am speaking of a woman who managed to touch the heart of a person so discriminated against and so unacceptable, and I’m speaking of an oppression targeting her. Moreoever, while heads touch the ground in prosternation before you, I stand facing you with a working conscience in constant production.

I have hope. But that hope does not stem from the belief  that you will realize some things and correct them.

Do you know in what I have hope, Mister President?

If you don’t know, I will tell you.

I have hope in Eren Keskin’s office.

If a mother from Hakkari who has lost her child, a student whose right to study has been denied, if a woman beaten by her husband, an old sex worker with two knife wounds, the non-Muslim whose temple was razed and a trans chased from her neighborhood… can all meet in the same office, this means there is still hope. This means hope is still standing tall and straight. This means living together is not a utopia.

Mister Erdogan, President of the AKP, we are talking about a jurist whose throne is in the heart of the oppressed. The dialectical relationship between an oppressed one and his misfortune, is a scientific reality of the kind you love to use from time to time to reinforce your words. Come on, give up on meddling with Eren who has committed no faults and to whom the oppressed all give the same value. Current reality can be deformed, but time will always tell, and History will write it always. I bid you farewell with a sentence spoken by tens of thousands of people and I hope with all my heart that you will reach a fair decision.

We are Eren’s eyeliner!*

*A reference to the Kemalist slogan “We are Mustafa Kemal’s soldiers”.

Kıvılcım Arat, the unacceptable


Final Word

This letter is a cry in the darkness of the times, and an honorable call to millions of people who can feel the blade on their skin. On the one hand, pages are filled with denunciations, intimidation and even shame, on the other hand adventurers are kneading the dough of life together. Either we will disappear together, or we will greet brighter tomorrows as free citizens, by defending this freedom, justice and the sovereignty of Right, in the face of Cresus-like Sultans. They are a handful, we are millions. And it is more than time to remind those who have forgotten this. So let us call up the lines from Bertold Brecht:

Justice is the people’s bread…
As indispensable as daily bread
And just as with daily bread
The people must bake the bread of justice

The people’s bread is not a utopia and it is not far away. Look at the panels by roadside feeding our hunger for justice. We are not alone! And at the beginning of this road, thousands of Erens await us. Their hands carry traces of the dough, still fresh !

For more information on Eren Keskin, follow this link.

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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