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.

Türkçe | Français | English

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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