15/02/2023 | Writer: Yıldız Tar

“Don’t believe mistakenly that they will not consider your gender identity at such a moment. Unfortunately they do. When people are angry and desperate you become their first target. Their anger targets you.”

Trans woman earthquake survivor Ece: Their anger targets you Kaos GL - News Portal for LGBTI+

Photograph: Maraş after the earthquake

Eight days have passed since the earthquake. People are going on to bind up the wounds of the disaster, which affected ten provinces of the country, on their own. Survivors of the earthquake are left to their fate due to numerous failures of the state such as intervening too late, not conducting wreckage works adequately… On the other side, there is a civil society solidarity that tries to assume the state's responsibility despite all the odds.

LGBTI+ earthquake survivors, who cannot fit in anywhere, are also among those who were left to their fate. LGBTI+s living in the earthquake region are experiencing a double disaster. Ankara LGBTI+ Earthquake Solidarity, which was founded in order to be in solidarity with LGBTI+ earthquake survivors, receives news regarding discrimination every single day, from not being able to access water and food, to not being able to access sheltering in public spaces due to being a trans woman.

Ece is also one of those whose house was destroyed in the earthquake. Ece, a 19-year old trans woman, was living in Maraş with her grandmother. A few days before the earthquake she lost her grandmother and while she was suffering from the grief of losing her, she also experienced an earthquake.

Ece, who her family abandoned at the age of 17, spent a year in a child welfare service and started to live with her grandmother afterward, is in Ankara now. Volunteers from Ankara LGBTI+ Earthquake Solidarity opened up their houses. She is trying to pick up the pieces on the one hand, and she is trying to be in solidarity with other earthquake survivors on the other hand.

“When people are angry and desperate you become their first target”

We talked to Ece about her experiences during and after the earthquake. We realized that discrimination and hatred don’t consider the feelings of others even after such a disaster in the conversation with Ece.

Ece was supposed to stay at her own house on the night of the earthquake however a friend called and she went there. They woke up with a quake towards morning:

There was such a quake that it shook us in our bed. It was a one-story house, we got ourselves out of it. We waited in the middle of the road for the earthquake to end. Then we went back into the house and took blanket. I was curious about my own house and I went there on foot. My house and the street I live on had broken to pieces. There were children around, we gave them our extra blankets. I will never forget that moment, there was a bloodbath around.

She wondered about her siblings, from whom she had to live apart, however she couldn’t reach them because the road was cracked. Her friend was taken by an acquaintance to a safe area. And she was left alone. In her opinion, the reason is her gender identity.

Then she found container where she could stay alone. She spent three days in this container:

I cannot go outside and tell people anything. I am a visible transgender in my ordinary life. However I couldn’t go as a result of these circumstances because I didn’t even have a bra. I was afraid of attracting reactions. There was another earthquake while I was in the container. I burst out of the container and waited on the road. The electricity poles started to collapse this time. On the third day, when I was light-headed due to hunger and thirst, I went outside. I didn’t have shoes on, I was barefoot. When I reached an area, where food and water were distributed, I was scared by the anger on people’s face. They were looking at me. Having taken only a half-bottle of water, I moved away due to the fear of being in a trouble. Don’t believe mistakenly that they will not consider your gender identity at such a moment. Unfortunately they do. When people are angry and desperate you become their first target. Their anger targets you.

Stating that she had not seen any state officials, including AFAD (Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency), except the police and soldiers along three days she stayed in the earthquake region, Ece also reported that Maraş had completely lapsed into silence.

Ece leaves Maraş by walking to the airport with the shoes she found on the road. After walking for an hour, she runs across a policeman, whose mother was helped by Ece at the physiotherapy center where she was working for, and she arrives to the airport with the help of him.

“They want LGBTI+s to be oppressed, killed and insulted all the time”

Ece arrived to Ankara on the fourth day of the earthquake by contacting with LGBTI+ activists thorough her guidance teacher from high school.

“The same people, who put fear in our heart, are also putting the mouth on those who are trying to help us. They have no right to do this. We have no way to reach anyone. We have no family, we are completely alone in the world. Who knows what would have happened if I hadn’t been able to reach here? I’m sure I would have been beaten to a pulp. There is nothing as LGBTI+ in Maraş, they are known as faggots there. I stood up every time I fell, no beatings have ever deterred me. I had no choice but to fight. And now I still don’t. Gays were killed in the mountains of Maraş. These are not known here because Maraş is the stronghold of AKP (Justice and Development Party). In such a place you can control flow of information, you can show as much as you want and you can hide as much as you prefer. Being together means being strong. They want LGBTI+s are oppressed, killed and insulted all the time. I am an earthquake survivor. I have been in Ankara for four or five days but I don’t feel weak. I will go on fighting more.”

Translation: Selma Koçak 

Tags: human rights, women