Human rights activists in Turkey urge action for hunger striker trans

Turkey’s Human Rights Association (İHD) and human rights activists have urged the Turkish Justice Ministry to take action regarding a jailed trans woman named Buse, who has been on a hunger strike for 31 days because her request for sex reassignment surgery was denied by prison authorities.

The 40-year-old Buse has been in prison for 20 years and will be released in 17 years. As she cannot finalize her gender transition process, she cannot move to the women’s prison. Buse has been confined to a ward at a men’s prison with another transgender inmate, Diren Coşkun. Buse twice went on hunger strikes in the past, for 30 and 60 days.

“Buse, who is being held in Tekirdağ Men’s Prison, is on a hunger strike because her request to be transferred to a hospital for sex reassignment surgery has been denied, despite the fact that she had completed the legal procedures necessary for such an operation,” the İHD stated on Thursday.

“We call on the Justice Ministry to issue the administrative measures required for sex reassignment surgery within the framework of the right to access healthcare, which is a basic right. Buse has been on a hunger strike for 31 days,” it added.

At a press conference attended by the İHD’s co-chair Eren Keskin, lawyer Derya Özata and LGBTI+ activists, the Justice Ministry was urged to take action to send Buse to a hospital. Lawyer Özata stated that the ministry “has been making arbitrary decisions in hindering trans individuals’ right to have an operation.”

“We are holding the ministry responsible for any psychological harm that might happen to Buse because it has been making decisions that amount to blocking the right to access healthcare despite a direct court order,” Özata said.

According to civil law, an individual who requests sex reassignment can appeal to courts to undergo the operation. In order to be granted permission for the operation, the individual should be more than 18 years old, not married and present an official health board report from a university hospital stating that the individual has psychological competence for such reassignment. After an operation under a court order, the individual can appeal to a civil registry for a registry change.

According to a report by the Hürriyet Daily News, Buse’s lawyers said she completed the legal procedures by securing a court order and hospital report, but the prison authorities have denied her request to be sent to a hospital for an operation.

“Despite the legal procedure, the Justice Ministry General Directorate of Prisons and Detention Houses decided that the report given to Buse is insufficient. This contradicts Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 122 of Turkish Civil Law,” the İHD stated. The association also said the ministry claimed the operation is ‘not vital and not urgent’.”

Buse is currently serving a life sentence and has been in prison for 20 years. “This situation is an obstacle to her being admitted to a women’s prison and paves the way for her to be held indefinitely in solitary confinement, as is the case with other trans prisoners,” the İHD stated.

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