In the interview we conducted with Niler Albayrak, a trans woman who is a candidate for parliament from the Turkey Workers’ Party in Istanbul’s 3rd district, we discussed Albayrak’s candidacy process and issues related to LGBTI+ rights.
Albayrak, who talked about the difficulty of living as a trans woman in Turkey, stated that the biggest problem for LGBTI+ individuals is housing and employment. She said that she believes being humane is enough for social acceptance.
Pointing out that there has not been much progress in LGBTI+ rights in Turkey, Albayrak stated that if she is elected to parliament, she wants to address the housing and employment problems of LGBTI+ individuals and open a guesthouse-type facility for dependent and homeless LGBTI+ individuals.
Albayrak stated that in order to increase the social acceptance of LGBTI+ individuals, political parties need to stop polarizing people and societies and emphasized that the social problem is political Islam rather than a political problem.
Here is the interview we conducted with Niler Albayrak…
Could you tell us a little about yourself as a trans woman? What is it like to live in Turkey?
My name is Niler Albayrak, and I was born in İnegöl in 1965 to a Macedonian immigrant family. I underwent gender reassignment surgery in 2002. Living as an LGBTI+ person in Turkey is certainly very difficult, especially as the country has become increasingly conservative. In other words, it is both good because our geography is beautiful and bad to know everything from LGBTI+’s.
What is the biggest problem for LGBTI+ individuals in Turkey? What can be done to solve this problem?
The biggest problem for LGBTI+ individuals in Turkey is actually housing and employment. It needs to be solved urgently. What is said in words cannot actually be done. We need to focus legally. They should not be forced into sex work. They should be able to live in the neighborhood and home they want for housing. Legal proceedings need to be initiated to solve this problem.
What do you think about the problems that trans individuals face in Turkey? What policies can be implemented for the social acceptance of trans individuals?
There are so many problems that trans individuals face in Turkey that if we talk about any of them, we will be left with no time. And actually, there is a political problem rather than a social problem. The hateful rhetoric of the leaders mobilizes the crowds that inadvertently support them, and a hate speech and practices are systematically put into practice. I think being humane and living is enough for social acceptance.
What has changed in LGBTI rights in Turkey, what kind of progress has been made, and what problems still persist?
I don’t think much progress has been made or changed in LGBTI rights in Turkey. We are always stuck. I can say that all the problems are still standing because there is no legal protection.
What encouraged you to become a member of the Turkey Workers’ Party, and why do you want to be a member of parliament? If you are elected as a member of parliament, what are the priority areas you plan to work on regarding LGBTI+ rights?
The biggest reason for me wanting to become a member of the Turkey Workers’ Party is their fight in the streets and in every field of struggle. I have been fighting for LGBTI+ rights for years. I wanted to become a representative because I thought I could do it better and more officially in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM), and if elected, my priority would be to solve the housing and employment problems of LGBTI+ individuals, work towards that, and also open a guesthouse for LGBTI+ individuals who are in need of care and homeless.
What can be done to increase the social acceptance of LGBTI+ individuals in Turkey? What responsibilities do political parties have in this regard?
The biggest problem is political and political Islam. In addition to this, all political parties should stop polarizing people and societies for the sake of gaining a few votes.
What do you think about the increasing discrimination and violence against LGBTI+ rights in Turkey? What can be done to solve this problem?
Politicians and supporting citizens in Turkey should show empathy. They should think, “We do this and that to them, hurt them, insult them, and apply violence. But what would we do if my child were in this situation?” I think the only solution is education and being more conscious and mindful.
What path do you think the LGBTI+ movement in Turkey should take? What strategies do you propose to increase public awareness on this issue?
I think it is time for the LGBTI+ movement in Turkey to come together and act together. We should organize more educational programs and promotions to raise public awareness.
Finally, what message would you like to send to LGBTI+ individuals?
Finally, we should come together and support each other to live better days as LGBTI+ individuals. Most importantly, in this hateful environment, we should carry the hope of seeing and living in better days with the motto #NefreteİnatYaşasınHayat (Long live life in defiance of hate).
We thank Niler Albayrak for the interview and wish her success in her endeavors.