Turkey: First shelter for transgender people opens

A giant transgender flag surrounded by a crowd of people Image copyright AFP
Image caption The 2014 Trans Pride march in Istanbul attracted hundreds of people calling for better employment rights

Turkey's first shelter for transgender people has opened in Istanbul, it's reported.

Funding for the shelter was gathered through donations, its founder Oyku Ay tells the Radikal news website. Miss Ay, a transgender woman, describes herself as a devout Muslim and says she wanted to set up the shelter to help and protect other transgender people. Many struggle to find employment and end up working in the sex industry, an experience she shares. "I wanted to do cleaning, they said no. I wanted to cook, they said no," she tells Radikal. "I wanted to sweep the streets - again they said no." Fundraising efforts for the shelter included a trans fashion show, which raised 44,000 liras ($18,800; £12,400). "That night I cried. Everything was great," Miss Ay says, adding that she hopes to expand the shelter in future.

Activists say transgender people remain marginalised in Turkey, and many have no option but to become sex workers. A study by the non-profit organisation Transgender Europe found that between 2008 and 2014 there were 37 reported killings of transgender people in the country, the highest rate in Europe. While government reforms in 2014 outlawed hate crimes and discrimination based on race and religion, among other factors, they but didn't mention sexual orientation or gender identity.

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