On Sunday, August 21, hundreds took to the streets in Istanbul, Turkey to condemn the murder of LGBTQ activist and transgender woman Hande Kader.
According to the AP, the 23-year-old’s body was found last week, so badly burned as to be unrecognizable. Her roommate, Davut Dengiler, was the one to identify her at the morgue.
“Hande was one of the nicest people in the world,” Dengiler told the BBC. “She was very calm normally, but also hyperactive. She always went to the LGBTI marches. She pursued a cause that she felt right until the end.”
A sex worker, Kader was last seen last week with a client. When Dengiler went to search for her at the morgue, he did not initially find her, and so hoped she might be alive.
“I was about to leave the morgue. I felt a sense of lightness for not having found her there,” Dengiler recounted. “At the last minute a doctor there said, ‘There’s also a burned body. Look at that as well.’ I did. I told them identifying features. They then looked at the computer, at the report. The doctor put his hand on my back and gave his condolences. I lost myself.”
The organization Transgender Europe reports that the highest number of trans murders occur in Turkey. Kader regularly protested the violence against the trans community, often standing on the front lines at demonstrations. When the 2015 LGBTI Pride March was banned in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, the crowds dispersed with rubber bullets and pepper spray, Kader refused to budge. She moreover chided journalists for their complicity in her community’s oppression.
“You take pictures, but you do not publish them,” she said. “No one is hearing our voices.”
In Turkey, homosexuality is technically legal, but the country remains conservative in its treatment of the queer community at large. Those outside of the queer community rarely stand in solidarity at protests. However, in this most recent demonstration in honor of Kader, some members of Parliament could be spotted. Whether her death will galvanize meaningful change remains to be seen.
“[Hande] would go crazy when trans individuals were killed,” Dengiler told the BBC. “She’d be so sad...She had been stabbed and beaten before. This didn’t happen only to Hande. It happens to all of them.”