Turkey learned about LGBTI+ activist Yıldız İdil Şen when she was taken into custody at the protests at Boğaziçi University against the appointed rector Melih Bulu. From January to April 2021, she has been taken into custody three times, and was called to testify once. Until now, there are seven court cases against her on the grounds varying from “violating the law on assemblies and demonstrations” to “obstructing a police officer”, and from “being a member of a terrorist organization” to “damaging public property”. Yıldız İdil Şen is put under house arrest following the Grand Women’s Meeting that took place in Istanbul on March 6, 2021.
21-year-old Yıldız İdil Şen has been an organized member of the revolutionary left movement since she was in high school and started to identify herself as a rights defender around the same time she became conscious of her gender identity. There were news pieces on the media about Yıldız İdil Şen claiming she was a student or a graduate of Boğaziçi University, after she was taken into custody at the rallies protesting the appointment of Melih Bulu by the President of the Republic, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan- an appointment protested since the start of 2021.
In fact, she is neither a student of Boğaziçi nor a graduate. She was expelled from a Religious Vocational High School due to her political beliefs and gender identity. She is currently trying to get a high school diploma through Open Education.
Şen’s activism is not limited to LGBTI+ movement. On September 15, 2018, she participated to and was taken in custody among 22 others at Kadıköy rally in solidarity with the Workers of the 3rd Airport who were protesting the bad working conditions. On February 9, 2020, she was taken in custody while protesting the increasing fees to enter the Council of Higher Education Exam (YKS), again in Kadıköy.
At the start of 2021, protests started to take place at Boğaziçi University following the appointment of former AKP MP candidate, Prof. Melih Bulu, as a rector to the university by a presidential decree. On the morning of January 5, 2021, the police raided houses of those attending the protests. Yıldız İdil Şen were among the protesters whose doors were broken by the police forces as they entered the houses. During her statement at the Prosecutor’s Office, she was asked whether she was a member of an organization after going through her social media posts. They were transferred to the 7th Criminal Court of Peace with a request for their arrest with the accusation that they violated “Law 2911 on Assemblies and Demonstrations” and for “resisting an officer”. The court reached a decision to release them upon judiciary control.
Later on, Yıldız İdil Şen announced that she was subjected to sexual harassment, received rape threats, kept in solitary confinement due to her gender identity, could not access her hormone treatment and that the certain media outlets targeted her. On January 18, 2021, she filed a criminal complaint against the law enforcement forces involved during the process on the grounds that they violated Article 17 of the Constitution and Article 3 of the European Declaration on Human Rights (EDHR) in violation of the prohibitions of “willful injury”, “torture”, “sexual harassment”, “threat”, “immunity of residence”, “defamation”, “damage to property” and “misconduct; and Article 10 of the Constitution and Article 14 of the EDHR within the scope of the prohibitions of hate crime and discrimination.
On March 6, 2021, a rally was organized by İstanbul March 8 Women’s Platform in Kadıköy. Throughout the day, the police forces did not allow LGBTI+ banners, trans or rainbow flags or umbrellas with the same colors and turned off the microphone after the speeches on the stage were over. They also followed trans women LGBTI+ activists after the rally was over. The police made Yıldız İdil Şen and Havin Özcan, who were speakers at the rally, get off the taxi they took and took them in custody. Others reacting to the police were also taken in custody- totaling 9 people, and were first brought to Kadıköy Pier Police Command, followed by health checks, and then to İstanbul Vatan Security Directorate. It turned out that their COVID-19 tests were not performed, so they were returned to the hospital, then back to Vatan Security Directorate. They were not allowed to speak to their lawyers during this period. The prosecutor transferred the 9 people in custody to the court without even hearing their statements and requested their arrest for “obstructing the police”. At her statement at the court, Yıldız İdil Şen reported that she was subjected to violence and ill-treatment at Pier Police Command and Vatan Security Directorate, along with Haydarpaşa Numune and Bayrampaşa State Hospitals where they had their health checks. Kartal Anadolu 3rd Criminal Court of Peace reached a decision to put Yıldız İdil Şen under house arrest for a month.
On March 25, 2021, 12 students in total were taken into custody in front of Boğaziçi University, 4 for opening up a LGBTI+ flag and 8 others for reacting against the police action. Boğaziçi Solidarity and BÜLGBTI+ called to stand in solidarity with those in custody who were to present themselves before a prosecutor on March 26. Yıldız İdil Şen was among those who showed up at Çağlayan Court House and she was taken in custody among a large number of people. She was released the next day by the court.
Yıldız İdil Şen continues to be targeted and is subjected to hate crime by certain media outlets and on social media for her gender identity. On March 24, 2021, she filed a criminal complaint against 4 names, accusing them of “defamation”, “slander”, “violation of privacy”, “provoking the public to hatred, hostility or degrading”, “’illegally obtaining or giving data”.