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Turkey's Trans Community: The United Nations revived my hopes and aspirations.
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Turkey’s Trans Community: The United Nations revived my hopes and aspirations.

At first sight, it may go unnoticed that Shiraz has gone through a challenging journey to discover her path in life. She is currently studying programming, but aspires to become a heart surgeon. In her free time, she takes pleasure in belly dancing and her TikTok videos have gained a considerable following with numerous views and likes.

A keen observer would observe marks on her arms that quietly tell her tale.

“I have identified as a girl since childhood,” she states. “I longed to attend an all-girls school.”

Shiraz fled her hometown in Egypt in pursuit of greater freedom to be herself.

© IOM/Enver Mohammed

Shiraz left her birthplace in Egypt in search of more opportunities to express herself freely.

Shiraz’s childhood revelation marked a shift in her life. Her conservative family, unable to comprehend her identity, responded with violence. Later, when she was a teenager, they subjected her to painful electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and convinced her that her identity was a mental disorder. 

“After a few meetings, I reached my breaking point and tried to end my life. I leapt from the third story, but thankfully I was saved by bystanders who had gathered below.”

Shiraz suffered through unimaginable suffering and did not receive the necessary aid. The discrepancy between her true appearance and the one documented on her official papers proved to be a difficult obstacle.

She sought refuge at her grandmother’s house, her sole ally, but eventually even there she was no longer safe from the threat of harm. Shiraz was left without a place to turn.

She discovered an NGO that provides assistance to individuals in similar situations as herself. With the opportunity to contemplate her future, she pondered the idea of relocating. This marked the start of her voyage to Turkey.

Scars on her Shiraz's arms tell a story of struggle.

© IOM/Olga Borzenkova

The scars on her Shiraz’s arms reveal a tale of hardship.

Initially, she relocated to Istanbul and later to the southern city of Mersin. Adjusting to her new life was difficult, as she encountered familiar obstacles and sought assistance and safety.

“I was feeling down and discouraged. The thought of going back to school never crossed my mind.”

Shiraz was recommended to go to the Mersin Migrant Municipal and Community Centre by a nearby organization. This center, operated by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in partnership with the Mersin Metropolitan Municipality, offers extensive aid to individuals in need, including emotional support, legal advice, and assistance with important documents.

She says that it was the IOM that revived her dreams.

In the last two years, the Centre has become a source of optimism for Shiraz. She received crucial assistance with her mental and emotional well-being, as well as finding a place to stay. Additionally, the Centre aided her in translating documents to obtain identification, and assisted her in enrolling at a university in Izmir.

“I am currently enrolled in the Programming Faculty, but my goal is to transition into the field of medicine. To achieve this, I must improve my proficiency in Turkish,” she elaborates. “My ultimate aspiration is to become a cardiac surgeon, as it is often our hearts that are in need of healing. My main motivation is to make a positive impact on people’s lives.”

Shiraz is currently in the process of being resettled to a different country and is looking forward to a fresh start and achieving her goals, just like any other girl. She is skilled in multiple languages and feels capable of adapting to her new permanent home in the near future.

The Mersin Municipal Migrant and Community Centre, a part of IOM’s Protection and Resilience program, is a collaborative effort with the Mersin Metropolitan Municipality. It is one of six centers operating across the country with the goal of offering essential aid to migrants and refugees while fostering unity between communities. This valuable support is made available thanks to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.

The source of this information is from the United Nations website (