May 2, 2024

Our project is slowly materializing! Together with the input of BAKAD, we drafted our master schedule for the project, starting with the last week of April. We have a good sense of when exactly various recruitment, advertising, construction, and training phases should start and finish, to make the best of this Davis Project.

Given our schedules in Chicago, Istanbul, and Diyarbakir, we decided that the first cohort of trainees should ideally start on the first week of June and the second cohort should start on the first week of July. Each training program will take 4 weeks, followed by a month of supervised hands on experience minding the hotline. We also decided that one week of each training session should be attended by a legal professional who can provide guidance on the best resources for those answering the phones. For this reason, we decided to allocate a quarter of the funds reserved for procurement of services to employ a lawyer. Apart from joining in the training, this lawyer will be helping us draft the informational material the community center will be providing. For now, we settled on three topics that concern the LGBTQ+ individuals in this region: the legal resources in Diyarbakir and the surrounding areas individuals can reach out to free of charge to get legal aid; training in fundamental rights including most importantly renters rights in Turkey; and training on Criminal Procedure Law as it pertains to the interactions individuals have with operatives of the state.

I also learned through BAKAD that the devastating earthquakes and the intense economic crisis have hurt people not only physicallly but also psychologically in this region, giving rise to two issues. The first issue is drug use. Particularly among sex workers who are required to work more with rising living costs, and because some of these individuals who are HIV+ cannot access reliable information on the dangers of various drugs and their interactions with HIV medication, increased drug use is posing a serious threat. A second problem that emerges now in conjunction with the hard living conditions is the increasingly common practice of extortion through dating apps. An organized wave of criminal extortion emerged in the region, in which victims thinking they are dating other LGBTQ+ individuals are tricked, and forced into various actions with the threat of disclosing their sexual identities to their families. In line with these developments, we decided that we will also connect with the medical and legal associations to figure out the best ways to alleviate these problems.

In the following weeks, we will conclude our conversations with the other national NGOs and figure out the best way to employ the individual who will be training our volunteers. Unless we can find a volunteer psychotherapist, we will start advertising a position to employ the person, and we aim to secure a contract for the procurement of services by the 4th week of May. In the meantime, I will contact the Istanbul Pride March committee to learn more about their HIV and drug use informational materials produced several years ago, and figure out the best ways to update and reproduce these for 2024 onwards.

We realize now that our task is challenging, creating and formalizing repositories of knowledge and constructing a community center that LGBTQ+ individuals can always depend on in the region. Yet, we are excited to get to work and exalted to be chosen by the Davis Projects for our task.

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