News / Europe

Death of Gay Activist Brings Turkey's Attitude Toward Gays Into Focus

For 26-year-old Ahmet Yildiz, the choice to live openly as a gay man in Turkey proved deadly.  Prosecutors say his father, charged with allegedly killing his son in what is being dubbed as the first gay honor killing, traveled more than 900 kilometers from his hometown to shoot his son in an old neighborhood of Istanbul.  The case has drawn international attention and is putting the spotlight on Turkey's attitude  towards homosexuality.

The young physics student, Ahmet Yildiz, was one of the few openly gay men in Turkey, a country in which the military, the guardian of Turkey's secular state, regards homosexuality as a disorder.

Yildiz represented his country at a gay meeting in San Francisco and wrote for gay publications in Turkey.  Observers believe his activism is probably what got him killed.

His boyfriend, Ibrahim Can, was in their shared apartment when Yildiz was murdered.

He wanted to go out and buy some ice cream, he went down and just got into his car and I heard  gunshots, he says.  I looked down from the window I saw him being ambushed.  He says he ran outside and screamed "Please do not die."   Can said his eyes were closed, when I shouted he opened for a second, he looked at me and then closed his eyes.

Can says before the shooting, Yildiz had repeatedly filed complaints at the local prosecutor's office that he was receiving death threats from his family.  Gay rights groups claim the prosecutor's office did not investigate or provide Yildiz with protection.

The story was largely ignored until it starting getting attention by the foreign media. What resulted was a bout of national soul-searching underlining the tensions between the secular modern Turkey and a more traditionalist Turkey, in which conservative Islam increasingly holds power.

Oner Ceylan of Istanbul's gay rights group Lambda says it's a landmark case.

"I think it is important that people, that this fact, that a father can kill his son, simply because of his sexual orientation.  That is an important awareness, because maybe they were cases before, but we just did not know," said Ceylan.  "We read in the news maybe a father killed, but we did not know why before.  So I think its a very important step."

Yildiz's father is on the run and believed to be in hiding outside Turkey.   As a result, the trial that began in September is on hold.

While Turkey's aspiration to join the European Union is pushing the Muslim-rooted government to increase civil liberties for women and homosexuals, some remain nervous with a permissive attitude toward sexuality and gender roles.

Scott Long of the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch says reluctance by the authorities to punish violence against the gay community is not unusual.

"People who express their sexuality, people who differ from these cultural norms, from masculinity and femininity, are abused, are beaten, are raped, are excluded from the family," said Long.  "That there is violence at every level and most conspicuously that the government does not intervene to stop it."

The country's growing lesbian, gay and transgender movement is increasingly challenging violence against them.

Ceylan says its a long struggle, but education and patience are key.

"When you talk about violence people do not really exactly know what are you talking about.  When you have the incidents, the cases and everything, then it more clear to them that inevitably there have been some human-rights violations.  And with the police we have been trying to communicate with the city government, because the police reports to them," he said.  "I think we are making some progress, but these things are deep-rooted, so you cannot expect things to be just great within years or decades."

The Yildiz murder has become an focal point for gays around the world to put pressure on Turkish authorities for change.

This video entitled "Ahmet Is Part Of My Family", is circulating the Internet as part of a campaign by gays around the world to protest the Yildiz murder. Yildiz'z boyfriend, Can say he hopes the legal proceedings will not only put Yildiz's murderer on trial, but put Turkey's treatment of gays on trial, too.

I hope this court case will reveal the situation of homosexuals in Turkey to the whole world, he says.  He says there are millions of gays living in Turkey, most hidden, some forced to marry women, some willingly married just to avoid loosing their respectability.  He says he hopes the case will change attitudes.

A recent government study estimated one person dies every week in Istanbul as a result of honor killings. The victims are mostly young women, murdered by male relatives for such things as having illicit affairs, talking to strangers or even for being the victim of rape.  Because gay honor killings remain underground, it is not known how many of those happen on a weekly basis.

You May Like

Video Anti-Muslim Sponsor of Texas Cartoon Contest Draws Ire

Pamela Geller's supporters say she speaks truth about sensitive topic, while critics say she preaches 'that Islam is inherently evil' More

East Meets West in Exhibition Showing Chinese Influence on Fashion

Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition juxtaposes influence of art, imagery and culture, from Imperial China to the present day, on Western fashion and design More

South Africa Begins New Love Affair With Vinyl Records

Enthusiasts say the 'rebirth' of vinyl is resulting in a rebirth of music in South Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Mass Grave Exposes Entrenched Trafficking in Thailandi
X
May 05, 2015 5:50 PM
Police in southern Thailand have found two more camps believed to have held human trafficking victims -- one containing a buried skeleton. This comes just days after officials announced arrests in connection with the grisly discovery of 26 bodies in a mass grave at another location. Officials suspect as many as 400 mostly ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar were being held for ransom at the remote camp near the Malaysian border. Steve Sandford reports on developments in the case.
Video

Video Mass Grave Exposes Entrenched Trafficking in Thailand

Police in southern Thailand have found two more camps believed to have held human trafficking victims -- one containing a buried skeleton. This comes just days after officials announced arrests in connection with the grisly discovery of 26 bodies in a mass grave at another location. Officials suspect as many as 400 mostly ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar were being held for ransom at the remote camp near the Malaysian border. Steve Sandford reports on developments in the case.
Video

Video Russia's 'Victory Day' Glory Over Nazis Overshadowed by Ukraine

ussia is preparing to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, known since the Soviet era as “The Great Patriotic War,” with a massive parade on May 9th of military hardware and millions of medals handed out to veterans or their relatives. But critics say the Soviet-style display of power and nationalism overshadows tragic scars during and after the war that still influence politics and foreign policy, especially in the current Ukraine crisis.
Video

Video WWII Anniversary Brings Old Friends and New Worries

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II has special significance, with Russia becoming more assertive in Ukraine and sending its military planes to the edges of western countries’ airspace. Changes in the geostrategic balance and the transatlantic relationship are felt across the continent, not least in German towns that have hosted U.S. military bases since the defeat of Nazi Germany. VOA’s Al Pessin visited Schweinfurt, Germany, where a large base closed last year.
Video

Video Abraham Lincoln Funeral Re-created for 150th Civil War Anniversary

Over the last four years, commemorative events to mark the 150th anniversary of the U.S. Civil War have brought thousands of visitors to battlefields and historic landmarks across the country. As VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, the final event in the Civil War's sesquicentennial honors the final journey home of the slain American President, Abraham Lincoln.
Video

Video Campaign Raises Money to 'Uncuff' Journalists

Beginning Sunday – World Press Freedom Day – the Committee to Protect Journalists, a private U.S. group, is launching a campaign to bring attention to their plight and encourage efforts to free them. Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Volunteers Pull Together to Aid Baltimore Riot Victims

Calm has returned to Baltimore, Maryland, after authorities lifted an overnight curfew imposed almost a week ago to stem the rioting that followed the funeral of Freddie Gray - the 25-year-old black man who died of spinal injuries suffered while in police custody. Six police officers, three of them African-American, have been charged in connection with his death. Baltimore is now trying to get back to normal, in part with the help of volunteers who responded to calls to help those in the city'
Video

Video From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil War

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video Rural Nepal Suffers Brunt of Quake’s Devastation

Nepal is still coming to grips with the full extent of the devastation and misery caused by last Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Some of the hardest-hit communities have been cut off by landslides making it difficult to assess the precise toll. A VOA News crew has been among the first to reach a few of the smaller, remote communities. Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Sindhupolchak district, east of Kathmandu, which suffered greatly in Nepal’s worst quake in more than 80 years.
Video

Video Obama Praises Work of 3 Immigrant Journalists

President Barack Obama met with three immigrant journalists at the White House Friday to praise them for their work ahead of World Press Freedom Day, May 3. In attendance: Dieu Cay (his pen name) a blogger from Vietnam recently released from prison; Lily Mengesha from Ethiopia who was harassed and detained for exposing the marrying off of young girls as child brides, and Fatima Tlisova, an ethnic Circassian from the North Caucasus region of Russia, who works for VOA's Russian Service.
Video

Video Middle East Atheist Channel Defies Taboo

In Egypt, a deeply religious country in a deeply religious region, atheism is not only taboo, it is dangerous. It is sometimes even criminal to publicly declare nonbelief. Despite the danger, one group of activists is pushing back with a new online channel that defends the right not to believe. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Nepal Quake Survivors Tell Their Stories

Against all hope, rescuers have found a few more survivors of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal last Saturday. Mountain climbers and hikers trapped in remote places also have been airlifted to safety, and aid is finally reaching people in the areas closest to the quake's epicenter. Survivors and rescuers are now recounting their experience. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Lessons for Germany, Europe Remain on Anniversary of WWII's End

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II will be marked May 8-9 in all European countries except Germany, which lost the war. How is the war viewed there, and what impact is it still having? From Berlin, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video Nepal Town Destroyed By Quake Counts Itself Lucky

Foreign search teams on Wednesday began reaching some of the communities outside Kathmandu that suffered worse damage than Nepal’s capital from last Saturday’s massive earthquake. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman is in Sankhu - a town of about 10,000 people - where there is relief the death toll is not higher despite widespread destruction.
Video

Video Somali Hotel Chain Owner Strives to Make a Difference

Many in the Somali diaspora are returning home to make a new life despite the continuing risks. Since 2011 when a military campaign against Al-Shabab militants began making progress, members of the diaspora community have come back to open hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Abdulaziz Billow in Mogadishu profiles the owner of a chain of hotels and restaurants who is helping to bring change to the once-deadly Somali capital.
Video

Video Child Migrants Cross Mediterranean Alone, Face Unknown Future

Among the thousands of migrants making the deadly journey by boat to Europe, there are unaccompanied girls and boys. Some have been sent by relatives to earn money; others are orphaned or fleeing war. From a shelter for young migrants in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.

Poll: Baltimore Police Charged

Poll archive

VOA Blogs