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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs