Sunday, July 20, 2008

Turkey's First Gay Honor Killing?

Not so sure about the quality of analysis related to "traditionalist circles wedded to an old regime," but, yes, in all the turmoil of Turkey's politics, gays no doubt have a difficult time. The military subjects gays to all kinds of embarassing treatment (see HRW's reporting of the trials gay men must endure in order to prove their "gayness," June 4 post), İstanbul's ruling AKP-governor is seeking to shut down the city's leading gay organization, LAMBDA İstanbul, and there is no political party with the least degree of power that seeks to protect homosexual minorities. The machismo typical of Turkish society makes the likelihood of more protection for homosexuals all the more unlikely.

From the Independent:
In a corner of Istanbul today, the man who might be described as Turkey's gay poster boy will be buried – a victim, his friends believe, of the country's deepening friction between an increasingly liberal society and its entrenched conservative traditions.

Ahmet Yildiz, 26, a physics student who represented his country at an international gay gathering in San Francisco last year, was shot leaving a cafe near the Bosphorus strait this week. Fatally wounded, the student tried to flee the attackers in his car, but lost control, crashed at the side of the road and died shortly afterwards in hospital. His friends believe Mr Yildiz was the victim of the country's first gay honour killing.

"He fell victim to a war between old mentalities and growing civil liberties," says Sedef Cakmak, a friend and a member of the gay rights lobby group Lambda. "I feel helpless: we are trying to raise awareness of gay rights in this country, but the more visible we become, the more we open ourselves up to this sort of attack."

Turkey was all but closed to the world until 1980 but its desire for European Union membership has imposed strains on a society formerly kept on a tight leash. As the notion of rights for minorities such as women and gays has blossomed, the country's civil society becomes more vibrant by the day. But the changes have brought a backlash from traditionalist circles wedded to the old regime.

Bungled efforts by a religious-minded government to loosen the grip of Turkey's authoritarian version of secularism have triggered a court case aimed at shutting the ruling party down, with a verdict expected within a month.

Against this backdrop, the issues of women's rights, sexuality and the place of religion in the public arena have been particularly contentious. Ahmet Yildiz's crime, his friends say, was to admit openly to his family that he was gay.

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