This is a very sad story, about a father and a son, a family and a culture torn by blind hatred.
Last year during a visit to Istanbul, Turkey my partner and I stayed with a Turkish couple in the city. Nicely furnished and designed with all the mod-cons of civilized life, their spacious apartment in the Uskadar district on the Asian side of the city was not just the tasteful home of our gay hosts. It was a regular informal social gathering place for friends with similar interests, ideas and food favorites.
One evening during our stay several of these like-minded friends gathered to discuss an upcoming conference and how they would prepare for it. My partner and I don’t speak Turkish so after some brief chat (most of them spoke some English) we went to our room to read and plan the next day’s visit to an old hamam or the Hagia Sophia.
Shortly, one of the friends knocked to come in and talk. His name was Ahmet Yildiz, a handsome soft spoken 26 year-old high school physics teacher and university student. He was planning a visit California, our home state, in a few months so of course he was curious to ask us some questions. We talked about the usual issues of transportation, weather, sights to see. We also recommended he come stay with us for a few days since our town, Laguna Beach, was a very gay-friendly place with beautiful beaches, art galleries, a wide variety of restaurants and he could met some of our friends as well.
His comfortable demeanor would make him a welcome visitor. So we parted with clear intentions to see each other later in the year as he returned to his friends and our hosts.
That was the end of a pleasant meet-and-greet with Ahmet.
But it was not the end of this story about him. Two months later he was shot to death right outside his house while he was buying ice cream. Shock and dismay, anger and fear gripped his friends for months afterward as they urged a thorough investigation by the police—who do not have a good reputation among the homosexual community in Turkey for supportive action.
Our hosts in Istanbul were sure Ahmet’s murder was an honor killing by a family member or a close family friend or someone hired by them. Ahmet had come out to his family earlier in the year partly because he wanted them to meet his beloved partner, a Turkish-German. But things did not go well at all. His family is from a very religious and conservative Muslim Kurdish sect which believes homosexuality in a son and/or loss of virginity by a daughter is a reason to kill. The father and mother were furious and embarrassed that this son who carried the family name was a sinner and violated the family honor.
Ahmet (left in photo) and his lover, Ibrahim Can (right), a Turkish German, told their friends on more than one occasion that members of his family might try to kill Ahmet because they could not accept his sexual orientation. To everyone’s horror, that’s what happened on June 6, 2008. Driven by his enraged wife the hapless husband was forced to act to ‘revenge’ the insult to the family and to the tribe/clan of their heritage.
More than a year later, on September 9, 2009, the international news services carried a report about the event describing Ahmet’s father as the killer but he was in hiding and could not be found. Nevertheless, the police authorities had moved ahead and tried him in absentia.
The entire episode is a grotesque tale—one of countless many–of how blind tribal hatred can destroy individual lives and family units with ferocious violence and stigmatize an otherwise ‘normal’ family for generations to come and stain the family’s reputation among many extended clan members.
Not to mention the emotional scars on Ahmet’s lover and close friends, reminding them every waking day of the potential danger they face in a homophobic culture and religion that continues to fester in ignorance about varieties of human nature and human love. However, on balance, our host also went on to tell me, “but many other conservative Muslim families treat their children a lot better [than Ahmet’s].” Our hosts’ parents were at first disapproving of their sons’ sexuality but are now supportive and at no point would ever have considered extreme criminal vengeance.
I offer this commentary as a small remembrance of lovely Ahmet Yidliz, a person naturally born as a gay self, grown into a compassionate citizen, educated teacher, domestic partner and much-loved friend. Namaste.
The news report of September 9 is reprinted here:
9 Sep 2009
Turkish father on trial for gay son’s “honour killing”
by News Editor
A Turkish man, who is accused of fatally shooting his gay son in July last year, was tried in absentia in an Istanbul court. The case has been widely reported by Turkish and German media.
A father accused of murdering his gay son in what has been termed in the media as an “honour killing” was tried in absentia at the Üsküdar Courthouse in Istanbul yesterday.
According to Bianet, an independent Turkish news network, Yahya Yildiz, 49 – who is on the run and is being tried in absentia – is accused of shooting his 26-year-old son Ahmet in July 2008 some time after telling the latter told him about his relationship with a man from Cologne, Germany.
Ahmet Yıldız, a student at the Department of Physics at Marmara University and a high school teacher was shot dead in his home district of Üsküdar , an area of Istanbul on the Anatolian side.
The victim’s father is also charged with buying unlicensed firearms with ammunition, carrying and possessing them, premeditatedly killing of people and injuring close relatives.
Bianet quoted the victim’s German-Turkish boyfriend, Ibrahim Can, as saying that prior to the incident, the victim had mentioned that members of his family might kill him because of his homosexuality. “One year before Yıldız had told his family that he was gay. He ha
d been threatened by his father and other family members.”
The second hearing of the case is scheduled for 23 December 2009.
Related Links to This Report
–Was Ahmet Yildiz the victim of Turkey’s first gay honour killing? (The Independent)
–Ahmet Yıldız Murder Case Started. Fugitive Defendant: Yıldız’s Father (Bianet)
–‘Gay poster boy” believed to be victim of Turkey’s first gay honour killing