By Nicholas Birch in Istanbul
Saturday, 19 July 2008
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….
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. [more at the link]