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From the streets of New York City to the townships of South Africa, the LGBT rights movement and its opposition are engaged in an unprecedented international battle. GlobalPost presents an ongoing series of reports from key locations at this pivotal time in history, telling highly personal, often overlooked stories from the fight.
Father accused of murdering gay son still on the run as new cases emerge.
nascent gay rights movement in Turkey. He receives pleading letters and emails from others around the country who have seen loved ones targeted by gay “honor killing.” He says the phenomenon is on the rise even if it is difficult to officially document amid a culture of fear and isolation, fostered by the seeming indifference of police.
“Many men and women are murdered by their families, but no one asks about them,” Can said. “Because [the perpetrators] come from the ranks of the families …the homophobic state is doing nothing to solve these murders.”
A state of intolerance
In July 2008 Yahya Yildiz borrowed a car from his former business associate, Orhan Aymelek. When the car was returned, Aymelek found it contained four empty ammunition cartridges. He later testified that Yahya explained the cartridges by telling his friend he had “gone hunting.”
Police were eventually able to place the father’s cell phone at the scene of the crime, far from Yahya’s hometown of Sanliurfa, a conservative city of rock-hewn dwellings and ancient shrines in Southeastern Turkey.
Ummuhan Darama, 40, who owned the café below Ahmet Yildiz’ apartment, recalls the night of his death.
“I was sitting and chatting with relatives in front of my café,” recalled Darama. “When a gun fired… I looked back and saw a black car, but I couldn’t see who fired the gunshots.”
She felt a sharp pain and realized she had suffered a bullet wound to her heel.
Many people in her neighborhood witnessed the killing, says Darama, a devout women who wears a headscarf. But Darama says others are afraid to come forward, including the pharmacist and neighborhood mukhtar (chief).
After agreeing to join the case as an injured party, the window of her café was destroyed by bullets, which she perceived as a threat against participating.
“The Turkish State does not protect us,” she complained.
Describing Ahmet, she said, “I know that he was a quiet, harmless boy. I’m very sad about his death. I myself do not consent to homosexuality because I believe in God, [but] nobody has the right to kill a person, gay or not.”
In September 2009, Yahya Yildiz was charged in absentia with buying and possessing unlicensed firearms and ammunition and the premeditated killing of a relative.
A path to violence
Unlike many gays in Turkey, Ahmet Yildiz was open about his sexuality. He wrote articles for a magazine published by the Ankara-based gay rights organization Kaos GL. He was involved both as a writer and activist in The Bears’ Turkish chapter, part of a gay subculture that values rugged masculinity. He even represented Turkey at a convention for gay activists in San Francisco.
“We wanted to get married in Germany,” says Can, “because living in Turkey as an openly gay man is dangerous."
Yildiz’ family was not aware of his sexual orientation until October 2007, when he came out — against the advice of his boyfriend Can.
”His father was shocked,” Can recalls. “The family was silent for a short time, but then, the family began to pressure Ahmet to receive treatment, and planned to arrange a marriage for their son.
Ahmet become increasingly alienated from his tight-knit and affluent family.
In articles published in The Bears’ magazine in 2007 and 2008, Ahmet described the crisis:
I haven’t seen my family for almost the last eight months. I expected them to accept the situation during this time. However it didn’t happen. Their beliefs, perception of honor and traditions created fears, which prevented them from discussing my case even in their thoughts.
A close female relative who declined to be identified confirmed: “His father and mother had threatened him and tried millions of things to change his manner,” she said. “The father was quite fond of his children. I don’t believe the family wanted to kill him, they just wanted to intimidate him.”
When the rest of the family learned about the killing they were enraged, she said. They couldn’t understand how Yahya could have killed his son.
Ahmet’s writings tell a story of an escalating situation:
They say that there’s a doctor here in Istanbul. Dad would come and we’d go visit him together. So I’d be cured. They think homosexuality is an illness.
When Yildiz declined treatment, fierce arguments ensued. “They threatened him with death,” says Can, “if he was not prepared to