Ahmet Yildiz was openly gay. This was an affront to members of his family who believed his lifestyle brought shame on the family name. Their solution was to murder him last summer. He was 26 years old.
His friends and associates believe he was the victim of so-called honor killing. Turkish sociologist, Mazhar Bagli, has done extensive research involving people who have been convicted for honor killings. Bagli has little doubt that Yildiz' death could indeed fall into the honor killing category:
"Honour killings cleanse illicit relationships. For women, that is a broad term. Men are allowed more sexual freedom, but homosexuality is still seen by some as beyond the pale."In Turkey it is believed that around 1,000 honor killings have been committed over the past five years. In virtually every case, the victims are young women who have transgressed against patriarchal rules governing conduct. In some cases females have been murdered for the 'crime' of having premarital sex. They have also been murdered for falling victim to rape and even for the offense of speaking to a stranger.
Prior to the shooting, Yildiz was pressured by relatives who wanted him see a doctor so he could be "cured." When he was in the company of relatives, there were continual arguments.
Yildiz openly gay lifestyle even made him the target of death threats. Yet despite the enormous pressure to underplay his homosexuality, he had the courage to stand his ground.
The courage of Ahmet Yildiz is the more remarkable since gay rights in Turkey have recently taken a few hits. As the Turkish gay community has become more visible, there has been a reactionary backlash with gays targeted for beatings, insults and threats.
A former neighbor of Ahmet Yildiz said that his refusal to live-a-lie may have been too much for some people:
"He could have hidden who he was, but he wanted to live honestly. When the death threats started, his boyfriend tried to persuade him to get out of Turkey. But he stayed. He was too brave. He was too open."
His partner left the country after his love was murdered. He had no claim to Ahmet's body and was not even allowed back to the flat to get his personal belongings.
It is frightening to think about such things happening anywhere, but the hatred, bigotry, intolerance, and homophobia that lead to this tragedy is all too common the world over. This is not just a case of a middle eastern society, this is happening everywhere, including our own backyards. It runs unchecked like a cancer because those perpetuating this intolerance are seldom called out for it. I cannot live with that.
Ahmet Yildiz died for having the courage to be who he was shamelessly - as we all should - and because those who were supposed to love him CHOSE to hate him for it. His death diminishes me as a human being. As it should diminish us ALL as human beings.
I've posted some pictures of him below because I want all of you to look at him and burn that beautiful face into your minds knowing that his face could be mine, yours, or someone else you love - not in Turkey, not in Iran, but right here in the USA.