Historien om Ahmed Yildiz sier noe om konfliktene i det moderne Tyrkia: en sønn av en velstående, konservativ familie homofil. Det kan ikke familiens ære tåle, og faren tar livet av sin egen sønn.
Nå er historien om Ahmed Yildiz blitt film, og det reflekterer også det motsetningsfylte Tyrkia: de konservative raser, og vil ikke se slikt svineri på en filmduk. Hvis man vil ha fritak for homofili fra hæren må man legge frem bilder av seksuell aktivitet med andre menn.
Yildiz was born into a wealthy religious family in the ancient city of Sanliurfa, in Turkey’s impoverished and conservative southeast, but moved to cosmopolitan Istanbul during his university years, seeking more freedom as a gay man.
In Istanbul, Yildiz started a new life and made new friends; he also began a gay relationship and eventually moved in with his boyfriend, who witnessed Yildiz’s murder from the window of their apartment on the Asian side of the city divided by the Bosphorus Strait.
In the movie, Yildiz’s character is encouraged to come out of the closet by a male belly dancer, or zenne, and a German photographer who has moved to Istanbul after a personal crisis in Afghanistan, where he accidentally caused the death of several children during a photo shoot. Both are fictional characters.
In real life, Yildiz’s coming out as a gay man was seen as an affront in his deeply patriarchal and tribal family, even though his parents adored him, a cousin, Ahmet Kaya, told the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey.
LOOKING FOR A «CURE»
Yildiz’s father had urged him to return to their village and to see a doctor and an imam to «cure» him of his homosexuality and get married, but Yildiz refused.
«Ahmet loved his family more than anything else and he was tortured about disappointing them,» Kaya was quoted as saying in the foundation’s report.
After he was killed, the family did not claim Yildiz’s body for a proper Islamic burial — an indication of the deep shame the family felt and that they had ceased to consider him one of their own. He was buried instead in a «cemetery for the nameless.»
«The one scene I wasn’t able to distance myself from the character I played as an actor was when Ahmet apologized to his father for being gay on the phone after coming out,» Erkan Avci, a young actor who played Yildiz, told Reuters.
«It’s such a great tragedy, so cruel and inhumane that anybody has to apologize for who he is.»
Avci drew parallels between Ahmet’s situation and his own as a Kurd from Diyarbakir province in a country whose Kurdish minority has long complained of discrimination and inequality.
«It would have been immoral for me to turn down this role, as a man who had to apologize for years for being Kurdish,» he said.
«Zenne», which won five awards at Turkey’s most prestigious film festival, the Antalya Golden Orange, has received a huge amount of attention in mainstream media and is reported to be having reasonable success at the box office.
With a $1 million budget, including financial support from the Dutch embassy, it opened in a luxury movie theatre in one of Istanbul’s most fashionable neighborhoods.
The film has not been welcomed in conservative circles.
Islamist daily Vakit called it «homosexual propaganda» by a gay lobby bent on «legitimizing perversion through their so-called art.»
Despite being the only suspect, Yildiz’s father is still at large and is being tried in absentia.
Friends and activists, who have attended some of the hearings wearing masks bearing Yildiz’s portrait, say the authorities lack the will to find the perpetrator.
Alper and Mehmet Binay, co-directors of the movie and together as a gay couple for 14 years, said they heard their friend Yildiz receive death threats from his family over the phone.
Yildiz filed an official complaint but failed to receive any protection, they said.
«Honor killings,» or crimes carried out against mostly women and young girls seen to have tainted the family’s name, are not uncommon in Turkey, particularly in poor and rural areas.
One practice particularly abhorred by rights groups is the method by which gay men can be exempted from the required 16-month military service: they have to prove their homosexuality in medical tests and are compelled to provide photos of them having sex with other men.
In the movie, two characters undergoing one such examination are forced to wear make-up and dress in women’s clothes, while doctors perform anal examinations.
According to Article 17 of the health regulations of the Turkish Armed Forces, homosexuality is considered a «psychosexual deviance.»
«Turkey is going through a democratization process, and the army needs to enter this phase, too,» said Binay.
«We don’t live in a dream world and we don’t expect it to happen all of a sudden in such a deep-seated institution, but at least they could stop the humiliating practices against gay men.»
Turkish rights groups reported 24 killings of gay and transsexual individuals in the last two years. In most cases, courts reduced the sentences or the perpetrators were not found.