The Case of Ahmet Yıldız: Violation of the Right to Life

The case of Ahmet Yıldız was postponed to 7 July 2015, which will be the 20th hearing.

Source: Sosyal Politikalar, Cinsiyet Kimliği ve Cinsel Yönelim Çalışmaları Derneği. (Social Policies, Gender Identity, and Sexual Orientation Studies Association) LGBT Hak İhlalleri: Emsal Dava Analizleri (LGBT Rights Violations: Analysis of Cases.) Istanbul: Punto Baskı Çözümleri, 2013. Available at: http://www.spod.org.tr/turkce/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/emsal-dava-analizleri-son1.pdf

Subject of Investigation

The procedures of investigation and prosecution and whether these procedures have been conducted according to law and justice.

Scope of Investigation

Üsküdar First Higher Criminal Court for Aggravated Crimes File 2009/166

Procedures of Investigation

Ahmet Yıldız was killed by bullets from a firearm fired by his father on the night of 15 July 2008.

There is still no progress at the 13th hearing of the murder of Ahmet Yıldız.

Despite the fact that a red notice has been issued for the defendant’s father Y.Y., he has not been found.

The Incident

Ahmet Yıldız (b. 1982), the son of a family from Urfa, left his partner İbrahim Can at home and went out to get ice cream on the night of 15 July 2008. He was 26 when 5 bullets allegedly fired by his father Yahya Yıldız killed him. He was a senior in Marmara University’s Physics Department and was preparing for his last finals to complete his studies. Though he tried to get away from the aggressor by running to his car and starting it, he could not get far because of 3 injuries to his chest; he lost control of the steering wheel and crashed into a pharmacy’s wall. He died there. His corpse was not claimed by his family and was only received days later by his uncle at Yenibosna Forensic Medicine Institution.

The Trial

The murder trial started on 8 September 2009, more than a year after Yıldız’s murder. The person who brought suit was not someone from Ahmet’s family or his partner İbrahim Can (because it is not allowed by law)- but Justice and Development MP Candidate Ümmühan Darama, who was shot in the foot during the incident, and subsequently had his store shot at by means of intimidation. In the following hearings, Can’s request to join the pending case as a joint plaintiff was denied on the basis that he “was not harmed by the incident.” In the trial records, the allegation against the only defendant, Yahya Yıldız, is stated as, “Buying, carrying, and keeping an unregistered firearm and bullets; premeditated murder, murder of a close relative, injury.”

Ahmet Yıldız was the only son of the family. He had two younger sisters. He studied in Eskişehir for a while and stayed in Islamic community dorms. When he realized he could not live there, he changed schools and cities and moved to Istanbul. He earned an income through private tutorials. He was also an activist. He wrote under the penname “Blackbeary” for Istanbul Bears’ electronic magazine Beargi. Yıldız was also called “Adonis” and he represented Turkey at an LGBT event in San Francisco in 2007. In an article republished after his death in the 31st edition of Beargi, he wrote about the “coming-out” phase, he describes his family: “My father is an Eastern Kurd and my mother is also an Eastern Kurd who chose a life heavily attached to Islam. I’m from a family who have marginal reactions like reacting against men wearing earrings or calling women wearing short skirts disreputable.” Starting from his childhood and throughout his teenage years, he was “caught” by his parents and then pressured constantly, his cell phone and computer were investigated, he was forced to live in Istanbul with his sister, and he was followed. Finally, he called his father and explained his situation. He did not see his parents for the following eight months. He waited for them to accept it but this was not going to happen. Emotional blackmail began. The family held him responsible for all that went wrong. They started pressuring him about getting “treatment.” But he told them openly and clearly that he was not going to change because according to him, “being gay is like having green eyes or black hair or being hairy or being wide toed or closed toed; a quality carried on by genes.” Yıldız wrote, “Yes, I believe time will take care of it. For some more time, I have to remain WITHOUT FAMILY,” and he finished his piece in Beargi by saying: “Listening to my friends, I gathered a theoretical experience that posited that I would feel honor with the truth. Yes, I feel honored by no longer living with a lie. But know that you will enter a difficult war and if you think your family will not understand, try not to tell them.”

When the pressure started to turn into threats, Yıldız and İbrahim Can went to the Üsküdar Prosecutor’s Office and gave a statement that his life was in danger. This petition was never taken seriously and no efforts for his safety were taken. Finally on 15 July 2008, the inevitable end came.

The trial, which began in September 2009, has not led to any important developments, as the runaway defendant Yahya Yıldız remains at large. Lawyers and NGOs who have watched the trial complain of the slow process and the officials’ unwillingness to catch the murder suspect. Upon leaving one of the hearings, Ümmühan Darama’s lawyer and Lambdaistanbul and SPoD volunteer attorney Fırat Söyle stated, “Along with the slow pace of the proceedings, there is no effort to catch the defendant. This hearing was like and a continuation of all the other hearings. There was a decision to issue a red notice in September and this decision was sent in writing to the Istanbul National Police. Maybe this document was written late, but an important step could have been taken in these last four months. The case can lead to a conclusion if human rights defenders claim it.” One of the tragic and comical parts of the situation is that the Adana Public Prosecutor’s Office “erroneously” cancelled the red notice, which had already taken a long time to issue and process, and a renewal had to be petitioned!

One of the rare developments that bring hope to the case came in the fifth hearing on 25 November 2010 when Orhan Aymelek, the owner of the Fiat car used in the murder, stepped forward as a witness. Aymelek testified that the defendant Yahya Yıldız borrowed his car to use it in Istanbul for three days, that Aymelek saw three or four empty shell cases in the car, and that when he asked Yahya Yıldız about it, the defendant said, “I shot at traffic signs because I was bored.”

The murder of Ahmet Yıldız is often characterized as the “first homosexual honor killing in Turkey.” To be sure, this case will be a significant turning point in Turkey’s judicial history with its procedures, handling, and conclusion. However, it would be naïve to think that Ahmet Yıldız was the first person to be killed by his family because of his sexual orientation. Yıldız is one of the victims of the many family murders that have been unnamed and swept under the carpet.

Attorney Zeynep AKKUŞ

AN EVALUATION OF THE CASE OF AHMET YILDIZ AND THE VIOLATION OF THE RIGHT TO LIFE

In Turkey, the murders of women who step outside society’s norms by their near relatives have been called “custom’s killing” or “honor killing” for a long time. Though recently with the feminist movement’s influence, the concept “killing of women” has started to be used, the other concepts still exist and in a way, create grounds for legitimizing these murders. When “custom” and “honor” are invoked, it seems inevitable that those who “crush” custom and honor will somehow be punished. Ahmet Yıldız’s murder is now among these killings as “the first homosexual honor killing.” It is important to emphasize that when the LGBT movement is in consideration, this association with honor killing has different underpinnings.

Though the legitimization of the murder through custom and honor remains, the public interest in Ahmet Yıldız’s murder was a result of a series of important political actions that came together. The first is about the “coming-out” process that is painful for many LGBT individuals. Ahmet Yıldız chose to come out to his family despite the negative examples he had around him. He probably is not the first person to be pressured, threatened, and killed by his family for coming out but he is definitely the most heard of because his partner did not hide and instead chose to be visible, chose to struggle and worked to keep the trial in the public eye, talked to journalists, etc.

Another factor was the organized LGBT movement. Many LGBT associations requested to join the pending case as joint plaintiffs; they were rejected but they continued to follow the trial, to announce and call to the hearings. Therefore, it is possible to say that visibility and organization are fundamental parts of this case.

Mainstream media, which encountered a situation that had not been reflected on before, had to code the event through a subject and that was “honor killing.” When we consider the fact that penalty reductions are given for statements like, “he proposed anal sex, I killed him;” this “honor killing” coding is “legitimate” in the Turkish legal system and in the dominant moral conception. In fact, the Turkish Civil Code allows judges to rule on unwritten customs and rituals if a relevant provision is absent. In this case, this authority is inevitable in rulings and in sentencing. Therefore, it is crucial for the LGBT movement to follow the case of Ahmet Yıldız and other trials in order to question this “practice” and to strive to change it.

After the murder, a blog called “Stop homophobia! Justice for Ahmet Yıldız” was started to draw the world’s attention to homophobic murders. A campaign movie was prepared from the videos people sent from all over the world saying, “Ahmet Yıldız is my family.” The film ended with the sentence, “Ahmet’s real family misses him.” Therefore, the family, an institution so often questioned by LGBTs, was transformed once again.

Though it has many parts to be criticized (and is being criticized), the movie Zenne contributed to drawing attention to the murder of Ahmet Yıldız. The directors Caner Alper and Mehmet Binay said in an interview that they dedicated the film to Ahmet Yıldız and Yıldız influenced the film’s storyline. Through the film, which was not ignored by the media, aspects of Yıldız’s life and the murder were shared with a wider audience. The film reached over twenty thousand viewers and was awarded five awards including the Best Debut Film in the 2011 Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival. The film also won awards in international film festivals and the case got coverage in the international press. The dangers of a story inspired by a true story applied to Zenne as well: the danger of transforming the issue into a singular story and the lack of a wider analysis of hate crimes against LGBT people.

We can summarize one of the most important gains of the LGBT movement that resulted from its politics in this process and in other LGBT issues: Though the attitude towards LGBTs has not completely changed, discriminatory statements against LGBTs are no longer being voiced openly, at least for “political correctness,” but when they are, an oppositional public opinion can be formed. A concrete example is the former Minister of State responsible for Women and Family Affairs Aliye Kavaf who said, “Homosexuality is an illness.” Kavaf’s loss of her ministerial seat obviously cannot only be explained by the power of the LGBT movement but one should not forget the public opinion that was formed and the reactions against Kavaf. Though it does not seem possible in the short term to radically transform the ideological and religious thoughts of state representatives, who have been ruling the country for more than ten years, we can say that policies that yield to internal and external pressure can be influenced.

In Turkey, the cases that the state looks upon “half heartedly” proceed very slowly and they take years. The case of Ahmet Yıldız has become part of this process. In fact, for the decision makers, this murder is moral if not legal in the context of “honor/ custom.” It is precisely because of this reason that following the case of Ahmet Yıldız is important for the LGBT movement that is working towards a legislation on hate crimes.

İdil Engindeniz ŞAHAN

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