Gay "honor killing" movie shakes Turkey up

Fri Jan 20, 2012 11:22am EST
 
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By Ece Toksabay

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - On a hot summer's day in 2008, 26-year-old physics student Ahmet Yildiz was shot dead when he popped out from his Istanbul apartment to buy ice cream.

The main suspect in the killing, a fugitive still wanted by Turkish police, is Yildiz's father, who could not accept that his only son was in a homosexual relationship.

The case, widely believed to be Turkey's first gay "honor killing", has inspired a movie "Zenne", which opened on January 13 and explores gay sexual identity and prejudice in overwhelmingly Muslim Turkey.

"We had the movie idea in mind right after our dear friend Ahmet was killed," said Caner Alper, writer and co-director of the movie. "His story needed to be told."

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.   Continued...

 
<p>Cast member Kerem Can, who stars in "Zenne the Dancer", poses with co-directors of the movie Caner Alper (L) and Mehmet Binay (R) at a backstage in Istanbul March 14, 2011. On a hot summer's day in 2008, 26-year-old physics student Ahmet Yildiz was shot dead when he popped out from his Istanbul apartment to buy ice cream. The main suspect in the killing, a fugitive still wanted by Turkish police, is Yildiz's father, who could not accept that his only son was in a homosexual relationship. The case, widely believed to be Turkey's first gay "honor killing", has inspired the movie "Zenne", which opened on January 13 and explores gay sexual identity and prejudice in overwhelmingly Muslim Turkey. REUTERS/Sara Anjargolian/CAM Film/Handout</p>