Turkish gay rights group Kaos Gay and Lesbian Cultural Research and Solidarity Association, Kaos GL for short, has reported that a gay Syrian refugee who had been living in Istanbul for a year was found decapitated. His mutilated body was found two days after his disappearance, approximately 20 minutes away from his home which is located in a conservative part of Istanbul.
Mohammed Wisam Sankari had also previously been threatened, abducted, and raped by groups of men within the Fatih district. His housemate, Rayan, told Kaos GL that he was last abducted 5 months prior to his death. He was reportedly driven out to the woods, beaten and raped. Wisam was able to escape by throwing himself out of the car and survived the incident. Afterwards he was said to have filed a police report but the Police Department did not contact him regarding the case. Wisam was actively seeking asylum in other countries due to the amount of threats he was receiving at the time of his death.
This type of neglect of LGBTQ+ citizens is unfortunately extremely common in Turkish society, despite same-sex sexual activity being legal since 1858. However, what is seen as “offenses against public morality” by the Turkish criminal code regularly targets and discriminates against gay and transgender citizens. There are no existing laws protecting LGBTQ+ people from public or legal discrimination within the country’s constitution.
In most hate crimes, including murder, based on perceived or actual gender identity or sexual orientation courts claim there was “heavy provocation” and therefore those who commit these crimes receive significantly lower sentences than the perpetrators of crimes against straight citizens.
Homosexuality is largely considered an extremely taboo subject in Turkey and the culture of honour killings is still a prominent aspect of certain Turkish family cultures. Honour killings are described as, “The traditional practice in some countries of killing a family member who is believed to have brought shame on the family.”. In more recent years, a rise in killings related to the victims’ sexual or gender identity was observed by the German Democratic Turkey Forum.
As a regular attendee of the annual Pride march held in Istanbul, the increase of police brutality I’ve seen in these marches in the last two years is concrete evidence that homophobia in this country has to be urgently addressed and lack of legal protection for these citizens must be resolved. Although, homosexuality isn’t a crime punishable by death in Turkey our identities are still a death sentence.
After the Pulse nightclub shooting, members of the LGBTQ+ Community received an outpour of support when we were horrifically reminded that even our safe spaces can become graves in a world that remains safe for queer people. Why aren’t we seen as worthy of the same type of support when our safety is constantly put at risk in other parts of the world? Why are we only told our lives matter when it’s lives in America that are being lost?
Mohammed Wisam Sankari was a bright, young man. He was a man who didn’t deserve to die because of who he was, who he loved. He was a man worthy of life. If you’re going to call yourself an ally, act like one. If you only support specific populations of people within the community, you don’t support us at all.