The suspected honour killing of a gay man in Turkey has provided the inspiration for a new film that aims to raise awareness about homophobia in the country.
The producer and co-director of Zenne Dancer , Mehmet Binay, has taken inspiration
from the tragic death of 26-year-old Ahmet Yildiz, a close friend, who he claims was murdered in 2008 by his own father for being gay.
As reported by CNN, Yildiz's father is still at large, with court documents identifying him as the main suspect.
A copy of the indictment suggests the father's motive to be that he did not accept the victim to be in a gay relationship .
Speaking to CNN, Binay said:
Death and murder is still on the agenda of our
country. We can't get rid of this mentality. People need to tolerate each other. They need to understand that different identities can live next to each other without disturbing each other.
While the khap panchayats (Religious caste based councils) are getting louder in their protest against screening of new Bollywood movie Khap-a story of honour killing in Haryana, the cinema owners, in the stronghold of these bodies, seem to have
preferred to play safe by not screening the movie on its release on July 29.
Though, the cinema owners maintained that they had not received any threat from the khap panchayats, sources pointed out that apprehension of violence is one of the
reason behind disinterest of the cinema owners in screening the movie at this stage.
Prominent locals though have taken a serious view of some khap individual's threat to obstruct the screening of the film in Haryana. They jointly submitted a
memorandum to Rohtak district administration asking for necessary steps like providing security at the cinema halls.
In a joint statement issued in Rohtak by a group of academics, social activists, intellectuals and artists, expressed concern over
the culture of intolerance being spawned by some khap zealots saying: Fearing a possible threat by the khap elements, Rohtak theatre owners have reportedly decided not to screen the film due for all India release. This is highly unfortunate and a
direct attack on the right to freedom of expression. If one does not agree with the film, one is free to express dissent or approach the court if there is anything illegal in the film as the movie has been cleared by the Censor Board.
Police have seen honour crime surge by 40% due to rising fundamentalism, new figures show.
Honour-based violence, including crimes like murder, rape and kidnap has increased in London during the last year.
Reported instances of
intimidation and attempts at forced marriage have also increased by 60%.
A report into the scale of the problem by Scotland Yard found there were 161 honour-based incidents recorded in 2007-8, of which 93 were criminal offences. But in 2008/9 the
number of incidents had risen to 256, with 132 being criminal offences.
The latest figures indicate that the trend is continuing, with 211 incidents reported in the last six months until October, of which 129 were offences - more than double the
number in the same period last year.
Diana Nammi, of the Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation, said the group is now dealing with four times more complaints relating to honour than two years ago.
She said: More women are
coming forward. They are becoming more aware of their rights in the UK, that there is help available and they feel confident enough to report matters to the police. But I also think cases and violence are increasing.
Queen Rania of Jordan is challenging Islamic hardliners by supporting tougher sentences for men who commit honour killings .
Queen Rania, who regularly appears without head-scarf, let alone hijab, has given her quiet support to women's
rights groups who want to change laws amounting to legal impunity for men involved in honour killings.
But standing against is are another symbol of the country's attempts to show a progressive face. Jordan's MPs, who have been given more power to
hold the government and royal family to account than in other Arab countries, have shown little enthusiasm for the moves.
This whole issue is being exaggerated, and the reason behind it is not innocent, said Sheikh Hamza Mansour, leader of
the parliament's Islamic Action Front. His coalition of Islamist and tribal representatives has so far blocked an attempt to introduce tougher sentences for men who have killed their sisters and daughters for bringing shame on their families: It's as if the government is giving up our personality to turn us into a Westernised society.
For Rania, it is deeply offensive that the killing of women not only appears to be condoned, but seems to be on the rise: the number of deaths reported, currently between 20 and 25 a year, is increasing. Sentences remain low, often as little
as six months to three years in jail.
The government is introducing a special tribunal to hear honour killing cases, but a parliamentary alliance has so far blocked attempts to change two articles of the legal code. The first is article 340, which
allows an in flagrante defence to a man who kills his wife and her lover if he finds them in bed together. It has only ever been used once. More important is article 98, a crime of passion defence, which is commonly used and gives reduced
sentences to those who claim they commit violence in the fury of the moment. The government wants a minimum penalty of five years even under this defence, but is coming under vociferous attack.
For Ahmet Yildiz, a stocky and affable 26-year-old, the choice to live openly as a gay man proved deadly.
Prosecutors say his own father hunted him down, traveling more than 600 miles from his hometown to shoot his son in an old neighborhood of
Istanbul. Ahmet Yildiz was shot outside his apartment building.
Yildiz was killed 16 months ago, the victim of what sociologists say is the first gay honor killing in Turkey to surface publicly. He was shot five times as he left his apartment to
buy ice cream. A witness said dozens of neighbors watched the killing from their windows, but refused to come forward. His body remained unclaimed by his family, a grievous fate under Muslim custom.
His father, Yahya Yildiz, whose trial in
absentia began in September, is on the run and believed to be hiding in northern Iraq.
The case, which has caused a bout of national soul-searching, has underlined the tensions between the secular modern Turkey of cross-dressing pop stars and a
more traditionalist Turkey, in which conservative Islam increasingly holds sway.
Ahmet Kaya, Ahmet Yildiz's cousin, said Yildiz was the only son of a deeply religious and wealthy Kurdish family from Sanliurfa, in the predominantly Kurdish
Kaya said Yildiz was tutoring fellow students so he could make extra money to live independently. But by coming out as gay in a patriarchal tribal family, he had become the ultimate affront to both religious and filial honor, even with
parents who adored him.
Ahmet's father had warned him to return to their village and to see a doctor and imam in order to cure him of his homosexuality and get married, but Ahmet refused. Ahmet loved his family more than anything else
and he was tortured about disappointing them. But in the end, he decided to be who he was.
That clash of values permeates Turkish society. While Turkey's aspiration to join the European Union is pushing the Muslim-inspired government to accept
and even promote civil liberties for women and homosexuals, some traditionalists remain ill at ease with a permissive attitude toward sexuality and gender roles.
Ms. Darama, a religious Muslim who wears a gold satin head scarf, said she was the
only one among her neighbors willing to testify: The police and local religious officials are trying to protect the killer because they think homosexuality is a sin, she said. But in Islam killing is an even bigger sin, and no one but Allah has
the right to decide between life and death. Ahmet was a nice, gentle boy and he didn't deserve to die.