A gay Syrian man who had taken refuge in Istanbul was violently attacked on July 23 by a gang of extremists. He was found beheaded, his body mutilated, two days later.
The housemates of victim Muhammed Wisam Sankari are now speaking out about the danger gay people in Turkey face and the lack of protection Turkish authorities offer to gay refugees. Sankari (known as “Wisam” among his peers) had been kidnapped, beaten and gang raped five months prior to the July 23 assault, his friends said.
“That night Wisam left the house. We were already anxious because of the threats. We told him not to go but he said he was going out for 15-20 minutes. He didn’t come home all night,” Sankari’s friend Gorkem told the Turkish LGBT publication KaosGL.
“On Sunday police called us,” Gorkem continued. “They had cut Wisam violently. So violent that two knives had broken inside him. They had beheaded him. His upper body was beyond recognition, his internal organ[s] were out. We could identify our friend from his pants.”
Another of Sankari’s housemates, Diya, reported being kidnapped twice in the past. The group of friends, all of whom are gay, said they receive death threats and worry “who is next?” constantly. They even had to move to a different location in Istanbul because of the danger.
“I am so scared. I feel like everyone is staring at me on the street,” Diya said. “I went to the UN for my identification, but they did not even respond to that. No one cares about us. They just talk. I get threats over the phone. I speak calmly so something does not happen. It does not matter if you are Syrian or Turkish; if you are gay, you are everyone’s target.”
The housemates’ harrowing testimony points to a larger issue: that violent Islamic extremists are running rampant in Turkey—a country to which oppressed Syrians fled for safety. Yet the refugees still suffer under cruel anti-gay Islamist policies.
Recent Turkish political events have created a perfect storm of factors that can account for the increased violence against the gay community, including the influx of both dangerous and vulnerable refugees, the European Union’s pressure to stop the flow of migrants, the attempted coup and resulting crackdown and President Erdogan’s move toward Islamism.
“Syrian gay refugees in Turkey suffer even more, as their legal status is precarious,” a Turkish BBC reporter explained. “They are usually undocumented and most are reluctant to report assaults to police.”
Islamic extremists and the LGBT community also tragically intersected in June when terrorist Omar Mateen killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.