A young Syrian man who fled the certain dangers of his homeland to what he thought was the safety of a new life in Istanbul has been found tortured to death, so badly mutilated that his friends had to identify him by his pants.
According to the report in Pink News, Wisam Sankari was gay — a status not well tolerated in the increasingly conservative society developing in Turkey, led by the Islamist AK (Justice and Development) Party headed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
There is also growing resentment among Turkish citizens against Syrian refugees, who are perceived to be a threat to employment and school opportunities for locals and other economic issues in the country.
Sankari arrived in Istanbul, the city once known as Constantinople, about a year ago after fleeing the civil war in Syria. The man was found dead during the last week in July, according to Cumhuriyet and other local news reports, which said his mutilated body was found in Yenikapi.
In fact, “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 organs were out. We could identify our friend from his pants,” said a friend, Rayan, who spoke with KaosGL.org.
This time they killed the young Syrian refugee, but it was not his first experience with abduction or torture at the hands of a band of men. His friends turned to alleged United Nations human rights advocates, who did nothing. Neither did local police.
“About five months ago a group kidnapped Wisam in Fatih. They took him to a forest, beat him and raped him,” Rayan said. “They were going to kill him but Wisam saved himself by jumping at the road. We complained to the police headquarters but nothing happened.”
Sankari and others had been threatened several times with rape, and more, several times by male groups armed with knives. They also had to leave a house in which they were living due to their obvious sexual orientation. “People around would constantly stare at us,” he said.
Another friend, Gorkem, told KaosGL.org that his friends had warned the victim not to leave the house due to recent threats, but he insisted on leaving “for 15-20 minutes.” When he didn’t return, the group panicked, and went to the Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (ASAM), which sent them to Fatih police headquarters.
“On Sunday police called us,” he said. They took the group of friends to Yenikapi to identify the body. Needless to say, they were horrified. Another friend, “Diya,” talked about also having been kidnapped twice before.
“They let me go in Cerkezkoy and I barely got home one time. I went to the United Nations 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.
“It does not matter if you are Syrian or Turkish — if you are gay you are everyone’s target.”
Turkey is currently under a three-month state of emergency after an attempted but failed coup to bring down the government.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters last month that the move was aimed at effectively and swiftly taking steps to “eliminate the threat to democracy… the rule of law and the rights and freedom of our citizens.”
Any Syrian refugee will tell the reader, sadly, that such majestic concepts are not intended to cover the safety and well-being of those who fled to Turkey believing it a place in which to take shelter and begin a new life.
That, they discovered, was just another question mark at best.
Hana Levi Julian