ANKARA, Turkey — The body of a gay Syrian refugee was found mutilated and beheaded two days after he disappeared in central Istanbul, a local rights group said.
Muhammed Wisam Sankari went missing on July 23 after leaving his home in the conservative Fatih district, Turkish gay rights group Kaos Gay and Lesbian Cultural Research and Solidarity Association (Kaos GL) said Wednesday.
His killing has not been widely reported in Turkish media, other than in a handful of leftist publications that quote Kaos GL. There has so far been no official confirmation that he was killed for being gay.
His body was found mutilated and decapitated on July 25, the association said.
Sankari arrived in Istanbul a year ago after fleeing Syria’s civil war but wanted to leave Turkey because he feared for his life.
He was threatened by male gangs carrying knives who said they wanted to rape him, friends told Kaos GL.
His body was so mutilated, he was only recognizable from his clothes, one of his friends who went to identify the body told the rights organization.
The Syrian had also been kidnapped and raped five months before his death, one of his housemates told the rights organization.
“They took him by car to a forest where they beat and raped him,” the refugee’s housemate, Rayan, said.
He added that they previously had to leave a house because they were gay, Kaos GL said. There have been no arrests, the group reported.
Homosexuality has been legal in Turkey since 1923 and was also legalized in the Ottoman Empire from the mid-nineteenth century.
But gays in Turkey regularly complain of harassment and abuse in a largely conservative Muslim society where open displays of same-sex love are strongly frowned upon.
The authorities in Istanbul in June banned the annual gay pride march for the second year in a row, citing security and public order fears.