The battle: Turkey is widely recognized as being one of the most LGBT-tolerant countries in the Middle East. It is one of only four countries in the region -- the others being Israel, Jordan, and, since 2003, Iraq -- where gay sex is legal, and Istanbul has a lively gay community. But Turkey's ostensibly liberal society has come under scrutiny over the last couple of years due to a string of murders committed against gay and transgender people. In 2008, Ahmet Yildiz was killed by his father in Turkey's first reported honor killing of a gay person. Over the last two years, meanwhile, at least eight transgender people have been murdered. In the first months of 2010 alone, two transgender women were killed, apparently due to homophobic violence. The country is split between a modernizing Islamist government that hopes to join the European Union and a conservative population that is squeamish about the increasingly visible role of gay people in Turkish society. But now, on top of the killings, Ankara is cracking down on gay rights activists, filing civil proceedings to close local group Black Pink Triangle on the grounds that it violates "Turkish moral values and family structure."
The outlook: International NGOs are in an uproar over the violence and the government's attempt to hinder activist groups. And Turkey's effort to join the European Union will probably lead it to temper some of its worst excesses. Still, the deaths and the governmental repression suggest that Turkey's reputation as a relative oasis of human rights in the Middle East isn't going to last long.