Sunday, June 29, 2008

Turkish Government Denies Water to Church in Ankara

Turkish officials continue harassing legal church in an attempt to force it to close

The Turkish government is now attempting to shut down the Batikent Protestant Church in Ankara by shutting off the church building's water supply.

On June 18th an official from the government office of the Ankara Department of Water came with an order to take out the water meter from the Batikent Protestant Church. The reason cited in the order to remove the water meter was because of alleged unpaid water bills dated between Aug 27, 2007 and June 6, 2008. However, between 2005 and 2007 the Batikent Protestant Church won several court decisions granting them the right to have free water from the Government.

In Turkey, the government gives mosques free water. However, Turkey's constitution is based on secularism, and thus it seems logical that whatever rights a mosque may have to free water should be afforded to churches as well. Accordingly, in 2002, when Pastor Daniel Wickwire founded the Batikent Protestant Church of Ankara for Turkish-speaking Christians, he applied to the Municipal Government of Ankara asking for free water.

This request for free water was denied by the local government, so Wickwire and the church's Turkish Pastor Ali Pekta? opened a series of court cases going all the way up to the Supreme Court where they eventually won the right for the church to have free water. Not only did they win the right to have free water provided to the church, but the Supreme Court ordered the Ankara Department of Water to repay all of the water bills the church had paid since it opened.

Despite the Supreme Court's ruling, the Turkish government has refused to repay the church for their previous bills and continued to harass them by sending water bills and attempting to remove their water meter on 10 different occasions. Twice this left the church without water, and the water was turned on only after the church paid the water bills that it did not rightfully owe.

ICC reported on a different attempt by the government to shut down Batikent Protestant Church in a press release earlier this month on June 10. On June 2, police delivered a government order to shut down the church in three days because it was in violation of the zoning code. However, the church had already won a court case on this same issue. Yet again, they have been forced to open another expensive counter court case in order to stop its impending closure.

The opposition faced by Batikent Protestant Church is part of a wider problem. The present government of Turkey has been enacting new laws designed to close down existing churches and make it difficult to open new ones.

Jeremy Sewall, Policy Analyst at ICC, said, "Adding to its human rights violations, the government of Turkey is also lacking in creativity. They could at least invent a different pretense to try to shut the church down than ones that it has already lost. For the government to completely disregard its own court decisions reveals either an impotent court system or a deeply conflicted political struggle within Turkey. Either way, their decision to childishly harass Batikent Protestant Church is an embarrassment to their country."

Saturday, June 28, 2008


Twenty months after two Turkish Christians went on trial for allegedly “insulting Turkishness and Islam,” a local criminal court has requested a Justice Ministry review of one of three charges in the case. On Tuesday (June 24), Silivri Criminal Court Judge Mehmet Ali Ozcan ordered a review of the two Christian converts’ alleged violations of the controversial Article 301 of the Turkish penal code. Accused of spreading Christianity by illegal methods, Hakan Tastan and Turan Topal were charged in October 2006 under Turkey’s Article 301 for denigrating “Turkishness.” Regardless of the Justice Ministry decision on the Article 301 charges against Tastan and Topal, the Silivri court will continue its prosecution of the case under the other two charges: reviling Islam and compiling information files on private citizens. Oddly, both teenage witnesses for the prosecution testified that they did not know the defendants and had never even seen them before facing them in the courtroom on Tuesday. “Neither the defendants nor anyone else has tried to approach me with propaganda about the Christian religion, and no one has given me written or visual materials,” 18-year-old Emin Demirci told the court.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

In Turkey, Bitter Feud Has Roots in History

In Turkey, Bitter Feud Has Roots in History -
As Turkey’s governing party braces for a high court ruling that could close it down and bar many of its members from politics, party officials like to talk about what they did that caused so much trouble.
“Watch out, you’re talking to a sinner,” said Sadullah Ergin, an official in the party, Justice and Development, whose founders, some of them former Islamists, now want Turkey to be a more open society for practicing Muslims.

Mr. Ergin’s offense, detailed in a more than 160-page indictment of the party and its officials that has paralyzed Turkish politics since it was filed in March, was saying that a ban on women wearing head scarves in universities violated human rights, adding his signature to a draft law that helped cancel it and talking about it on a television talk show.

Most of all, his crime lay in his association with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of the party, known as A. K., the initials of its Turkish name. With its control of the presidency, the Parliament and the government, the faction has come further than any other in modern Turkey in breaking the grip of the secular establishment on power.

The indictment accuses the party of trying to turn Turkey, a secular democracy, into an Islamic state, a charge that Mr. Ergin contends is “political, not legal.”

Even Turkey’s liberals, who would be among the first to speak out against Islamic activism in government, agree with that assessment. Many see the case as the last stand by Turkey’s secular old guard — a powerful class that includes the military and judiciary — that is against the ropes and trying desperately to hang on to power. The military’s attempt to stare down Mr. Erdogan last year led to a pro-A. K. retaliation at the ballot boxes, and now it has turned to its judicial allies to try to stop Mr. Erdogan. A ruling by the constitutional court is expected in the next few months.

“They are playing their last game,” said Baskin Oran, a professor of international relations at Ankara University. “The military is no longer able to make coups. The last line to hold onto is the constitutional court.”

Thursday, June 19, 2008

'Good Muslims' should listen to top cleric

'Good Muslims' should listen to top cleric - Turkish Daily News Jun 18, 2008
Recently, we were forcefully reminded that we all must love Atatürk -- or we face prosecution and must stand trial. Insult and blasphemy can always be discussed, but “loving/not loving someone no matter who he is” should be a matter in which the state should not get involved, especially in the form of lawsuits and prison sentences.

That "someone" can be Atatürk or Prophet Mohammed. In democracies people should have a right to chose whom to love or not love, including the founder of the state or a prophet.

The truth is, if we are talking about democracy and civil liberties everyone should be able to express love or hate for the founder of the state, the state, the monarch if there is one, the prime minister, the president, the chief of general staff, the Pope and even a prophet – "holiness" cannot give religion immunity against "people not loving it." Avoiding forceful conversion of non-Muslims or atheists into Islam is one of the virtues of the religion of Mohammed.

Prosecuting someone because she does not love Atatürk is so amusingly childish. And so is the Kemalist columnist who writes that “… the prosecution is stupid but the girl who does not love Atatürk must be insane.” Just like someone who does not love Atatürk should not be prosecuted, s/he cannot be humiliated as an "Islamist loony." Sadly, the Turks, regardless of which side of today's ideological division line they belong to, are centuries away from the basic notion of tolerance. In fact, that sharp division is only driving them away from tolerance./blockquote>

Turkish Pastor Facing Jail On "False" Charges

Turkish Pastor Facing Jail On "False" Charges | Turkey | Europe
Pastor Orhan Piçaklar of the Samsun Agape Church in the Black Sea coastal city of Samsun found a notice Sunday, June 15, notifying him that he was a suspect in a court case and requiring him to come immediately to give testimony, said US-based advocacy group International Christian Concern (ICC) with Website

When he arrived at the public prosecutor’s office the pastor apparently discovered that charges against him had been hand-written and included a false identity number. When he asked the prosecutor why he had opened a case on this basis, he was allegedly told: “Because there are crazy people around.”

ICC said the "vague remark" probably means "that the prosecutor is trying to save his own skin from Muslim radicals who would target him if he was seen to be 'soft' on Christians."

There was no immediate comment from the prosecutors office. ICC said the anonymous accuser, using a hidden camera, had also taken pictures of a baptism and a wedding blessing ceremony at the church. Charges against him included "Insulting the prophet of Islam, Mohammed", "Insulting the police" and "Performing a marriage ceremony in the church," ICC said, citing the hand-written letter.


Piçaklar has denied the charges, saying that never insulted anyone "because the New Testament commands Christians to respect all people." In addition, he reportedly said that he didn't perform a marriage ceremony, but only a "celebration and blessing of a couple who were already married."

ICC said it fears the pastor could receive jail time for these charges, although it was not immediately clear how much time the prosecutor is asking for him to serve. In published remarks, Piçaklar said, "I am not afraid as for the Lord in everything I can do everything. But please pray for my family because they will be in desperate straits if anything happens to me." He reportedly added that he believes, "The Lord will not allow them to be left alone, because the Lord here is daily growing His church, Satan is restless and creating problems.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Church ordered to shut down in Turkey

Church ordered to shut down in Turkey (
A church in Turkey's capitol city of Ankara is facing more legal persecution from the government.

The Batikent Protestant Church has been served notice that it will have to shut down soon -- which presents an odd set of circumstances. Jeremy Sewell, a policy analyst for International Christian Concern, says the church has already fought many legal battles to exist.

"The church has won this right by fighting approximately 15 different court cases, many of which have gone to the Supreme Court of Turkey over the past six years," he conveys.

Yet the latest lawsuit involves the same issues. Turkey's government is secular, and there is a constitutional guarantee of religious freedom. Sewell says it is shocking that the Turkish government "... [w]ould be so blatant in their violation of religious freedom when the courts have already ruled that this church is legal and can stay open."

Friday, June 13, 2008

Controversial ex-priest claims to be social engineer

Controversial ex-priest claims to be social engineer
Çınar's anti-missionary propaganda is blamed by some for the death of Italian priest Andrea Santoro, who was killed by a teenager on Feb. 5, 2006, in his church in the northern Black Sea port city of Trabzon. The murderer had he was alarmed by debates on television over missionary activities in Turkey.

The reports of Çınar's army affiliation have raised the question of whether the military did indeed pay a spy to encourage aggression against Christians in the mostly Muslim nation.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Former priest turned Muslim turns out to be military man

Former priest turned Muslim turns out to be military man
A former Turkish priest who had been working with foreign missionaries and then converted to Islam was actually an intelligence officer with the Turkish Land Forces, a Turkish daily has reported, but he has denied acting as a "provocateur."
"Records from the Emekli Sandığı Mersin regional office show that Çınar had been registered on Aug. 16, 1992 as a 'special sergeant' with the record number of 706661XX and his premiums have been paid regularly," stated the daily.

The story indicated that the Emekli Sandığı office confirmed that Çınar is a member of the Turkish Land Forces. The Emekli Sandığı is only for public personnel and individuals who cannot pay their own premiums. Press consultant for the Association of the Turkish Protestant Churches İsa Karataş said they were not concerned about Çınar's statements as long as such statements do not put forward slanderous information about their community.

"If he is really an informant, this is not a big surprise to us. We know that our churches have been closely watched, we are not complaining about this. We want the state to know what we are really doing but we want such informants -- if there are any -- to report the truth to whatever organization they are working for," Karatas said in a written statement to Today's Zaman.

Malatya trial reveals unsettling implications for believers

Mission Network News
So while the government may claim ignorance, Open Doors' Carl Moeller says, "If they're watching such a tiny group of Christians so carefully, it's impossible that they would not also be aware of clandestine ultra-nationalists or terrorists wanting to attack them. So even though terrorist groups may be carrying out these attacks, it is with the knowledge that the government possesses, that the government is not intervening and protecting Christians."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Request for tape recordings denied in Malatya murder case

Request for tape recordings denied in Malatya murder case
At the seventh hearing of the case in Malatya on Monday, lawyers for the plaintiffs stated that Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım had said the suspects were captured as a result of audio recordings and asked that the court subpoena the records of such activities either from the Ministry of Interior or Ministry of Transportation. But the court rejected the demand on the grounds that it would not add anything beneficial to the case.

Church fights for life in its 16th court battle

Church fights for life in its 16th court battle
One of the very few legally operated Protestant churches in Turkey is fighting for its life – again. The church has battled through 15 court cases in the predominantly Muslim nation over the last 6 years, and it's about to become 16. Last week 2 police officers approached the pastor of Batikent Protestant Church in the capital city of Ankara and served him with a notice that church had 3 days to close its doors.The problem – this time – is that the church is supposedly violating zoning codes by operating in a building not approved as a place of worship.

Last year, the church faced the same charge and won their case in court against the Yenimahalle Municipal Government. The current police notice is forcing the church to battle again over a case it has already won.

The founding pastor of the church, Daniel Wickwire, told International Christian Concern, "It is very obvious that what is happening to our church is a pre-meditated, continuous and jointly orchestrated direct attack against the church as a whole in Turkey by the right-wing Islamic government (AK Party) that is currently in control."


All seven suspects on trial for the brutal murder of three Christians in Turkey in April 2007 appeared in court yesterday – each one protesting his innocence and incriminating one or more of the others. The hearing in eastern Turkey marked the first time the five jailed murderers and two accused accomplices have appeared together in court to be cross-examined over contradictions among their individual court testimonies. In addition to the five accused murderers – Hamit Ceker, Cuma Ozdemir, Abuzer Yildirim, Salih Gurler and Emre Gunaydin – two others, Kursat Kocadag and Mehmet Gokce, face charges as accomplices. Turkish Christians Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel and German Christian Tilmann Geske were tied up, stabbed and tortured for several hours before their throats were slit at Zirve Publishing offices. Four of the suspects have said they were afraid of Gunaydin because of his alleged connections with local police and mafia figures, coupled with his violent threats against them and their families if they tried to pull out of the plot. The court’s first attempt to untangle the defendants’ contradictions was hamstrung by Gunaydin’s refusal to answer any questions by plaintiff attorneys.

Friday, June 06, 2008

University researcher admits Turkish security forces monitor missionaries.

Testimony taken by Malatya prosecutors last week corroborates a letter e-mailed to Turkish Protestant church leaders a year ago naming alleged perpetrators behind the savage murder of three Christians in April 2007. University researcher Ruhi Abat confirmed to prosecutors that he was in direct contact with three military officers named in the informant’s June 2007 e-mail and that gendarme officials were tracking Christian missionary activities in Malatya. Turkish Christians Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel and German Christian Tilmann Geske were tied up, beaten, tortured with knives and left with their throats slashed by five young men on April 18, 2007. Abat reportedly named Cmdr. Mehmet Ulger, Maj. Haydar Yesil and Mehmet Colak as the gendarme officials he contacted, sometimes in person and sometimes by telephone. “Abat’s statement raised questions about what kind of investigations the security and gendarme were carrying on regarding missionary activities, which are not a crime,” a Milliyet article observed.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Religious Affairs Directorate presses YÖK to found international faculty of theology

Religious Affairs Directorate presses YÖK to found international faculty of theology
The Directorate of Religious Affairs continues, as it has for quite some time, to press the Higher Education Board (YÖK) to establish an international faculty of theology, a project devised for the improvement of relations between different religious and cultures, according to the directorate’s deputy director, Mehmet Görmez.

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008


EurasiaNet Civil Society - Theologians Take Conservative Turkish Clothing Designer to Court
Two liberal theologians have taken Turkey’s most famous Islamic clothes designer to court, alleging the couturier is exploiting religion for personal profit. The case is highlighting the growing tension between Islam and the country’s market economy.

Dubbed "Allah’s tailor" by the press, Mustafa Karaduman long ago earned the odium of Turkish secularists for his successful mass-marketing of the brightly-colored headscarves and ankle-length coats that have become a trademark of conservative urban women.

But what angered the two Turkish theologians -- Ilhami Guler and Suleyman Bayraktar -- was the name of the company that Karaduman established in the 1980s. "Tekbir" refers to the core statement of Muslim belief -- "there is no God but God."

"Jesus was upset by the sight of the money-lenders in the Temple, and I’m upset by the thought of a new generation of Muslims for whom Tekbir means expensive headscarves," Guler says.

Monday, June 02, 2008

About freedom of religion in Turkey

The New Nation - Internet Edition
Freedom of religion and worship is one of the fundamental human rights that everyone should enjoy regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality and religious preference. The right to believe in a particular religion and practice its rituals are recognised is by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention of Human Rights. The 1981 UN Declaration on Religious Tolerance and Non-Discrimination and 1990 Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam also underline the significance of freedom of religion for a plural world and urge states and societies to respect and protect these basic rights.

Given the universal status of freedom of religion and freedom of worship, how can we make sense of what is happening in Turkey where wearing a headscarf is banned in universities and a number of attacks took place targeting non-Muslims?