Saturday, March 31, 2012

Turkish youth suffering from knowledge deficit: Sociologist

A sociologist examines a disturbing level of isolationism in Turkey:

Turkey might have a young population, but the country’s youth are largely insular and ignorant, posing problems if the nation wants to run a globally competitive, knowledge-based economy, leading sociologist Nilüfer Narlı says.

Internet penetration is low, while many young people don’t know a second language, she says. “The poll tells us that Turkish young people are still very inward-looking,” a sociologist said of the poll conducted by SETA, according to which only 10 percent of Turkey’s youth have ever been abroad, and only 41 percent speak a second language.

 The idea of “inward-looking” youth does not coincide with Turkey’s vision of itself as a global player, according to Professor Nilüfer Narlı of Bahçeşehir University. “Turkish youth lack knowledge,” she told the Daily News in a recent interview. The most striking finding is that only 10 percent of those polled have been abroad. This shows that Turkish youth are still very inward-looking. A person may not have been abroad, but can speak a foreign language, can communicate with those in other countries via social media, can read the foreign press and become familiar with foreign culture.

But the problem there is that only 41 percent say they speak a second language, and this figure may in fact be lower, since in certain parts of Turkey, Kurdish or Arabic [which are local languages] could be cited as a second language. In research about the use of the Internet, we found out that many people cannot use the Internet because they cannot read English. There are more people in Egypt who have been to America than there are in Turkey. Turkey has a young population and this is an asset. But for it to be a real asset, the youth need to be equipped with the information, capabilities and vision required by the dynamics of the global economy.

 We need a young population that can contribute to knowledge-based production, but our young people are not equipped for knowledge-based production. Link

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Turkey, key U.S. ally, cited for religious freedom woes

Editorial: WP talks about the controversial aspect of adding Turkey as an offender on Religious Freedom Watch List.

Turkey stands as a new and controversial addition to an annual list of the worst offenders of religious freedom released Tuesday (March 20) by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Four of nine commissioners objected to adding Turkey to the list of “Countries of Particular Concern” — a who’s who of dictatorships and closed societies — and a fifth commissioner is second-guessing his vote to include the NATO ally.

But some Greek Orthodox Americans are pleased with the decision, citing longtime abuses against Orthodox Christians in the historic heartland of Eastern Orthodoxy.

“Turkey hasn’t been tolerant,” said the Rev. Alexander Karloutsos, assistant to Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

Istanbul — formerly known as Constantinople — is the headquarters of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of the world’s 250 million Eastern Orthodox Christians.

“Our seminary remains closed. We can’t educate our clergy. We don’t have a legal personality in Turkey and neither does the Catholic Church, Protestant churches, the Armenian Church, the Jewish community.”

Turkey’s ambassador in Washington decried the decision.

“Any unbiased eye will immediately realize that that’s not where Turkey belongs in the USCIRF annual report,” said Ambassador Namik Tan.

“The categorization of Turkey as a CPC list country not only damages the credibility and relevance of the USCIRF, but also raises serious questions about the political motivation that drives this exercise.”

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

US Report Criticizes Turkey on Religious Rights

An annual U.S. government report is adding U.S. ally Turkey as well as Tajikistan to a list of the worst violators of religious rights.

The report to be released Tuesday by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom cites Turkey for "systematic and egregious limitations" on religious liberty. Turkey and Tajikistan are among a total of 16 nations listed by the commission as countries of particular concern.

The Turkish ambassador to Washington, Mamik Tan, dismissed the commission's action as unjustified.

"Any unbiased eye will immediately realize that that's not where Turkey belongs in the USCIRF annual report," Tan told The Associated Press.

He said the Turkish government began action last year to restore impounded goods to non-Muslim foundations. "The categorization of Turkey as a 'country of particular concern' is naturally unexpected as much as it is unfair," Tan said.

Among other problems, the report criticizes Turkey for regulating non-Muslim groups by restricting how they can train clergy, offer education and own their places of worship.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Turkey's justice moves forward...slowly

Compass Direct News says the suspects arrested in Turkey's 2007 Zirve Publishing House murder case were before the court last week telling their story once more.

The original case stems from the brutal murders of three people (Necati Aydin and Ugur Yüksel and Christian German national Tilmann Geske) who sold Christian literature in a publishing house in the eastern province of Malatya.

IN Network USA president Rody Rodeheaver explains, "There were several young men who were caught red-handed in this situation. But there has always been the feeling that the people who wielded the knives were not the people who really were behind this."

The arrested are accused of having masterminded and instigated the April murders as part of Ergenekon's plan to lay the groundwork for a military takeover. Rodeheaver says that led to more investigation which uncovered the dark underbelly of Turkey. "They felt that it was a shadowy group called 'Ergenekon' which is a terrorist group at the highest levels of the Turkish military; their goal is to undermine the Turkish government and to keep them out of the European union."

The reason the judges of the Third Criminal Court of Malatya wanted to hear the testimony was so they could prepare another part of the case that links the suspects to the masterminds. So far, that's been a tough call. Rodeheaver says, "There is a concern on the part of the Christian church that an indictment will not really go deep enough because the lead prosecutor and the head judge were taken off the case, and there's always been a fear that this was the starting of a cover-up."

How a Funeral Home is Healing the Painful History of Turkish Christians

More than 40 years ago, Kirkor Çapan, an ethnic Armenian, and his father set up what today is one of the last Christian funeral homes still operating in Istanbul. But the funeral parlor is not a religious island unto itself. With so few Christians left in Turkey, the stonemasons and carpenters working with Çapan are Muslim Turks.

"There are no more non-Muslim master craftsmen in my profession," commented stonemason Senol Ekinci, one of Çapan's craftsmen, who has been carving Christian and Jewish tombstones for 35 years.

Standing in the Greek-Orthodox cemetery in the Istanbul neighborhood of Sisli, where he is responsible for the graves' maintenance and renovation, Ekinci explained what drew him to work on non-Muslim tombstones. "These graves here are a bit more elaborate; they require more work and craftsmanship. Turkish tombstones do not necessitate as much effort," Ekinci said. He is particularly proud of making the tombstone for the grave of Lefter Küçükandonyadis, a Turkish football legend of Greek descent who died this year.

Opportunities to work on such tombstones are shrinking. The Turkish government claims that 99 percent of the country's 79.7 million inhabitants are Muslim; and according to official statistics, the country's Christian population has diminished by nearly half since 1965, when it stood at 207,000. The US Department of State's annual Freedom of Religion report puts the numbers of Christians living now in Turkey at approximately 115,000; only 2,500 of which are Greek Orthodox, and 20,000 Armenian Apostolic.

While Çapan serves all Christian denominations, most of his customers are ethnic Armenians. He also has set up a separate funeral home that is now the only Greek Orthodox funeral home left in Istanbul.

Ekinci claims that his friends and family never criticized his choice to craft non-Muslim tombstones. "There used to be a lot of pressure on non-Muslims, but things have much improved in the last 10 years," he said.

He attributes the change to the controversial Ergenekon trial of senior military officers and civilians accused of plotting to overthrow the government of the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party. "There was much more anti-Christian propaganda before many of the main suspects were arrested, more aggression," he said. "We sense a difference."

Çapan agrees that Christians now feel safer in Turkey. "Turkey has come a long way in this matter," he said.

Monday, March 12, 2012

“Christians in Turkey are in danger”

Turkish historian and sociologist Taner Akcam gave an interview to Turkish Taraf daily. During the interview he also spoke about the protest action devoted to “Khojalu genocide” which took place in Istanbul, Taksim Square. During the protest the participants held Fascism posters and sounded mottos. As the Turkish historian underlined Turks must face with those events which are connected with Christians otherwise Turkey will never become more democratic.

“100th anniversary of Armenian Genocide is coming and the leading “Justice and development” party shows that it can use Fascism. If you press me, I will use Khojalu and Azerbaijani issue”, T. Akcam considers that this is the message of the action. He advised to look a glance to the deeper past before they would refer to Khojalu.

“First of all a citizen named Hrant Dink was killed in that state. People who were accused in his murder were protected by the authorities. 10 days before the Khojalu meetings the municipality supporters spread posters with a note ”do not believe in Armenians’ lies”,” he said. According to Akcam those posters also spread hatred against Armenians.

Friday, March 09, 2012

US Senators try to make Turkey return stolen Christian Churches

On March 8 Senators Scott Brown (R-MA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced a bipartisan measure calling upon the Secretary of State to press Turkey to return stolen Christian church properties and allow full freedom of faith for religious minorities. writes about this quoting the Armenian National Committee of America.

Spearheaded by Senator Brown, who holds a seat on the Armed Services Committee, Senator Feinstein, who serves as Chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Senator Kirk, who serves on the Appropriations Committee, the measure most notably calls upon Turkey to return all confiscated Christian church properties, including “churches and other places of worship, monasteries, schools, hospitals, monuments, relics, holy sites, and other religious properties, including movable properties, such as artwork, manuscripts, vestments, vessels, and other artifacts."

It also directly addresses Turkey’s obstruction of religious education, appointments, and succession within the Greek and Armenian churches by calling for the Turkish government to “allow the rightful church and lay owners of Christian church properties, without hindrance or restriction, to organize and administer prayer services, religious education, clerical training, appointments, and succession, religious gatherings, social services, including ministry to the needs of the poor and infirm, and other religious activities.” More broadly, the resolution calls upon the government of Turkey to honor its international obligations to end all forms of religious persecution and to protect the rights and religious freedoms of Christians.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Turkey's nation of faiths

After decades of official neglect and mistrust, Turkey has taken several steps to ensure the rights of the country’s non-Muslim religious minorities, and thus to guarantee that the rule of law is applied equally for all Turkish citizens, regardless of individuals’ religion, ethnicity, or language.

Turkey’s religious minorities include Greek Orthodox, Armenian, Assyrian, Kaldani, and other Christian denominations, as well as Jews, all of whom are integral parts of Turkish society. As part of the Turkish government’s new initiative to end any sort of discrimination against these non-Muslim communities, President Abdullah Gül has emphasized that message by receiving Bartholemew, the Greek-Orthodox Patriarch of Istanbul, and by visiting a church and a synagogue in Hatay — a first by a Turkish president.

In August 2009, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with leaders of religious minorities on Büyükada, the largest of the Prince Islands in the Sea of Marmara, and listened to their problems and concerns, a clear signal of his government’s intent to buttress their sense of civil inclusion. As Deputy Prime Minister, I met with representatives of religious minorities in March 2010, and visited the Armenian and Greek Orthodox Patriarchies in 2010 and 2011. Likewise, Turkey’s minister for European Union affairs, Egemen Bagış, has met with these communities’ leaders on several occasions.

Beyond establishing warm relations between the Turkish government and the country’s religious minorities, official policy has been changing as well. In May 2010, Prime Minister Erdogan issued an official statement that warned public servants and citizens against any discrimination against religious minorities, and that emphasized the absolute equality of Turkey’s non-Muslim citizens.

Turkish PM assures safety of religious minority

Turkey's prime minister on Tuesday promised to protect the country's largest religious minority after 25 houses mostly belonging to Alevi Muslims were vandalized, raising fears for their safety.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan said an investigation was launched into the vandalism in the southeastern city of Adiyaman. Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin earlier said children were believed to be behind the marking of the houses with red paint.
The incident has strained nerves in Adiyaman since Alevi houses were similarly marked before a weeklong rampage and looting that killed more than 100 Alevis in neighboring Kahramanmaras province in 1978. Alevi houses were also marked in the same way before clashes in the central Anatolian city of Corum in 1980.
The country's Alevi Muslims, who incorporate shamanistic traditions and do away with many customary Islamic practices, including the separation of men and women in prayer, have long faced discrimination in Turkey. They are considered heretics by many Sunni and Shia traditionalists.
"We are not the government of a certain belief or ethnic group, we are the government of all 75 million citizens," Erdogan told a meeting of his ruling party in the Parliament. "We are the guarantor of the rights and security of all people without any discrimination."