Monday, July 31, 2006

Conservatism growing in Turkey

"With the European Union acting more unsure about whether to admit Turkey, there are signs that conservatism is growing across the nation, both politically and culturally, according to a prestigious U.S. daily.

Referring to a recent survey, The New York Times said the prolonged road to membership, and the many economic, legal and cultural adjustments made to pave the way, have soured some attitudes toward the EU."

"According to The New York Times, since the time when the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) -- born in the ashes of fringe religious-based parties -- came to power as a result of the 2002 polls there has been an increase in public displays of conservatism around the country, notably in the number of women wearing headscarves in the streets."
NYT: Conservatism growing in Turkey - Turkish Daily News Jul 31, 2006

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Atta Turk? No

"Turkey is constitutionally a secular republic. Any display of religion in public is banned since the Constitution was adopted in 1924. In a country with a 98 per cent Muslim population, this sounds improbable yet that is precisely what successive governments have tried to implement with varying degrees of success. In the early years, under Mustafa Kamal Ataturk, this was enforced with a near-missionary zeal. Islamic-style courts and seminaries were shut down, Sufi brotherhoods (tarikat) and dervish lodges (tekke) disbanded, the wearing of fez caps, veils and Eastern-style clothing banned and a Constitution modeled on western lines introduced, giving women equal rights. By 1928, Islam was no longer the state religion, polygamy was abolished, civil rather than religious marriages became the norm, Turkish was written in Roman instead of the Persian alphabet, children were given non-Arabic names and religious education was restricted, for a time even prohibited."

"Interestingly, the Islam you see being practised in cities like Istanbul, is not the Wahhabi Saudi-inspired version of Islam but a far more workaday practical Islam where the daily rhythms of life are perfectly in tune with the demands of religion. Our host, a smartly-dressed young professional in his 30s, would excuse himself at the appointed hour, offer namaz at any one of the many mosques that are found in such abundance throughout Istanbul, and return to our side in a matter of minutes."
Atta Turk? No :

Friday, July 28, 2006


"Turkey's Muslim teachers and academics have levelled criticism at sweeping plans to modify university programmes for those training to be religion teachers in the nation's primary schools. The changes include removing a number of Islamic courses and reducing the number of Arabic language lessons, replacing these with compulsory philosophy, sociology, music, computer, Christianity and missionary courses."

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Little progress on religious freedom

"Despite hopes, there has been little progress in achieving true religious freedom in Turkey, argues Otmar Oehring of the German Catholic charity Missio. Delays in changing the Foundations Law; declining official interest in acting on EU and Council of Europe advice; the lack of concrete impact of limited changes in the way the state records individual religious affiliation; "massive nationalistic indoctrination" in schools; and continuing systematic discrimination against Muslim and non-Muslim minorities contribute to Turkey's religious freedom deficit. In this personal commentary for Forum 18 News Service, Dr Oehring maintains that the Turkish government no longer seems willing to improve the religious freedom and human rights situation. Many think that EU accession negotiations may fail, and he suggests that this is likely to end any progress towards religious freedom."
Forum 18 Search/Archive

Head of Religious Affairs warns on gun use in Turkey

"Following the highly publicized deaths this week of two young women in Turkey, both victims of bullets shot from guns fired into the air at celebrations, the head of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Ali Bardakoglu, has issued a strong statement to Muslims on the implications of the use of gunfire at celebrations.

Said Bardakoglu, "No matter what reason it is done, whether it is at a wedding, a picnic, or after a football match, what is trying to be proved by shooting a gun?....Do men think they are proving their masculinity by doing this? We have to put an end to this responsibility as soon as possible."
H�rriyet - Head of Religious Affairs warns on gun use in Turkey

The ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party is working hard to boost the controversial clerical imam hatip schools.

"Although it hasn't been able to make great progress in the last three years, it is showing its determination to return the education institution to the popularity of its past, particularly through the appointment of imam hatip graduates to key posts in the education ministry. The ruling party is also said to be running the risk of coming into conflict with state institutions over the notion of secularism."
The New Anatolian

Friday, July 21, 2006

Turkish anti-West mood 'rising'

"Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul has warned that moderate Turks are becoming anti-American and anti-EU.

Mr Gul said many Turks were embittered by the US' support for Israel's actions in Lebanon and by Turkey's problems in joining the EU.

He also said Ankara could be forced to act to stop cross-border raids by Kurdish rebels operating from Iraq.

Mr Gul's comments came in a wide-ranging interview with the UK's Financial Times newspaper.

"Moderate liberal people [in Turkey] are becoming anti-American and anti-EU," he said."

"If our young, educated, dynamic and economically active people become bitter, if their attitudes and feelings are changed, it is not good.

"Their feeling has changed towards these global policies and strategic issues. This is dangerous."
BBC NEWS | Europe | Turkish anti-West mood 'rising'

EU Criticizes Turkish Law on “Insulting Turkishness” | The Brussels Journal

"EU Enlargment commissioner Olli Rehn demands that Turkey amend its laws on curbing free expression, in particular Article 301 of its penal code. Recently, Turkish courts upheld a prison sentence against a Turkish editor, Hrant Dink. The Turkish citizen, Elif Shafak – author of Father and Bastard – also faces renewed charges of “insulting Turkishness” under the notorious Article 301 of the Turkish Criminal Code, despite the earlier dismissal of the case."

"The charges of “publicly insulting Turkishness” stem from the notorious Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. After previously reviewing the trial of Orhan Pamuk, it is clear that there is now an extensive list of journalists and writers whose freedom of expression continues to be intimidated and suppressed."
EU Criticizes Turkish Law on “Insulting Turkishness” | The Brussels Journal

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Turkish Nationalists Accuse Church of ‘Treason’

"Kidnappers posing as police officers threaten to kill pastor."

"Izzet Altunbas, chairman of the Samsun Association of Balkan Turks and a prominent member of the local Nationalist Movement Party, publicly attacked the Agape Protestant Church in vicious terms in mid-June.

In speeches broadcast over three local TV channels on June 16, Altunbas declared that establishment of the church, officially registered as the Agape Church Association, revealed “extensive damage” to the nation in that it reflected efforts to conform to the laws of the European Union (EU).

The nationalist leader blamed Turkey’s compliance with EU legal norms for strengthening a dangerous “assimilation” drive by “Christian Europe” against both Turkish ethnicity and Islam."

“This is not a church,” Altunbas told Haber newspaper back on November 2, 2004.

“This is a center for displaying missionary activities,” he said, claiming it was an attempt “to divide our people and our government … The passion, sex and prostitution going on at Agape House is being linked with money to deceive our youth to change their religion.”

"In an attempt to intimidate Pastor Picaklar, two unidentified men posing as policemen rang his doorbell at 2 a.m. on April 3, demanding that he come with them to answer a complaint registered against him.

“I thought to myself, ‘Oh, maybe someone has thrown stones at the church again, and my telephone is out of order so the police came to inform me,’” Pastor Picaklar said. “I’d been fast asleep, so I didn’t think to ask them to show me their police IDs.”

Only after the men hustled him out of his apartment building into a minibus with blackened windows and started to drive across town did the pastor realize he had been kidnapped. When he tried to ask where they were taking him, the men began to curse and verbally abuse him. “Be quiet, you filthy scum!” one said.

Finally escorting him from the minibus into a building’s second-floor apartment, the men began to rail against him, declaring him a traitor to Turkey. “You are a Turk! Stop this. The missionaries are deceiving you and others with money!”

When he tried to explain that was not true, they shouted curses and threats at him for some 20 minutes, he said.

“They said that I had spoken against Muhammad in my last sermon, and that they had listened to it themselves,” Pastor Picaklar said.

“If, after this, you do Christian propaganda again, we will kill you,” they warned. Then they stuffed him back into the minibus and dropped him on the street about a mile from his home. The pastor was unable to see their license plate, nor could he tell in the darkness which of the city’s districts or buildings he had been taken to."

For more of this story, please subscribe to Compass Direct at

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

How to Avoid Honor Killing in Turkey? Honor Suicide

The pressure on these young girls must be unimaginable:

"For Derya, a waiflike girl of 17, the order to kill herself came from an uncle and was delivered in a text message to her cellphone. “You have blackened our name,” it read. “Kill yourself and clean our shame or we will kill you first.”

Derya said her crime was to fall for a boy she had met at school last spring. She knew the risks: her aunt had been killed by her grandfather for seeing a boy. But after being cloistered and veiled for most of her life, she said, she felt free for the first time and wanted to express her independence.

When news of the love affair spread to her family, she said, her mother warned her that her father would kill her. But she refused to listen. Then came the threatening text messages, sent by her brothers and uncles, sometimes 15 a day. Derya said they were the equivalent of a death sentence.

Consumed by shame and fearing for her life, she said, she decided to carry out her family’s wishes. First, she said, she jumped into the Tigris River, but she survived. Next she tried hanging herself, but an uncle cut her down. Then she slashed her wrists with a kitchen knife.

“My family attacked my personality, and I felt I had committed the biggest sin in the world,” she said recently from a women’s shelter where she had traded in her veil for a T-shirt and jeans. She declined to give her last name for fear that her family was still hunting her. “I felt I had no right to dishonor my family, that I have no right to be alive. So I decided to respect my family’s desire and to die.”

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Turkey cornered by EP over protection of religious heritage

"A written declaration claiming that most churches and monasteries in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) have been looted or used for other purposes won a majority of votes in the European Parliament."

"The declaration says, "Among more than 133 churches, chapels and monasteries located in the northern part of Cyprus … 78 churches have been converted into mosques, 28 are used as military depots and hospitals and 13 are used as stockyards. Their religious items, including more than 15,000 icons, have been illegally removed and their location remains unknown."

It condemns the pillage of Greek Orthodox churches and monasteries and the removal of their religious items, and calls for the Commission and the Council to take the necessary action to ensure respect for the European Community Treaty and the protection and restoration of the affected Greek Orthodox churches.

A call for the Commission and the Council to examine the matter under the relevant chapters of negotiations with Turkey is also made in the declaration."
The New Anatolian

Friday, July 14, 2006

Turkish media hostile to Papal visit, bishop says

"According to Bishop Luigi Padovese, Apostolic Vicar of the Diocese of Anatolia, Turkey, the stabbing of a Catholic priest has exposed a media-led campaign to undermine the success of the Pope’s trip to the country.

Turkey’s beleaguered Christian population of barely 100,000 were shocked after the elderly French Father Pierre Brunissen was knifed - allegedly by a schizophrenic - in the northern port city of Samsun last week. It was the sixth attack on a Churchman in as many months."

"Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need earlier this week, Bishop Padovese said the country’s media has spread lies about Fr Brunissen, 75, and called Christians “enemies.” He explained that the newspapers have made false claims that Fr Brunissen had tried to bribe people to win conversions. “The newspapers are trying to aggravate,” he added, “to show the Christians as enemies of Turkish people.” The bishop said the media reaction to the attack on Fr Brunissen had coincided with hostile comments about Pope Benedict XVI’s scheduled visit to Turkey in November: “There are some who will search out all the possibilities to reduce the positive effects of the trip.”

Monday, July 10, 2006

Polygamy Fosters Culture Clashes (and Regrets) in Turkey - New York Times

"With his 5 wives, 55 children and 80 grandchildren, 400 sheep, 1,200 acres of land and a small army of servants, Aga Mehmet Arslan would seem an unlikely defender of monogamy."

" "Marrying five wives is not sinful, and I did so because to have many wives is a sign of power," he said, perched on a divan in a large cushion-filled room at his house, where a portrait of Turkey's first president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who outlawed polygamy in 1926, is prominently displayed.

"But I wouldn't do it again," he added, listing the challenges of having so many kin — like the need to build each wife a house away from the others to prevent friction and his struggle to remember all of his children's names. "I was uneducated back then, and God commands us to be fruitful and multiply."

Though banned by Ataturk as part of an effort to modernize the Turkish republic and empower women, polygamy remains widespread in this deeply religious and rural Kurdish region of southeastern Anatolia, home to one-third of Turkey's 71 million people. The practice is generally accepted under the Koran."
Polygamy Fosters Culture Clashes (and Regrets) in Turkey - New York Times

Friday, July 07, 2006

Cardinal Casper Opens War Against Turkey's EU Membership

I can't beleive it! Turkish experts don't agree? -

"Cardinal Walter Casper, the head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, has said that Turkey should not be allowed into the EU until "it stops preventing religious freedom". However Turkish experts do not share Cardinal's accusations."

"Cardinal Casper said at the Vatican "We do not think that Turkey is ready to unite with Europe. If a truly secular government were in place, it would be able to guarantee religious freedom. Currently, there are hostile actions occuring in Turkey aimed at religious minorities."

"I do not see the recent attacks against Christians in Turkey as being individual acts. The nationalism displayed against foreigners there has reached dangerous levels. In this sense, it is clear that Turkey has not reached the level of maturity to allow it to share in European culture, and we think that, rather than EU membership, some sort of special status should be extended to this country."

"However the Turkish Government and experts do not share the Cardinal's accusations. Dr. Nilgun Gulcan for instance argues that the Christians in Turkey has more freedom thab the practicing Muslims have:

"Every year more than 20 million Christians visit Turkey and none of them complain about religious preventions. Every year about 20.000 Christian foreigners permenantl settle in Turkish coast cities. They built churches, schools etc. And Turkey has other minorities. I think the Christian minorities have more freedom in Turkey than the Turks in Western Europe".

- But what about Turkish Christian Minorities? -
JTW News - Cardinal Casper Opens War Against Turkey's EU Membership

Thursday, July 06, 2006

'No obligatory classes means religious illiteracy'

"The Religious Affairs Directorate yesterday accused those seeking an end to obligatory religion classes in Turkish schools of advocating religious illiteracy."

"Aydin, who stated that the religious culture and ethics classes in Turkey are about culture, said, "We can't teach our culture without teaching that related to religion. So an education system that fails to convey culture is failing to educate children."

To select those who will and those who won't attend the obligatory religion courses is impossible, argued the professor, adding that the obligatory classes aren't problematic in terms of secularism or human rights.

Aydin recalled that Article 24 of the Constitution stipulates that everyone has the right to religious education. "There are no constitutional obstacles for Alevis who wish their children to learn about the Alevi sect in detail," he said.

The Education Ministry, also in response to the recent criticism of the classes, held a press conference late Tuesday, announced that the Alevi sect will be included in the curriculum of state religious culture and ethics classes by next year.

Ministry officials recalled that many non-Muslim students have been exempted from the obligatory religion classes by submitting petitions to the related institutions and urged Alevis to do the same."

"It was also highlighted that as part of an amendment to the Birth Registration Law it's no longer obligatory to fill in the religion section on ID cards.

"Those with 'Muslim' registered on their ID cards can't avoid the classes," one official said."
The New Anatolian

Anti-Christian sentiment growing in Turkey

"Prominent French daily Le Figaro wrote "It seems as if there's an anti-Christian atmosphere emerging in Turkey" in its report on the incident. The paper also reported that the Directorate of Religious Affairs is accusing missionaries in the country of being on a crusade . . ."

"Underlining that the EU has requested Turkey make special efforts in the treatment of non-Muslim minorities, the report said that Pope Benedict XVI is expected to visit the country in November, adding, "An anti-Christian sentiment is growing in secular Turkey, where 99 percent of the population is Muslim."
The New Anatolian

Oldest Church In Istanbul To Be Restored

"The Imrahor Monument, the oldest church in Turkish metropolis of Istanbul, will be restored, said Jale Dedeoglu, the curator of the Hagia Sophia Museum who is also responsible for this basilica.

In an exclusive interview with A.A correspondent, Dedeoglu said that the basilica was built in the name of John the Baptist under the instructions of East Consul Studios between A.D. 456-463."
Oldest Church In Istanbul To Be Restored

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Religious Affairs Directorate defends compulsory religious classes

"Compulsory religious classes were are a cultural class not creating problems for secularism and human rights, the deputy head of Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate said Wednesday."

"Defending the Directorate against complaints that it was forcing children to undertake courses in religion Professor Sevki Aydin said that such comments were ill informed.

“To say let us not have this compulsory is to defend ignorance on the subject of religion,” Aydin said, adding that this was his personal opinion.

Aydin said instead of discussing the compulsory nature of the classes that one has look at the content of the classes.

Aydin added that there were no obstacles under the constitution for Alawites in Turkey to ask for their children to receive detailed information on their religion."
Religious Affairs Directorate defends compulsory religious classes

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Istanbul: Muslims offer to give blood to save life of priest

"After a Catholic priest was stabbed by a mentally-ill man in Samsun, Turkey, on Sunday, many local Muslims went to the hospital where he was being treated to offer their blood."
Independent Catholic News


"The stabbing of the French priest in Samsun is an isolated gesture, but expresses an exasperated feeling against Christians, with false accusations of proselytism that are fuelled by some newspapers that are also attacking pope Benedict XVI's next visit."

"According to the Bishop in the country there is a strong nationalism that tries to distance Turkey from Europe. There are some lobbies of power that feel menaced by the possible entry of Turkey in the EU. So the Bishop says that it is important to investigate the incident. If it was only the gesture of an insane man or if there were some instigators. The Turkish nationalist press reports an interview to the stabber, presents him as a schizophrenic who is taking prescription drugs, and reports this statement: "The priest used to read me the gospel, and proposed me money and made pressures in order that I changed my religion". The bishop says that the Turkish nationalist press accuses the Church to make proselytism. Don Andrea Santoro (another murdered priest) was accused of proselytism too."
Agenzia Giornalistica Italia - News In English

Monday, July 03, 2006

Stabbed priest had been threatened, intimidated

There is an active Protestant Christian church in Samsun, in addition to this Catholic one. Please pray for this growing community, which has also experienced some persecution.

"The French priest who was knifed yesterday evening in Samsun had already suffered threats, insults and vandalism."

"The Christian community of Samsun is microscopic and composed mostly of foreigners in the city for work, people from former Soviet republics and a few Japanese.

Soon after the death of Fr Andrea, Fr Pierre sought to keep the church of Trabzon open too, covering the distance of hundreds of kilometres between the two cities to assure that at least Sunday Mass was held. He did this until Easter Sunday, when a new parish priest – a Polish priest – officially took over the parish of Trabzon."

"Although the attacker is already in prison, this assault worries Christians who see it as a part of an escalation of violence and threats against church figures."
>>> <<< Stabbed priest had been threatened, intimidated

Catholic priest knifed in Turkey

"A French Roman Catholic priest has been stabbed by a knife-carrying attacker in the Turkish Black Sea port of Samsun.

The attack on Father Pierre Brunissen, 74, is the third assault on a Catholic priest in Turkey in recent months.

Fr Brunissen was stabbed in the hip and leg and rushed to hospital, but a church official said his condition was not life-threatening.

Police detained an unnamed 47-year-old man who they described as suffering from mental illness."
Catholic priest knifed in Turkey

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Forgotten Assyrian Christians of Mesopotamia

Ever wonder what happened to those who repented and believed at Ninevah?

"The Assyrian empire once extended from the Zagros Mountains in the East to the coast of Lebanon. The Assyrians who are also known more generally under the umbrella terms for Nestorian Christians are not 'Christian Arabs' as some people believe, but speak a Semitic language, called Syriac. Although semblable to both Arabic and Hebrew, the language pre-dates both languages and is one of the oldest languages in the region.

The community has always been entrepreneurial, leading an active economic role in the jewellery trade in Turkey. Their presence is quite strong in the rambunctious Grand Bazaar of Istanbul. Assigned to the role of 'good jewellers' the community is often overlooked by both the government and the media, which tend to focus on the situation of the more numerous Kurdish population."

"In Turkey, Assyrians are recognised as a religious minority and not as an ethnic minority like the Armenians, this might seem as a simple difference in terminology but in fact it is quite a crippling status for the community. Unlike the Armenians, Assyrians still cannot teach in their own language, so this indigenous community is left manacled by the state. Being prevented from teaching one's ancestral language to future generations of that community has been one of the key factors forcing this community to leave the country in recent decades."

"While Assyrians are faced with uncertainty in Iraq and Iran, where insurgents are keen to destroy multiculturalism, Turkey should set a precedent by not just promoting multi-faith communities but multi-lingualism as well. Language like religion is a fundamental part of a community's identity; it is used to transmit a community's history, poetry, music and literature that will be forever lost without it. Like other minorities elsewhere without schooling in their own language, the future generations of Assyrians will be bereft of a future and unequal in their rights as Turkish citizens. The Turkish state needs to extend full citizenship to all her citizens."
The Forgotten Assyrian Christians of Mesopotamia

First city walls of Istanbul discovered in Yenikapı

H�rriyet - First city walls of Istanbul discovered in Yenikapı