Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Twenty years ago Turkey’s Kurds did not officially exist and even speaking Kurdish risked arrest. Today, not only can Kurds openly express their ethnic identity but, as a result of mass migration from the impoverished predominantly Kurdish provinces of southeast Turkey to the metropolises in the west of the country, it is now commonplace to hear Kurdish being spoken on the streets of Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, and Antalya. The result for Turkish nationalists has been an increasing siege mentality. For the Turkish middle-classes, ethnic prejudices have been compounded by social snobbery, as the Kurdish they hear tends to be spoken by manual laborers working on the roads and construction sites. For lower income groups, who have yet to derive any real benefit from the recent impressive growth in Turkey’s gross national product, the Kurds are a convenient scapegoat for their own poverty.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Turkish father wins fight to get girl out of religious class

Turkish father wins fight to get girl out of religious class - Independent Online Edition > Europe
A Turkish father has won his six-year struggle to have his daughter removed from compulsory religious education classes in a case that highlights the tensions between Turkish secularism and its hopes of European integration.

Hasan Zengin's struggle dates from 2001, when he failed to convince local authorities to exempt his daughter from religious lessons at school. Three years after it agreed to view his case, the European Court of Human Rights has finally ruled that Turkey breached its obligation "to respect the rights of parents to ensure education in conformity with their own religious ... convictions".

Like at least 10 per cent of Turks, Mr Zengin is an Alevi, member of a sect whose beliefs, influenced by Sufism and pre-Islamic practices, are distantly related to Shia Islam. The ECHR described the syllabus as so slanted towards Sunni Islam that it "cannot be considered to meet the criteria of objectivity and pluralism".

Mr Zengin's lawyer, Kazim Genc, believes the judgment could not have been better timed. The rights and wrongs of compulsory religious courses has been heavily debated recently as part of discussions over plans for a new constitution. "The ECHR has solved the problem – religious lessons have to come out of the new constitution," he says.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Christian killings: 5 face life

Christian killings: 5 face life: World: News: News24
A Turkish prosecutor sought life sentences on Thursday for five youths accused of the gruesome murders in April of three Christians, one of them a German, a report said on Thursday.

The suspects, aged 19 and 20, are expected to go on trial within a month, the Anatolia news agency said.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Slow pace of 301 disappoints EU

The European Union is “hugely” disappointed with the “slow-motion” approach of the government to amend Turkish Penal Code (TCK) Article 301.

Brussels, which welcomed both the Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) election victory and the election of Abdullah Gül as president, is now eagerly waiting to see if Ankara will budge on the controversial Article 301, under which many prominent intellectuals have been tried, badly damaging Turkey’s image abroad.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Turkish Schools Must Allow More Religious Tolerance, Court Says

Bloomberg.com: Europe
Turkey needs to ensure that religious education in schools is objective and gives additional weight to beliefs other than Sunni Islam, the European Court of Human Rights ruled today.

Hasan Zengin and his daughter Eylem, followers of the Alevi faith, argued the religious culture and ethics classes in Turkey weren't neutral and were incompatible with the country's secular system. The family's request for Eylem to be exempt from the classes was rejected, a decision upheld by national courts.

The Strasbourg, France-based court ruled today that such a refusal breached the European Convention on Human Rights, which says ``the state shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.'' Turkey should bring its educational system and domestic law into conformity with that legislation, the seven-judge panel said in its unanimous ruling.

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More secular than thou

More secular than thou - Turkish Daily News Oct 08, 2007
Move over, democracy. Now secularism is the concept everyone wants a piece of. At least in Turkey, where it has been one of Atatürk's six principles of the Republic since its founding, but is taking on new meaning and controversy with the predominance in electoral politics of the faith-friendly Justice and Development (AK) Party.

In Turkey the test of those who press for stretching secularism to support religious freedom will be whether they include other religious groups than their own—and those of no religious affiliation—in their concern and sympathy.

We cannot expect that Turkey's grappling with these issues will replicate in any sense what Western countries have already made of them. Yet Turkey's path in reaching its own accommodation of secularism and religious espression, both in Atatürk's time—and before-- and more recently, has already been influenced in part by Western models—and now we can hope to learn from each other, as voyagers in the same buoyant and choppy sea.

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Friday, October 05, 2007


Compass Direct News
Turkish Protestants have reported increasing attacks and threats in recent months despite claims by President Abdullah Gul this week that Christians in Turkey are not targeted. Believers told Compass that threats have increased since two Turkish Christian converts and a German Christian were tortured and killed at Zirve Publishing House in Malatya on April 18. Neighbors have threatened Christian radio station workers in Ankara in recent weeks, and a visitor to Antalya’s Bible Church this summer attacked an elderly member with a chair. Antalya Bible Church pastor Ramazan Arkan said that he is pursuing four court cases against Rasim Eryildiz, a construction worker who began threatening church members in May.

Christian radio station staff members in Ankara have also seen an increase in threats from visitors to their front door since the Malatya attacks in April.

“Actually, it was only after Malatya that this started,” Radio Shema Director Soner Tufan said. “Before, they wouldn’t directly contact us. Sometimes they would fax us or e-mail us, but they wouldn’t even call us on the telephone.”

Tufan said that, since May, at least three times a month men have come to the station’s door and threatened workers. One man ran away when a radio staff member opened the door, but he telephoned the office minutes later to say, “We’ll tear this place down on top of you, you’re doing missionary work.”

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Thursday, October 04, 2007


Compass Direct News
A new judge has prolonged the case of two Turkish converts to Christianity after his predecessor resigned under pressure from the plaintiffs’ ultranationalist lawyer.

At a September 26 hearing, his first in the 12-month case, Judge Metin Tamirci set the Christians’ next court date for November 29. Defendants Hakan Tastan and Turan Topal had hoped for a quick dismissal of charges of insulting “Turkishness” at their last hearing on September 12 after the state prosecutor said in July that there was no evidence against them.

But Judge Neset Eren prolonged the case when he told the Silivri court, 45 miles west of Istanbul, that he was stepping down. He said he hoped to “distance the court’s decision from any form of indecision or doubt.”

Eren’s announcement came after the plaintiff’s ultranationalist lawyer, Kemal Kerincsiz, called for his resignation, accusing the judge of failing to deal with the case impartially. Kerincsiz has raised a number of cases against Turkish intellectuals, including Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk, under article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code for “degrading Turkishness.”

A higher court in Bakirkoy, Istanbul accepted Eren’s resignation on September 13. Defense lawyer Haydar Polat said that despite the change of judge and a new state prosecutor, he was still 99 percent sure that his clients would be acquitted.

“There is no crime to be found, we’ll just have wait and see if the state prosecutor agrees with us,” Polat said.

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Attacks 'political murders'

301 needs changing, says president - Turkish Daily News Oct 04, 2007
Gül described the rising attacks against Christians as "political murders." "There are no attacks targeting Christians in Turkey where people from different religions live in peace. But political crimes have occurred and one of them was against a Christian priest," said Gül. Priest Andrea Santoro was shot dead by a teenager last year in the Black Sea province of Trabzon. "The murderer has been identified and is currently being tried by independent courts," he added.

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Turkish court upholds sentence for priest's killer

Turkish court upholds sentence for priest's killer | World | Reuters
Turkey's court of appeals on Thursday upheld a jail sentence of nearly 19 years for the teenage killer of an Italian Catholic priest, the state Anatolian news agency said. The shooting of Father Andrea Santoro, 61, while praying in his church in the Black Sea city of Trabzon in February 2006 shocked the Muslim nation and drew calls from the European Union for greater religious tolerance in Turkey. A year ago, a Trabzon court found the boy guilty of premeditated murder, illegal possession of a firearm and endangering public security. His family appealed against the jail sentence. The Ankara appeals court confirmed the sentence of 18 years and 10 months on the boy, who as a minor has not been named.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Tarsus prepares to welcome pilgrims for the Pauline year

TURKEY Tarsus prepares to welcome pilgrims for the Pauline year - Asia News
Tarsus, St Paul’s birth place, is preparing itself to welcome all of those who will visit the city in 2008, proclaimed by Benedict XVI in January last the Pauline Year. On the two thousandth anniversary of the birth of the apostle to the gentiles, the Pope announced “a series of ecumenical, cultural and liturgical events, as well as various pastoral and social initiatives, all inspired as Pauline spirituality”.

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A newspaper owner was shot to death in southeastern Turkey on 22 September, reports IPS Communication Foundation (BIANET).

Kasim Ciftci, owner of the "Hakkari Province Voice" newspaper, was found dead near the ruins of old Van City on 22 September. According to "Yüksekova News", eyewitnesses saw two men arguing near the ruins. The argument turned into a fight, and Ciftci was shot twice.

Meanwhile, Turkey continues to use the judicial system to curb free expression. Journalists are still being charged under Article 301 of Turkey's Penal Code, which makes "insulting Turkishness" a crime punishable by prison terms. Turkish rights groups, including BIANET and the Initiative for Freedom of Expression, have been reporting on the numerous trials and actively campaigning to abolish the law.

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Monday, October 01, 2007


Compass Direct News
Last Sunday night on the way home from church services, a sad little voice came from the back seat of the car.

“Mommy, I miss my Daddy so much. Can’t Jesus bring him back to us?”

Her mother sighed, and then turned from the front seat to explain gently once more to her 6-year-old daughter, “Esther, Jesus decided to take Daddy to heaven, to be with Him. So we have to wait until Jesus takes us to heaven to see Daddy again.”

The little girl thought for a few seconds and then declared, “Well, if Daddy isn’t coming back, then I want to go to heaven too!”

More than five months have passed since Esther Aydin’s father was beaten, tortured and then slaughtered with a knife in Turkey’s eastern city of Malatya by five young Muslims who claimed in initial statements they had done it “for our religion.”

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Time to pray? Or to despair?

Turkey and Islam | Secularists' lament | Economist.com
Mr Erdogan says he has no immediate plans to get rid of article 301 of the penal code, which was used to prosecute various writers, including Orhan Pamuk, for “insulting Turkishness”. But keeping article 301, say opponents, just confirms that AK is interested only in promoting Islam and defanging the army. The government remains “selective about democracy”, claims Umit Kardas, a former army prosecutor and critic of the generals.

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Will Prime Minister Erdogan Give a Christmas Party with His Parliament?

The Rise of a New Ottoman Empire: The Trap of Interfaith Dialogue
Why are interfaith dialogues held in the West? Shouldn’t they be held where the root of troubles, oppression, and injustice are? One of the most important characteristics of the American society is to be tolerant toward others and to respect one another. The most crucial pillar of the American Constitution is individual rights, an inalienable right. Any one who has been to America knows that there are mosques, synagogues, temples, churches, and chapels, so every devotee is free to worship as they wish. America is not like Turkey where the individual has limited forums to express freely his true thoughts and concerns because of oppressive regimes and where the Turkish government imprisons the individual in his own conscience, rather than allowing open worship. It is a fact that a Christian, Armenian, Kurds or Jew in Turkey has never been a first class citizen; instead, they certainly suffer discrimination. Still many Christians cannot even build their own church to freely worship, and a few months ago three Christians were tortured and killed by the Turkish nationalists.

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