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Can Turkey Learn Tolerance?

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  • http://www.hetq.am/eng/society/7395/?printable=1

    In the Wake of Resolution 106
    [December 17, 2007]

    I found out as soon as I got to Istanbul that the name Seda was quite common in Turkey. I first heard about it at the airport, where the immigration officer smiled wryly and said that my name was purely Turkish.
    This fact started to get to me after a while, as each Turk I was introduced to expressed surprise at an Armenian bearing a "Turkish" name (in reality, the name Seda - which I inherited from my grandmother - is Arabic in origin, according to books on the origins of names), but little did I know that greater tests awaited me.

    During the seminar, I had the chance to go to a Turkish village, Zeytindag, which was one of the main centers of olive production in that part of the country. In that village of 4,000, I witnessed many familiar scenes - women baking lavash in a tonir, unemployed men gathered around a backgammon board on a street corner, a group of children running after foreigners and so on. It would be difficult for me to say how a ten-year old Armenian would greet a Turk entering his village, but I could sense the hate with which one Turkish boy reacted to my presence. The boy, about ten years old, quickly gathered his friends around me when he read the word "Armenia" written on my badge. "Ermeni, Ermeni…" he said and loudly started explaining something to his friends (now I understand how important it is to know your "enemy's" language). One of my Turkish acquaintances approached the children and tried to silence them. I did not ask him what the problem was, because it was obvious from the boys' faces and body language that they were not happy to see the "enemy" in their village.

    The next day in Turkey was one of the most important holidays of the year - Republic Day (I felt that it was probably best not to wear my badge at all on that day). On that occasion, flags bearing the portrait of the Turkish national idol and cult figure Kemal Ataturk were raised everywhere next to the flags of the country itself. In general, Ataturk, as the founder of the Turkish identity, was everywhere, always. Statues, busts, and sculptures of him in all sorts of different poses were placed even in villages; any place which had had a role of any sort in his life housed a museum. This, of course, was very strange to me. One can give the flag, as a national symbol, cult status of some sort, especially when it helps unify the people and promote their national consciousness. But it seemed unusual in these times to do that through an individual, a cult figure. The Republic Day celebrations in the small Turkish city of Yeni Shakran brought back recollections of cult figures from Soviet times, corroborated by the Estonians and Georgians who had experienced Soviet life as well, and even by the Finns with their European past.

    Ataturk's stern eyes looked down upon us not just from the walls of buildings, but also from the clothes of adults and even children. The schoolchildren taking part in the celebrations had proudly pinned photographs of the founder of the Turkish republic to their uniforms. I could not help but recall my history teacher, who said that in the days of her youth they were often forced to pin photographs of Stalin to their chest on important occasions, and that while that was an obligation at first, it slowly grew into a habit, and then even into a desire.

    The Turkish children believed that Ataturk because of his deeds was truly worthy of awe and worship. This was clear even without any knowledge of Turkish. The schoolchildren recited poems dedicated to their country's founder, sang songs, and staged a play especially written for the occasion, all with indescribable pathos and conviction. That pathos was so impressive that, at least to me, it rung out like a threat - it is possible to recite a poem or sing a song with faked emotions, but the feelings and conviction they were expressing could not have been false. The Turkish boys and girls were not rejoicing on the occasion of Republic Day, but rather expressing their determination to resist any force that threatened them. It is difficult to imagine children raised in these conditions conducting open discussions about "disputed" issues of any sort in the future.

    The "disputed" issues between the Turks and us were the subject of only a few private discussions during the seminar. The Finns, for example, who were not well aware of the past, noted that they also felt a threat of some sort from the performance and from the children's upbringing in general.

    I had a few discussions with the Turkish young people participating in the seminar as well. Although they mostly avoided the issue, one of them nevertheless explained that he felt the way events were unfolding was quite "absurd". He studied international affairs and was well aware of the details of those events, but insisted that the international community often took advantage of such things to put pressure on Turkey. He personally felt that "what happened", irrespective of the accuracy of the numbers and other information, was not his fault, because he could not be blamed for the actions of his ancestors. Now, as a young citizen of Turkey, he was ready to initiate dialogue and look for solutions to the "question".

    Another Turkish youth confessed that he did not see dialogue starting anytime soon. According to him, both Turkey and Armenia were young republics which were still building a national identity and because they had "common obstacles" on that path, the ice would not be broken anytime soon.


    Seda Papoyan
    Copyright © 2002-2007 Hetq Online. All rights reserved.
    General Antranik (1865-1927): “I am not a nationalist. I recognize only one nation, the nation of the oppressed.”

    Comment


    • http://www.asianews.it/index.php?l=e...&geo=1&size=A#

      12/17/2007 15:33

      TURKEY

      Hate campaign leads to attack against priest

      Mavi Zambak

      Turkey’s press and government tend to play down the attack, choosing instead to refer to it and similar incidents as “isolated cases.” The long list of attacks against Christian clergymen shows by contrast that a widespread campaign of defamation and hatred against Christians is underway. In the country for the past 27 years, Father Franchini himself has been the object of various media attacks in the past.


      Ankara (AsiaNews) – Turkey’s press has expressed regrets for the latest incident involving an attack against a Christian clergyman. Fr Adriano Franchini, an Italian-born 65-year-old Capuchin who has been in Turkey for 27 years, was in fact stabbed to the stomach but is now out of danger. Turkish newspapers have however failed so far to take notice of the ongoing defamation campaign against Catholics in the country.

      Ramazan Bay, the 19-year-old man who carried out the attack, surrendered to police a few hours after the stabbing. He had fled after he carried out his attack in a church in Barakli in Izmir right after mass and in front several witnesses. He was quickly identified as a young Turkish man who had recently expressed a desire to convert to Christianity and complained about the long procedure the Church in Turkey required for conversion.

      In fact the young man told police that he took the decision to stab the priest after searching the internet for information on Christian activities and watching the last episode of a made-for-TV movie titled The Valley of the Wolves, which focuses on alleged Christian propaganda and proselytising.

      Upon learning the news Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ali Babacan offered the priest his best wishes for a quick recovery. In expressing his regrets for the incident, he criticised the young man for his actions, reiterating that Turkey was a country where different religions, sects and cultures had lived together for centuries, and condemning anyone, whatever their motive, who tried to destroy that harmony.

      Such views reflect in a nutshell what Turkish authorities think about the incident but in so doing they show a failure to grasp the significance of this and similar events. By simply disagreeing with and dismissing this kind of violence as the action of a crazed individual or a random act by a Muslim fanatic Turkey’s leaders are underestimating the problem.

      In recent years Father Franchini was not the only Christian clergyman to be attacked. Fr Roberto Ferrari was threatened with a kebab knife in church, in Mersin, on 11 March 2006; so was Father Pierre Brunissen who was knifed 2 July 2006 outside his parish church in Samsun. None of the three were killed in these attacks.

      Fr Andrea Santoro was not so lucky. He was shot to death on 5 February 2006 as he was praying in church in Trabzon. Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was killed the same way on 19 January of this year just outside his newspaper’s office in a crowded Istanbul street. The fate of three Protestants, including a German, was even more tragic. After being hog-tied, they were tortured and knifed to death in the offices of the Zirve publishing company which prints Bibles and Christian books in Malatya.

      What all these cases have in common is the fact that all the culprits are young Turkish men, all supposedly unbalanced, crazy or mentally feeble, who ostensibly acted according to investigators on an impulse triggered by watching TV programmes and reading online material that focused on “missionary activities” by religious and secular Christians.

      Father Franchini accused of proselytising

      Fr Adriano Franchini is a case in point. Originally from Levizzano Rangone, a town in the north-central Italian province of Modena, he joined the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin in 1959. He was ordained priest in 1968 and in 1980 moved to Turkey where he served as director of Caritas Turkey for more than ten years, demonstrating his great devotion to the Turkish population, especially in the great earthquake of 1999.

      Pulling up his sleeves so to speak, he was involved in fund raising for quake victims and played an important role in the implementation of several projects in their favour, helping them quickly rebuild their villages.

      Even then he was falsely and unfairly accused on the internet of proselytising; his selflessness, passion and desire to help, all his efforts were treated as means to “create Christians,” when in fact all he wanted to do was to help powerless Muslims exhausted by the cold and hardships with no ulterior motive like converting.

      At that time accusations went away, eventually, and the false charges laid against him, taken back. But online news have a long shelf-life and tend to be recycled and come back unchallenged.

      In light of this and other episodes local Christians and Muslims wonder whether Turkey can be trusted since its authorities seem incapable of instilling its youth with the values of tolerance, dialogue, and respect for those who are different and for minorities, for allowing information based on untruths to circulate and letting its mass media continuously spread patently false, biased and defamatory information about Christians, especially via internet and on TV late at night.

      All one needs to do is read the daily press summary by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Turkey (CBCT) to realise how Turks are bombarded every day with inaccurate, abusive and scandal-mongering stories about Christians and their faith.

      What kind of harvest can one expect from this kind sowing? One that is full ignorance, prejudice and hatred.

      The Turkish government shows very little restraint when it comes to censoring those who attack “Turkishness,” but does precious little when it comes to defending Turkey’s secularism and democracy from attacks.

      Many people, be they non-religious, Christian or Muslim, hope that Turkey’s political leaders might put a stop to this short-sightedness and help instead the Turkish nation show Europe and the world Turkey’s real face, one that believes in freedom, democracy and truth.

      Only this way can the vicious cycle of prejudice and suspicion between European countries and Turkey be broken, thus allowing the former to open their doors to the latter.
      General Antranik (1865-1927): “I am not a nationalist. I recognize only one nation, the nation of the oppressed.”

      Comment


      • Can he ride his mountain bike?

        Turkish jail was tough, says German teen in sex case
        Tuesday, December 18, 2007

        BERLIN - AFP

        A German teenager Sunday described his eight-month detention in a Turkish jail on charges of sexually abusing a British girl as "very tough" after being freed on bail and flown back to Germany.

        "It was a very tough time and I need a lot of rest," Marco Weiss told RTL television of the ordeal in his first full interview since leaving jail in the Mediterranean seaside resort of Antalya in southern Turkey Friday.

        The 17-year-old said was he "overjoyed to be back home with my family, with my mother and father, and to be able to spend Christmas with them. I want to thank everybody who supported me." Weiss arrived in Germany Saturday after spending 247 days in jail in Antalya where he was accused by a woman of sexually abusing her 13-year-old daughter in a hotel room. He denied the charges, saying he had consensual physical contact with the girl but not intercourse. He has insisted that she told him she was 15.

        The girl, identified as Charlotte M. from Manchester, has refused to return to Turkey to give evidence in person. "When I heard the charges I thought at first that they had confused me with somebody else," Weiss told RTL. "And when I was locked up, I kept thinking that the whole matter would clear itself up."

        Weiss was released on bail by a court in Antalya Friday and Turkish media reported that the next hearing in his trial has been set for April 1, 2008. The court's decision came a day after lawyers acting for Weiss put in an urgent application at the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg to secure his release. They argued that the teenager's detention was a violation of his right to liberty and was affecting his health. German media have given extensive coverage to the case since Weiss was jailed in April and the German government and the European Union have put pressure on Ankara to end his detention.

        Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged last month that Berlin would "do what we can to help this young man" and said Friday she was "relieved" that he had been freed and allowed to return to Germany. Weiss was flown back to Nuremberg by private jet in the early hours of Saturday morning, and was taken from there to his hometown of Uelzen in northern Germany. A law professor from Cologne told Bild am Sonntag newspaper that whether Weiss returned to Turkey to stand trial would be up to his conscience. "This will be up to his goodwill and his sense of duty because as a German national he cannot be extradited to Turkey," Thomas Weigend said.

        Comment


        • Originally posted by steph View Post
          A law professor from Cologne told Bild am Sonntag newspaper that whether Weiss returned to Turkey to stand trial would be up to his conscience. "This will be up to his goodwill and his sense of duty because as a German national he cannot be extradited to Turkey," Thomas Weigend said.
          Which is why he was not permitted to return to Germany earlier.

          I question why this article is in this thread. If anything, it exhibits German intolerance, bigotry, and double standards.
          Plenipotentiary meow!

          Comment


          • TDn editorial by Yusuf KANLI
            Priest attack; not an isolated incident
            Tuesday, December 18, 2007


            Rather than just putting teenagers behind bars, the state should go after the masterminds of religious and ethnic crime in this country

            Yusuf KANLI

            We may want to believe that it was perhaps just a �minor isolated incident� but the stabbing of a Catholic priest on Sunday in İzmir has to be taken very seriously by the Turkish authorities in view of the reality that demonstrates an increase in attacks in this country on non-Muslims by some �young people� who most probably were instigated to commit their crimes by some �elders� well-aware of what they were doing.

            In Sunday's unfortunate case, Father Adriano Francini was stabbed in the stomach in an attack in the Saint Antoine Church in the western city of İzmir. He was slightly injured and according to local sources his life is not in danger. Apparently, the 19-year-old assailant boy, identified only by his initials R.B., and who was captured by police shortly after the attack with the knife he used, had traveled to İzmir from his home in Balıkesir � about 150 kilometers (93 miles) to the northeast � after church officials invited him to attend a service and he got angry after a conversation with the priest and stabbed him.

            He was reportedly asking how he could convert to Christianity and the priest told him that it was not easy to convert to Christianity and that there were a number of steps he had to take when the boy got angry and stabbed him.

            In this predominantly Muslim but strictly secular country that prides itself on its record of religious tolerance, the assault is the latest in a string of attacks against non-Muslim people. Only on Apr. 18 three Protestants were butchered to death at the offices of a Christian publishing house in the eastern city of Malatya. Seven young men went on trial last month for the murders. Again, in February, Father Andrea Santoro, an Italian-Catholic priest, was shot dead in the Black Sea port city of Trabzon by a 16-year-old murderer who was later sentenced to more than 18 years behind bars for the murder. In July 2006, a �mentally disturbed� man stabbed French national Pierre Brunissen in the Black Sea city of Samsun. Our colleague Hrant Dink was murdered in cold blood in front of his weekly Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos in January 2007 by a teenager, Ogun Samast, from Trabzon.



            Nationalism is not a threat, but...

            It appears that we are all doing a gross injustice to the concept of �nationalism� as if it were something dreadful, a thing both bad and unacceptable, whereas true nationalism is a very noble concept that is neither racist nor has any relationship with xenophobia.

            Nationalism is patriotism. Nationalism means love for nation and country. Nationalism is not an ethnic concept; to the contrary, it is an all-inclusive patriotic bond that unites everyone living in a land. At least that's what we understand about nationalism.

            Love for yourself; love for your family; love for your neighborhood; love for your district; love for your city; and love for your people and country are prerequisites for being a nationalist.

            Nationalism is a bond that unites us, despite our differences, as an integrated whole rather than dividing us. Irrespective of ethnic, cultural or religious background or color of skin, everyone living in this land are members of this nation, and nationalism requires us to embrace them as members of our big family.

            If we understand nationalism within this framework, it cannot be a threat. To the contrary, it might be a magical tool that might help us overcome many of the problems our society has been facing for some time.

            However, micro-nationalism and extreme nationalism bordering on racism, or racism disguised as nationalism, may lead to disaster. Religious intolerance, likewise, has been a headache of this society. Nationalist obsession mixed with religious intolerance, therefore might be the biggest problem this country can ever face.

            It is a fact that nationalism is on the rise in this country... It is a fact that religious intolerance is spreading in this country... Rather than burying our heads in sand like ostriches and pretending as if there is no problem, we have to accept the increasing problem in our society and take measures against it.

            And, of course, if our security forces and the judicial system suffice in netting the teenagers involved in these crimes, don't explore who the masterminds behind them are and don't bring to justice those elements in both the police and the gendarmerie who apparently are involved to some degree in this mess, this country is compelled to live through new episodes of the same old tragedy once every other month.

            Comment


            • http://www.economist.com/world/europ...ry_id=10337900

              Turkey and its Christians
              The cross and the crescent

              Dec 19th 2007 | ISTANBUL
              From The Economist print edition

              Why Christians feel under threat in today's Turkey

              AFP

              THIS has been a bad year for Orhan Ant. As a Protestant missionary in Samsun, on the Black Sea, he has had death threats and his church has been repeatedly stoned. Local newspapers called him a foreign agent. A group of youths tried to kidnap him as he was driving home. His pleas for police protection have gone unheeded.

              Mr Ant is not alone. All over Turkey, Christians are under attack. In January Hrant Dink, an ethnic Armenian newspaper editor, was shot dead in Istanbul by a teenager who said he had “insulted Turkishness”. In April two Turks and a German, all evangelists, were murdered in Malatya. Their killers bound and tortured them before slitting their throats. In December an Italian Catholic priest was knifed by a teenager in Izmir. Another Italian priest was shot dead in Trabzon in 2006.


              Many blame the attacks on a new ultra-nationalism, tinged with Islamic militancy, that has swept across Turkey. Unemployed teenagers in the Black Sea region seem especially prone to it. “The plight of Christians is critical,” says Husnu Ondul, president of the Ankara-based Turkish Human Rights Association. Like many others, he believes that the “deep state”, comprising a few judges, army officers and security officials who need enemies to justify their grip on power, is behind the attacks.

              That may seem far-fetched. Yet evidence leaked to the media in the Dink and Malatya cases points to collusion between the perpetrators and rogue elements in the police and the army. It also suggests that the Istanbul police were tipped off about Mr Dink's murder a year before it was carried out. “So why did the Istanbul police do nothing to prevent it?” wonders Ergin Cinmen, a lawyer for the Dink family.

              Respecting the religious freedom of non-Muslims is essential to Turkey's hopes of joining the European Union. Laws against Christians repairing their churches have been relaxed. Overriding objections from pious constituents, the ruling Justice and Development (AK) party has just restored an ancient Armenian church in eastern Turkey. School textbooks are being purged of an anti-Western bias.

              Yet many Christian grievances remain. The prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, resists calls to reopen the Greek Orthodox Halki seminary on Heybeli island off Istanbul, shut down in 1971. Turkey refuses to recognise the ecumenical title of the Greek Orthodox patriarch, Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of over 200m Orthodox Christians. The patriarch, a loyal Turkish citizen, has lobbied hard for Turkey's EU membership. But this has only reinforced suspicions among ultra-nationalist detractors, who accuse him of trying to “Christianise” Turkey and wanting a Vatican-style state in the heart of Istanbul.

              Never mind that the Greek Orthodox church in Istanbul has dwindled to 4,000 souls, many of them too old to follow their children abroad. Nor that the patriarch must under Turkish law be a Turkish citizen, a rule which is making it difficult to find a successor to Bartholomew I. “They [ie, the Turks] apparently won't regard the conquest of Constantinople as complete until the patriarchate ceases to exist and all Christians have been frightened away,” suggests one restorer of icons in Istanbul.

              The government has yet to approve a draft bill to help non-Muslims recover thousands of properties that have been confiscated by the state and either sold or left to decay. The Aya Yorgi church in Istanbul's Edirnekapi district, which was badly damaged in an earthquake, is one sad example. Its walls are cracked, its roof is leaking; a marble angel lies in pieces on the floor. “All we ask is to be permitted to rescue our church, but we cannot hammer a single nail,” complains Bishop Dionysios, a Greek Orthodox prelate who still conducts services there.

              Many Christians concede that AK has treated them better than its secular predecessors did. They blame the deep state for their recent troubles. But the excuse of the deep state's power is wearing thin after AK's big victory in July's general election. “With such a strong mandate, the government's failure to meet our demands can only mean one thing, that the deep state is still in charge,” says a Christian priest. Or perhaps that AK believes in religious freedom for Muslims, but not Christians.
              General Antranik (1865-1927): “I am not a nationalist. I recognize only one nation, the nation of the oppressed.”

              Comment


              • http://www.adnkronos.com/AKI/English...1.0.1704504671


                Turkey: Christians celebrate low-key Christmas after recent attack



                Istanbul, 24 Dec. (AKI) - Turkey's 100,000-strong Christian community was on Monday hoping that Christmas this year would pass uneventfully without further sectarian attacks such as that earlier this month against an Italian Catholic priest - the latest of several in little over a year.

                As schools and offices in the overwhelmingly Muslim majority country will be open on Tuesday, 25 December will simply be a day that comes between Eid al-Adha (the Islamic festival of sacrifice) and the New Year celebrations.

                Christmas trees decked in glass baubles and Christmas lights have been put up in some streets and shop windows. "These are signs of a blending of Christian and Muslim cultures that have nothing to do with the substance of Christmas," Monsignor Luigi Padovese, apostolic vicar in Turkey, told Adnkronos International (AKI)

                The knife attack by a Muslim youth last Sunday against an Italian Catholic priest, Adriano Franchini, in the Turkish port city of Izmir, has undoubtedly marred the festivities for Christians and left many in a sombre mood.

                Franchini is out of danger and the Turkish authorities have described the attack as an isolated incident. But many Christians feel threatened, recalling many other incidents, such as the fatal shooting at point-blank range in February last year of another Italian priest, Andrea Santoro, by a teenage youth in the Black Sea port city of Trabzon.

                Santoro's successor, French priest Pierre Brunissen, was also stabbed in an attack in Samsun on the Black Sea in February last year.

                The murder of Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in Istanbul in January this year, and the murders in April of three Bible publishers in the southeastern city of Malatya are also all too fresh in Turkish Christians' minds.

                Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday, cited by the New Anatolian Daily that attacks on several priests and a publishing house in Turkey are incidents that the government "can never accept."

                "We will do what we have to do (to end these incidents) till the very end," he told a gathering in Istanbul to exchange Muslim Eid al-Adha (festival of sacrifice) greetings.

                "Those who are staging them do not know anything about Islam," he said.

                The visit in November 2006 to Turkey of Pope Benedict XVI has changed little, however, said Padovese. "The climate, basically remains the same," he stated.

                Christians had hoped that it would calm the anti-Christian sentiment prevalent in many sectors of Turkish society and and show that they are interested in dialogue rather than proselytism.

                "There are groups and local communities which have shown few signs of opening up towards minorities. Among these are the ultranationalist press, which continues to inflame the situation."

                "We need to make a distinction between a lay state and laicism," said Padovese. "The difficulties that Christians have faced in Turkey are the direct result of nationalism that in the name of secularism has oppressed the country's minorities," he underlined.

                Erdogan's ruling Islamist-rooted AKP party has shown recent signs of openness towards Christians, however. In early December, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the Istanbul-based spiritual leader of the world's 250 million Orthodox Christians, won a 10-year battle to be allowed to celebrate mass in a church in the Mediterranean coastal city of Demre.

                Demre is built close to the birthplace of St Nicholas - the inspiration for modern-day Santa Claus - whose remains are buried in the southern Italian city of Bari.

                Padovese termed the Turkish government's go-ahead for the mass in Demre's medieval church of St Nicholas a symbolic "but extremely significant" gesture that shows the direction in which it is going."

                He described the government's moves to remove the current ban on wearing the Muslim headscarf in state offices and universities as a positive step. "I believe a law of this kind, drafted by moderate Islamists, should on balance be seen in a positive light by Christians," Padovese said.

                "I would like these steps towards dialogue and tolerance to rapidly pick up speed, but I understand that Turkey is a country that does not have just one soul, but many," he concluded.

                Muslims form 99.08 percent (mostly Sunni), and Christians and Jews the remaining 0.2 percent.
                General Antranik (1865-1927): “I am not a nationalist. I recognize only one nation, the nation of the oppressed.”

                Comment


                • Turkey and its Christians

                  The cross and the crescent
                  Dec 19th 2007 | ISTANBUL
                  From The Economist print edition


                  Why Christians feel under threat in today's Turkey
                  AFP


                  THIS has been a bad year for Orhan Ant. As a Protestant missionary in Samsun, on the Black Sea, he has had death threats and his church has been repeatedly stoned. Local newspapers called him a foreign agent. A group of youths tried to kidnap him as he was driving home. His pleas for police protection have gone unheeded.

                  Mr Ant is not alone. All over Turkey, Christians are under attack. In January Hrant Dink, an ethnic Armenian newspaper editor, was shot dead in Istanbul by a teenager who said he had “insulted Turkishness”. In April two Turks and a German, all evangelists, were murdered in Malatya. Their killers bound and tortured them before slitting their throats. In December an Italian Catholic priest was knifed by a teenager in Izmir. Another Italian priest was shot dead in Trabzon in 2006.

                  Many blame the attacks on a new ultra-nationalism, tinged with Islamic militancy, that has swept across Turkey. Unemployed teenagers in the Black Sea region seem especially prone to it. “The plight of Christians is critical,” says Husnu Ondul, president of the Ankara-based Turkish Human Rights Association. Like many others, he believes that the “deep state”, comprising a few judges, army officers and security officials who need enemies to justify their grip on power, is behind the attacks.

                  That may seem far-fetched. Yet evidence leaked to the media in the Dink and Malatya cases points to collusion between the perpetrators and rogue elements in the police and the army. It also suggests that the Istanbul police were tipped off about Mr Dink's murder a year before it was carried out. “So why did the Istanbul police do nothing to prevent it?” wonders Ergin Cinmen, a lawyer for the Dink family.

                  Respecting the religious freedom of non-Muslims is essential to Turkey's hopes of joining the European Union. Laws against Christians repairing their churches have been relaxed. Overriding objections from pious constituents, the ruling Justice and Development (AK) party has just restored an ancient Armenian church in eastern Turkey. School textbooks are being purged of an anti-Western bias.

                  Yet many Christian grievances remain. The prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, resists calls to reopen the Greek Orthodox Halki seminary on Heybeli island off Istanbul, shut down in 1971. Turkey refuses to recognise the ecumenical title of the Greek Orthodox patriarch, Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of over 200m Orthodox Christians. The patriarch, a loyal Turkish citizen, has lobbied hard for Turkey's EU membership. But this has only reinforced suspicions among ultra-nationalist detractors, who accuse him of trying to “Christianise” Turkey and wanting a Vatican-style state in the heart of Istanbul.

                  Never mind that the Greek Orthodox church in Istanbul has dwindled to 4,000 souls, many of them too old to follow their children abroad. Nor that the patriarch must under Turkish law be a Turkish citizen, a rule which is making it difficult to find a successor to Bartholomew I. “They [ie, the Turks] apparently won't regard the conquest of Constantinople as complete until the patriarchate ceases to exist and all Christians have been frightened away,” suggests one restorer of icons in Istanbul.

                  The government has yet to approve a draft bill to help non-Muslims recover thousands of properties that have been confiscated by the state and either sold or left to decay. The Aya Yorgi church in Istanbul's Edirnekapi district, which was badly damaged in an earthquake, is one sad example. Its walls are cracked, its roof is leaking; a marble angel lies in pieces on the floor. “All we ask is to be permitted to rescue our church, but we cannot hammer a single nail,” complains Bishop Dionysios, a Greek Orthodox prelate who still conducts services there.

                  Many Christians concede that AK has treated them better than its secular predecessors did. They blame the deep state for their recent troubles. But the excuse of the deep state's power is wearing thin after AK's big victory in July's general election. “With such a strong mandate, the government's failure to meet our demands can only mean one thing, that the deep state is still in charge,” says a Christian priest. Or perhaps that AK believes in religious freedom for Muslims, but not Christians.
                  General Antranik (1865-1927): “I am not a nationalist. I recognize only one nation, the nation of the oppressed.”

                  Comment


                  • ARMENPRESS

                    WELL-TO-DO ARMENIANS SEEKING SAFE HAVEN OUTSIDE TURKEY


                    ISTANBUL, DECEMBER 25, ARMENPRESS: A lawyer for
                    Turkish Armenians, Diran Bakar, said the departure of
                    Hrant Dink's children from Turkey after their father's
                    assassination has prompted many other well-to-do
                    Armenian families to seek safer havens abroad.
                    In an interview with Turkish ANKA news agency Diran
                    Bakar said the latest attack on a Catholic priest
                    Adriano Franchini in Izmir added to local Armenians'
                    concerns about whether the predominantly Muslim
                    country - which is bidding for European Union
                    membership - can protect its Christian community.
                    In February 2006 a 16-year-old boy fatally shot a
                    Catholic priest as he knelt in prayer inside his
                    church in the Black Sea city of Trabzon.
                    Following that killing, a Catholic priest was
                    attacked and threatened in Izmir, and another was
                    stabbed in the Black Sea port of Samsun. In November
                    this year, an Assyrian cleric was abducted in
                    southeast Turkey and rescued by security forces. In
                    April, three Christians were killed at a publishing
                    house that produces Bibles.
                    Diran Bakar said the idea of leaving the country is
                    getting especially stronger among young Armenians.
                    General Antranik (1865-1927): “I am not a nationalist. I recognize only one nation, the nation of the oppressed.”

                    Comment


                    • My father saw this in the early sixties and moved us out, the real question is whats taking the rest so long?
                      "All truth passes through three stages:
                      First, it is ridiculed;
                      Second, it is violently opposed; and
                      Third, it is accepted as self-evident."

                      Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

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