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Can Turkey Learn Tolerance?

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  • http://www.bosnewslife.com/europe/tu...-false-charges



    Turkish Pastor Facing Jail On "False" Charges
    Wednesday, 18 June 2008 (1 hours ago)
    By BosNewsLife News Center
    Pastor Orhan Piçaklar facing prison term.
    ISTANBUL, TURKEY (BosNewsLife)-- An evangelical pastor in Turkey faced a possible jail term Wednesday, June 18, just days after a prosecutor began investigating him on charges that included to blasphemy against Islam, Christian rights investigators said.

    Pastor Orhan Piçaklar of the Samsun Agape Church in the Black Sea coastal city of Samsun found a notice Sunday, June 15, notifying him that he was a suspect in a court case and requiring him to come immediately to give testimony, said US-based advocacy group International Christian Concern (ICC) with Website www.persecution.org.

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

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

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

    PASTOR DENIES

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

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

    The pastor and his church have been the target of opposition in the past. In January this year a Turkish teenager who vowed to kill him and "massacre" Christians in Samsun was released by a local court because he was "too young."

    The 17-year-old Semih Seymen was detained over the weekend after he called Pastor Picaklar since late December, threatening to kill him, said Turkey’s Taraf newspaper. It came after previous attacks against the church, including in January 2007, when some 30 heavy rocks were thrown through the Samsun Agape Church windows, several of them smashing interior windows and denting walls, the pastor said earlier.

    CHURCH CLOSED

    Just before the latest tensions surrounding the Samsun Agape Church, another Protestant church in the Turkish capital Ankara was ordered to close down. Local authorities had reportedly been trying to shut down The Batikent Protestant Church on charges of "zoning code violations."

    ICC said the development are "forcing the church to fight yet another legal battle over a case it has already won." The rights group said founding American pastor Daniel Wickwire already asked his lawyers to challenge the police notice they received on June 2.

    Wickwire, who has been a missionary pastor in Ankara for 23 years, said in a statement that, "It is very obvious that what is happening to our church is a pre-meditated, continuous and jointly orchestrated...[It is] a direct attack against the Church as a whole in Turkey by the right-wing Islamic government that is currently in control in Turkey."

    GROWING CONCERN

    The incidents have underscored growing concerns among Christian leaders in a country where at least five Christians were killed and several others injured in attacks within the last two years. In April last year, a German and two Turkish citizens — were found with their hands and legs bound and their throats slit at the Zirve Christian publishing house in the central city of Malatya.

    The attack came shortly after a suspected nationalist killed Armenian Christian editor Hrant Dink. In February 2006, a Turkish teenager shot a Catholic priest dead as he prayed in his church, and two other Catholic priests were attacked later that year.

    The European Union has complained that Turkey, an EU applicant, fails to fully protect the religious freedoms of its tiny Christian minority, which numbers some 100,000 in a predominantly Muslim population of nearly 75 million people, according to estimates. While Turkey is officially “secular” critics say Muslim militants and nationalists oppose Christian activities in the country. (With BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos, BosNewsLife Research and reporting from Turkey).
    General Antranik (1865-1927): “I am not a nationalist. I recognize only one nation, the nation of the oppressed.”

    Comment


    • Originally posted by Joseph View Post
      http://www.bosnewslife.com/europe/tu...-false-charges



      Turkish Pastor Facing Jail On "False" Charges
      Wednesday, 18 June 2008 (1 hours ago)
      By BosNewsLife News Center
      Pastor Orhan Piçaklar facing prison term.
      ISTANBUL, TURKEY (BosNewsLife)-- An evangelical pastor in Turkey faced a possible jail term Wednesday, June 18, just days after a prosecutor began investigating him on charges that included to blasphemy against Islam, Christian rights investigators said.

      Pastor Orhan Piçaklar of the Samsun Agape Church in the Black Sea coastal city of Samsun found a notice Sunday, June 15, notifying him that he was a suspect in a court case and requiring him to come immediately to give testimony, said US-based advocacy group International Christian Concern (ICC) with Website www.persecution.org.

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

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

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

      PASTOR DENIES

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

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

      The pastor and his church have been the target of opposition in the past. In January this year a Turkish teenager who vowed to kill him and "massacre" Christians in Samsun was released by a local court because he was "too young."

      The 17-year-old Semih Seymen was detained over the weekend after he called Pastor Picaklar since late December, threatening to kill him, said Turkey’s Taraf newspaper. It came after previous attacks against the church, including in January 2007, when some 30 heavy rocks were thrown through the Samsun Agape Church windows, several of them smashing interior windows and denting walls, the pastor said earlier.

      CHURCH CLOSED

      Just before the latest tensions surrounding the Samsun Agape Church, another Protestant church in the Turkish capital Ankara was ordered to close down. Local authorities had reportedly been trying to shut down The Batikent Protestant Church on charges of "zoning code violations."

      ICC said the development are "forcing the church to fight yet another legal battle over a case it has already won." The rights group said founding American pastor Daniel Wickwire already asked his lawyers to challenge the police notice they received on June 2.

      Wickwire, who has been a missionary pastor in Ankara for 23 years, said in a statement that, "It is very obvious that what is happening to our church is a pre-meditated, continuous and jointly orchestrated...[It is] a direct attack against the Church as a whole in Turkey by the right-wing Islamic government that is currently in control in Turkey."

      GROWING CONCERN

      The incidents have underscored growing concerns among Christian leaders in a country where at least five Christians were killed and several others injured in attacks within the last two years. In April last year, a German and two Turkish citizens — were found with their hands and legs bound and their throats slit at the Zirve Christian publishing house in the central city of Malatya.

      The attack came shortly after a suspected nationalist killed Armenian Christian editor Hrant Dink. In February 2006, a Turkish teenager shot a Catholic priest dead as he prayed in his church, and two other Catholic priests were attacked later that year.

      The European Union has complained that Turkey, an EU applicant, fails to fully protect the religious freedoms of its tiny Christian minority, which numbers some 100,000 in a predominantly Muslim population of nearly 75 million people, according to estimates. While Turkey is officially “secular” critics say Muslim militants and nationalists oppose Christian activities in the country. (With BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos, BosNewsLife Research and reporting from Turkey).

      I`m getting more and more pessimistic about Turkey joining the EU.

      Comment


      • Originally posted by Alexandros View Post
        I`m getting more and more pessimistic about Turkey joining the EU.
        Despite what the overwhelming majority of their citizens want, the EU politicians {besides France's Sarkozy, Austria, and some others} seem to be weakening the guidelines so as to let Turkey join. Turkey's entry will be delayed, they will eventually get in without really having to change very much in how they conduct their form of "democracy"; they will not be forced to conform to EU standards. I hate the neocons, but I agree somewhat that the Europeans are weak willed and inept.
        General Antranik (1865-1927): “I am not a nationalist. I recognize only one nation, the nation of the oppressed.”

        Comment


        • http://www.panarmenian.net/news/eng/?nid=26372

          Congressman Berman urges Turkey to end counter-productive practice of closed borders
          19.06.2008 16:09 GMT+04:00

          /PanARMENIAN.Net/ Between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea lie the countries of the Caucasus – Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. Due to disputes that have festered over the course of many years, there are enough compelling questions involving these three countries and their neighbors to occupy us all day long, Howard L. Berman, chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Relations Committee said in his opening statement at “The Caucasus: Frozen Conflicts and Closed Borders” hearing.

          “During the course of this hearing I’d like to focus on the frozen conflicts affecting economic and political integration in the region, and how U.S. foreign policy is responding to them.

          “I’d like to start with one of the most puzzling and problematic matters: the Turkish land blockade of Armenia, in place since 1993. It’s a punishing policy that holds the Armenian economy back and enormously increases the cost of much of Armenia’s trade with other nations.

          “The land blockade is also, quite possibly, illegal, as it seems to breach Turkey’s undertaking in the 1922 Treaty of Kars to keep its border-crossings with Armenia open. And it violates the spirit of the World Trade Organization, of which both Turkey and Armenia are members.


          “It’s baffling why Ankara would want to pursue this land blockade, which also harms the economy of eastern Turkey, and is therefore clearly contrary to its own interests. It’s no secret that many Turkish businessmen, especially in the east, have been lobbying for lifting the land blockade.

          “It also seems manifestly contrary to the strategic interests of Turkey, which purports to be a solid member of the Western alliance. Without an outlet to Turkey or Azerbaijan, Armenia is forced to rely on its connections to two of Turkey’s historical rivals, Russia and Iran – and given how antithetical the Iranian regime is to the secular, modern Turkish government, it seems odd that Ankara would want to undertake any actions that will enhance Tehran’s influence in Yerevan.

          “Furthermore, the land blockade has done absolutely nothing to persuade Armenia to alter its policies on the Nagorno Karabakh issue – the ostensible cause of the land blockade in the first place. Nor is there any prospect that it will do so. Armenia has demonstrated its resolve to support the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh. Turkey is more likely to win influence with the Armenian government if it pursues a policy of good-neighborliness than if it slams the border closed.

          “Why hasn’t the State Department – which opposes the land blockade – spoken out more forcefully on this matter? Certainly it’s in our interest to diminish Iran’s influence among its neighbors, not to enhance it. Ambassador Fried, I’m hoping you’ll lay out for us the steps our government has taken and is taking to convince our ally Turkey to end, once and for all, this counter-productive practice of closed borders,” Congressman Berman said.
          General Antranik (1865-1927): “I am not a nationalist. I recognize only one nation, the nation of the oppressed.”

          Comment


          • Kurdish child choir case dropped

            By Sarah Rainsford
            BBC News, Istanbul

            A Turkish judge has thrown out a case against members of a Kurdish children's choir, who faced up five years in prison over a song they sang.

            The choir - whose members are aged from 12 to 17 - was accused of spreading propaganda for the outlawed Kurdish separatist rebel group, the PKK.

            Charges were brought after the group sang in a world music festival in San Francisco, and sang a march in Kurdish.

            But as three of the choir appeared in court, it decided to drop the case.

            A new prosecutor in the court in the south-eastern city of Diyarbakir said there was no criminal case for the three teenagers, aged 15 to 17, to answer.

            The judge agreed, saying the children had not intended to commit a crime.

            The case against six younger choir-members, aged 12-15, which had been scheduled for July, is expected to be thrown out too, a lawyer for the children said.

            Old Kurdish

            The original prosecutor claimed the song "Ey Raqip", or "Hey, Enemy", is the anthem of the PKK: the separatist militant group Turkish troops have been fighting for two decades.

            Please turn on JavaScript. Media requires JavaScript to play.

            The children said they did not even understand the words of the song

            The conflict has cost almost 40,000 lives.

            The indictment also said PKK flags were displayed at the music festival - and accused the children of making propaganda for terrorists.

            These events were not political propaganda, nor were they designed with a separatist agenda in mind
            Michael Santoro
            Festival organiser
            One of the singers told the BBC the lyrics to the march were in an old form of Kurdish, and he and his friends did not even understand them. He said the choir wanted to showcase Kurdish culture, not engage in politics - and they only sang the march in response to a request from the audience.

            Choir mistress accused

            Michael Santoro, who is in charge of the San Francisco World Music Festival, and who personally invited the choir from Diyarbakir to take part, said: "These events were not political propaganda, nor were they designed with a separatist agenda in mind."

            As for the prosecutor's claim that the children performed beneath PKK flags, Mr Santoro recalled that one audience member draped the flag of Kurdish northern Iraq on part of the stage, but said there were no PKK flags or insignia at the venue.

            However, a lawyer for the children, Baran Pamuk, said he was angry because the judge's ruling meant that singing Ey Raqip remained a crime.

            An arrest warrant for the choir mistress, Duygu Ozger Bayar, who stayed in the US after the festival to study English, remains in force.

            Suspicion

            There is far more freedom in Turkey today to speak or sing in Kurdish than when the PKK took up arms, in the days when even the existence of the Kurds was officially denied here.

            Private courses in the Kurdish language are now permitted and there is some Kurdish language broadcasting on Turkish state TV.

            But there are still strict limits. Those who insist on a distinct Kurdish identity are widely viewed with suspicion and state prosecutors regularly file criminal charges for spreading PKK propaganda or for supporting separatism.

            The main pro-Kurdish political party, the DTP, has 20 seats in the current parliament but is now on trial and facing closure. It is accused of having links to the PKK and being the "focus of activities against the integrity of the state".

            Kurdish human rights groups also say many children who were involved in street protests that became riots in the south-east two years ago are still on trial there.

            They have been charged with supporting the PKK - or even belonging to it.

            Story from BBC NEWS:
            http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/h...pe/7462728.stm
            General Antranik (1865-1927): “I am not a nationalist. I recognize only one nation, the nation of the oppressed.”

            Comment


            • http://www.panarmenian.net/news/eng/?nid=26374

              U.S. Congressmen call on White House to stop Azeri war machine
              19.06.2008 18:10 GMT+04:00

              /PanARMENIAN.Net/ During the House “The Caucasus: Frozen Conflicts and Closed Borders” hearing, in addition to Chairman Berman who correctly pointed out that progress on Turkey’s lifting of the blockade should not be linked to the Nagorno Karabakh peace process, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) stated that the blockade "violates U.S. policy," the Armenian Assembly of America reported.

              Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), while expressing support for the self-determination of the people of Nagorno Karabakh, stated that we have to fight against the blockade and that "there is no excuse for it." Sherman asked what pressure the Administration was putting on Turkey to lift the blockade, of which Assistant Secretary Fried responded that the Administration wants to see lifted and has encouraged both sides to normalize relations.

              In addition to the blockade issue, Members were also deeply concerned about Azerbaijan’s ongoing warmongering and bellicose statements. Rep. Ed Royce’s (R-CA) concerns were echoed by Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Frank Pallone, Jr (D-NJ) and Joseph Knollenberg (R-MI). Rep. Knollenberg noted that Azerbaijan is a dictatorship that continues its bellicose statements unabated and asked what the Administration is doing to stop the Azeri war machine. Rep. Pallone also raised this critically important issue and called upon the Administration to ensure greater contact between the Nagorno Karabakh government and the Azerbaijani government, as well as confidence building measures.

              Rep. Pallone further noted his concerns about Azerbaijan’s pressure on the State Department with respect to U.S.-Nagorno Karabakh contacts. Fried for his part, responded that bellicose statements are not helpful and added that the Azeris deny that they have any intention of resuming hostilities. Fried also believed that increased contacts overall were important and noted that a solution to the peace process, which the U.S. and the parties are working toward, will be the best way forward.

              In perhaps the most intense exchange during the hearing, Rep. Diane Watson (D-CA) focused her attention on the Armenian Genocide and questioned the State Department’s policy on instructing its staff not to use the term genocide. In his response, Secretary Fried said that the Administration does not deny the historical events, but fell short of employing the proper term. Stating that the Armenian Genocide, with its "mass killings, murder, mass exile, brutality" is "beyond denial," the Congresswoman asked "Why does the United States not recognize that it was genocide?"

              "Was it genocide? Yes or no?" Watson demanded. After several attempts to receive an answer, Watson yielded back her limited time stating, "it is clear that I am not going to get an answer to my question."

              Reinforcing Watson, Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) recalled the efforts and reports of then Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Henry Morgenthau, who described in great detail the horrors of 1915. Fried noted that he was very familiar with Morgenthau’s reports stating that they were "stark, stunning and sadly accurate and that the intent was not to move people in a peaceful way."

              Adding to questions in regard to genocide, Rep. Schiff asked Secretary Fried, "Would you describe the mass killing during the holocaust as a genocide?" "Yes," Fried responded. Schiff then asked, "Would you describe the mass killing in Cambodia as a genocide?" Fried responded, "I'd like to reserve only because I am not as familiar with that." Schiff then asked, "Would you describe the mass killing in Rwanda as a genocide?" Which Fried said "We have used that word, the administration has used that word, yes." Moving on, Schiff asked "Would you describe the mass killing in Darfur as a genocide?" "I’d like to reserve on that but I believe we have used that word," Fried responded. Schiff quickly added, that "You have used that word, I can tell you have, and we should."

              In closing his questions, Schiff then asked, "Would you describe the mass killings of the Armenians as a genocide?" Fried responded "This Administration and the President's policy is not to use that word, although I want to be clear, we have never denied the historical facts of the mass killings, murders, forced exiles and brutality that occurred in those years as a matter of historical fact."

              On other policy matters, Rep. Sherman (D-CA) discussed Section 907, calling it another part of the embarrassing history of the administration in evading laws passed by Congress and then asked Fried if the State Department counsels its employees to avoid using the term genocide. And again, Secretary Fried reiterated that the State Department follows the President's policy, therefore, since the President does not use the term, neither will the State Department. Sherman also took the Secretary to task on the Administration’s proposed assistance cut to Armenia, noting that it was more than fifty percent, from fiscal year 2008. Sherman also sought clarification on whether the Millennium Challenge Account funding served as a replacement or supplement to the Freedom Support Act, of which Fried indicated that it was supplemental.

              Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny, who attended the hearing along with Assembly Congressional Relations Associate Bianka Dodov and Assembly Associate Director of Grassroots Taniel Koushakjian, stated that "We applaud the leadership of Chairman Berman in holding this important and timely hearing in which these critical policy issues were raised. For too long, these issues have been on the backburner and I want to thank the members of the Committee for placing them in the forefront. In a region where the U.S. is facing competition for influence, this hearing sends a clear message that the U.S. is deeply interested in and concerned about developments in the region."
              General Antranik (1865-1927): “I am not a nationalist. I recognize only one nation, the nation of the oppressed.”

              Comment




              • European Court finds Turkey guilty of murder of two Cypriots


                25.06.2008 19:23 GMT+04:00

                /PanARMENIAN.Net/ The Cyprus Action Network of America (CANA) applauded the decision by the European Court of Human Rights, which found Turkey guilty in the two cases of Cypriot demonstrators murdered in 1996, the CANA told PanARMENIAN.Net.

                “The murderers … must pay for their crimes! We cannot forget! We will not forget! Justice for Issak and Solomou! Justice for Cyprus!” the CANA statement says.

                Anastasios Isaak was lynched by a mob of Turkish soldiers and Turkish Cypriot "policemen" and other Turkish and Turkish Cypriot extremists belonging to a nationalist group called "Grey Wolves". It happened in the buffer zone separating the Turkish army occupied northern part of Cyprus from the southern part of the island.

                Solomos Solomou was shot dead at short range, by Turkish soldiers when he attempted to climb up a Turkish flag pole in the buffer zone.
                The Court unanimously ruled that Ankara is guilty of violating Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights in respect of the killing of Anastasios Isaak and Solomos Solomou.

                The Court also ruled that Turkey is guilty of violating Article 2 in respect of the failure to conduct ineffective investigation into the circumstances in which Anastasios Isaak and Solomos Solomou were killed.

                Under Article 41 (just satisfaction) of the Convention, the Court awarded 80,000 euro to Anastasios Isaak’s widow for pecuniary damage. In respect of non-pecuniary damage, the Court awarded 35,000 euro each to Anastasios Isaak’s widow, his parents, and to Solomos Solomou’s father, and also 15,000 euro to each of Anastasios Isaak’s and Solomos Solomou’s siblings. The applicants in both cases were also awarded 12,000 for costs and expenses.

                The two applications were filed to the Court by the families of Tasos Isaak and Solomou

                Link

                Comment


                • http://www.hellenicnews.com/readnews...d=8771&lang=US

                  reflections on a visit to Turkey


                  OPED
                  onal reflections on a visit to Turkey

                  By JOSEPH AL-SHANNIEK

                  Editor�s note: This summer Joseph Al-Shanniek, a senior at Boston College and student approved to begin graduate studies as an undergraduate, traveled to Turkey to study religion and politics through a Boston College (BC) program on the Islamic state of Turkey.
                  While returning from the Asian side of Turkey one day, I was approached by a young man who described himself as a Turkish nationalist. After finding out that I was an American of Greek and Jordanian descent, he informed me he hated “Americans and Greeks” – ignoring the part of me who is ethnically half Jordanian.
                  It could be explained that his hatred was rooted in the poor relations between East and West and in the fact that Greeks and Turks traditionally have had poor relations since the besieging of Constantinople in 1453 by the Ottoman Empire. Nonetheless, in this decade alone (2000 to present), relations between Turkey and Greece have begun to improve, especially since the successful 2004 Olympics in Greece which helped spark economic growth in the region and the joint construction of an oil pipeline being underwritten by the Turks, Greeks and Italians that will extend across Europe.
                  Turkish people are taught to feel a strong sense of nationalism from a young age and to revere Ataturk (“Father of Turkey”), the man who made Turkey into a “secular state” and saw the importance of beginning dialogue between the East and West. The Turkish state he took over was plagued by a tumultuous history of conquest and socio-political upheaval, with clashes over the centuries between Ottomans and Greeks and others. But even though Ataturk supposedly made Turkey secular, the nation has officially recognized and funded one religion, which happens to be Islam.
                  As I stepped off the ferry I was very nervous due to the conversation I had just had with the Turkish man. I had read and heard numerous accounts in Turkey of violence, bombings and a lack of civility or respect toward people of diverse backgrounds, including Christian and Jewish people and religious institutions. One of these institutions is the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the Orthodox Church located in Istanbul.
                  My young confronter�s antagonistic demeanor, I believe, was rooted in what he was taught at an early age. The reverence for Turkey ingrained in young people is unlike the national sense of pride Americans area taught in school. We are taught we have a right to form independent opinions about American government, whereas in Turkey it is illegal to speak against the government. But Turkish society is not completely secular because the government funds schools that teach Islam; the courses are about the Islamic tradition and strictly geared to Muslims, who make up 98 percent of the population. Turkey�s state-funded religious programs include approximately 80,000 mosques that are fully funded by the government. In the United States, religion is only taught in private schools and patriotism is not linked with religious courses in the public school system.
                  Turkey has many positives, including a strong economy, the hospitality of most if its people and the freedom to practice Islam. Mosques seem to be at every corner in the major cities of Istanbul and Ankara. During my visit, unfortunately, I found these positives to be overshadowed by a lack of liberties for minority populations and religions, which have been driven out and are not a part of the state-funded school system. This lack of respect struck a chord in me when our group had a personal audience in Istanbul with the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church. This holy man was humble, gracious and open to all peoples in spite of his precarious circumstance.
                  Later, during a meeting with the Grand Mufti, the highest Islamic leader in Istanbul, I asked about Turkey�s treatment of religious and ethnic minorities. and he responded to me by saying, “Bartholomeos [the Ecumenical Patriarch] likes to think of himself as the Ecumenical Patriarch ... . We do not acknowledge him as so … [and] Turkey has the same religious freedom as in America.” This was like him saying that Turkey does not acknowledge the Pope as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church or the Dalai Lama as leader of Tibetan Buddhists. The Mufti also stated that “the problems facing the [minority] Kurds have been solved.”
                  In the European Union Parliament�s February 2008 publication “Religious Freedom in Turkey: Situation of Religious Minorities,” the Turkish government�s stance on religious freedom is called “suspicious.” Since 1971, Turkey has repossessed churches and synagogues owned by the religious minorities. Orthodoxy, Catholicism and Judaism have practically been obliterated. All property and rights of these faiths have been strategically absorbed by the state without legal appeal. Turkey�s supreme court has ruled that religions other than Islam will not be recognized by the government; they may exist but not thrive.
                  The religious minorities cannot improve their buildings of worship without extensive lobbying, cannot have gift shops in their offices (as is the case of the Holy Patriarchate) due to tax issues for unrecognized religious sects, cannot dress in clerical clothing in public if they are not dressed as Muslims, and cannot train seminarians in Turkey.
                  Currently the Ecumenical Patriarchate appears to be facing extinction by the Turkish government. The Roman Catholic Church faces similar circumstances. The Archbishop of Cologne recently urged Turkey�s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to reopen one of its confiscated churches in Tarsus, the home city of Saint Paul. The appeal will most likely be ignored.
                  Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, leader of about 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide, seeks to create bridges with all people of faith, including Jews and Muslims. He has had a strong relationship with the late Pope John Paul II and current Pope Benedict XVI, has been a part of at least 21 major global symposiums promoting inter-religious dialogue since 1986, and meets regularly with Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders worldwide.
                  Most recently, he was acknowledged by Time magazine as the 11th Most Influential person in the world due to his concern for humanity and for ecological and political rights. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is like the Dalai Lama or the Pope in trying to establish a world united in harmony. In 1997 the Patriarch was awarded the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal, joining past recipients that included only three other religious figures: the Dalai Lama, Pope John II and Mother Teresa. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is commonly referred to as the “Green Patriarch” by governments and by the media worldwide for his efforts to raise awareness of the sacredness of our Earth which is threatened by global warming and other potential environmental catastrophies.
                  Patriarch Bartholomew has studied in several parts of the world to gain a broader religious and diplomatic understanding of diverse people. The Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Anglican Church, wrote in a Time magazine 2008 excerpt that “Patriarch Bartholomew … has turned the relative political weakness of the office into a strength, stak[ing] out a clear moral and spiritual vision that is not tangled up in … balances of power.”
                  This is the kind of office the Turkish government subjugates by closing down the Church�s orphanages and seminary on the island of Halki (Heybeliada).
                  The Turkish government does a fine job of providing amenities to tourists and promoting the religion of Islam. It falls far short of providing liberty for all its peoples, which include Jews, Armenians, Kurds and Greeks. Instead, Turkey seemingly hopes they will lose their religious identity and eventually disappear.
                  If it is to become the first Islamic state join the European Union, Turkey should free itself of intolerance and set an example to the world by granting institutions like the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Catholic Church and Jewish synagogues more freedom and true autonomy to operate and update their seminaries, orphanages and churches that can serve as beacons of peace for the world.
                  In the commentary of the Ecumenical Patriarch�s most recent book, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, says, “The Ecumenical Patriarch is renowned as a bridge-builder.” Turkey�s government should act as more of a “bridge builder” with its diverse populations and in support of furthering dialogue and respect among East and West nations. It can find no better example than its own Orthodox Patriarch.
                  Until Turkish leaders enhance tolerance and freedom for all people and promote true love of mankind, should the country be accepted into international communities of free nations such as the European Union? The question must be reviewed and answered.
                  General Antranik (1865-1927): “I am not a nationalist. I recognize only one nation, the nation of the oppressed.”

                  Comment


                  • Turkish Daily News, Turkey
                    July 10 2008


                    Turkish Press Scanner:
                    Teacher exiled over Dink remark ` Sabah


                    When referring to the Hrant Dink murder, high school teacher Aysel
                    Kılıç said in class that no one should be killed
                    for their thoughts and was exiled to Trabzon for that remark, daily
                    Sabah reported yesterday.

                    Trabzon is the city on Turkey's Black Sea coast where Dink's murderers
                    hail from. Kılıç was a literature teacher in
                    İzmir's Selçuk district. When one of the students said
                    in class that he was happy Dink had died, Kılıç
                    replied, `Killing someone for his or her thoughts is not right.' The
                    students related this to their parents and one parent applied to the
                    Selçuk District Administration, Education Ministry, and
                    Ä°zmir Governor's Office with the claim that
                    Kılıç said Turks have committed crimes against
                    Armenians, that she humiliated Turks because of the Dink murder, that
                    she said the living conditions of Abdullah Ã-calan were bad, that
                    she claimed Fehriye Erdal, who killed businessman Ã-zdemir
                    Sabancı, was not a murderer, and that she gave low grades to
                    students that opposed her views. Two inspectors commissioned by the
                    ministry found the teacher guilty and a criminal case was filed
                    against her. Meanwhile Kılıç was appointed to a
                    high school in Trabzon. Kılıç has applied for a
                    stay in proceedings and approached the Selçuk Public
                    Prosecutor's Office with a brief saying that the accusations are
                    false.

                    -----------
                    Copyright 2008, Turkish Daily News. This article is redistributed with
                    permission for personal use of Groong readers. No part of this article
                    may be reproduced, further distributed or archived without the prior
                    permission of the publisher. Contact Turkish Daily News Online at
                    http://www.TurkishDailyNews.com for details.
                    -----------
                    General Antranik (1865-1927): “I am not a nationalist. I recognize only one nation, the nation of the oppressed.”

                    Comment


                    • Source: http://feistyturkishgirl.wordpress.com/



                      According to Lawrence Britt’s “Fascism Anyone” in the spring of 2003, there are 14 hardcore warning signs that a nation-state embodies fascism or puts it into practise regardless of what is written in the lawbooks. When I came across this article taped up on a professors office door, I could not stop reading and the first thing I thought of was Turkey. Many might claim, and have insinuated, that I, Feisty Turkish Girl, hate Turkey or am confused about Turkey, or have no knowledge about Turkey, without even knowing me personally, professionally or in any other capacity and yet my criticisms, concerns and outright anger come from love. If I did not care for my darling Turkey, I would not waste my time writing about her. Therefore, I was inspired to share with you those dangerous 14 signs that, I am sure, we can see manifested in several countries, not just Turkey, but in line with my topic of interest, I will focus on Turkey in this post.

                      THE 14 WARNING SIGNS OF FASCISM

                      1. Exuberant, Powerful and Continuing Nationalism — Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

                      “Every Turk is born a soldier…”
                      “We spit they swim…” (an anti-Greek slogan)
                      “Uluturk!” (”The Noble Turk”)
                      “Allah icin savasa!” (A fight for Allah or God)
                      Every Turkish citizen is Turkish and nothing else.
                      2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human and Political Rights — Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to ‘look the other way’ or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

                      Violence against untried political prisoners or others simply due to language, religion and/or culture.
                      3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause — The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

                      PKK
                      Kurds
                      Armenians
                      Jews
                      Greeks
                      U.S.A
                      the European Union
                      Communists
                      Terrorists
                      Arabs
                      Islam
                      Christianity
                      Capitalism
                      etc etc etc etc etc etc etc
                      4. Supremacy of the Military — Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

                      Soldiers are glorified all over Turkey daily
                      Everyone is “dying” to be a soldier
                      Soldiers are iconic figures and prized
                      5. Rampant Sexism — The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and antigay legislation and national policy.

                      Glass cieling
                      Covered girls not being able to enter university
                      “Foreign Blonde girls” are “xxxxs and xxxxable”, Turkish girls should stay in the kitchen and remain pious
                      Turkish girls should not be educated about sexual relations
                      Too smart of a woman is dangerous
                      Women are evil and can incite a man to do “bad” things
                      6. Controlled Mass Media — Sometimes the media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or through sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in wartime, is very common.

                      Prior restraint
                      Unapproved books
                      Publishing house owners arrested for “questionable material” that either incites “anti-Turkishness” or “insults Turkishness”
                      No Turkish citizen is allowed to publicly criticize Turkey either in Turkey or while visiting another country
                      etc etc etc etc etc
                      7. Obsession with National Security and Secrecy – Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

                      We have to protect “Turkish borders from the Arab world, Iran, the Kurds and others…”
                      8. Religion and Government are Intertwined — Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.

                      All Turks are Muslim
                      Turkish ID cards contain the religion of the person. For example, if you are Jewish, your ID card says Jew. If you are Muslim, it writes Islam, if you are Christian it writes Christian. Is your religion needed on your drivers license/ID card or passport? What if you don’t have a religion?
                      Non-Muslims are foreigners, despite being Turkish citizens and being born and raised in Turkey
                      9. Corporate Power is Protected — The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

                      The rich and powerful are in charge.
                      10. Labor Power is Suppressed/Corporate Power is Protected – Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely or are severely suppressed.

                      Workers of industry or elsewhere decided to gather and protest workers rights on international labor day. Police not only broke up the protest but hosed everyone and sprayed tear gas.
                      11. Disdain for Intellectuals — Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.

                      Orhan Pamuk arrest
                      Elif Shafak arrest
                      Yurdatapan arrest
                      etc etc etc etc etc etc
                      12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment — Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses, and even forego civil liberties, in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

                      Police with AK-47s
                      Police crimes against prisoners
                      City police, government police, military servicemen and women
                      13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption — Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions, and who use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

                      Group think
                      Extreme poverty, extreme wealth
                      14. Fraudulent Elections — Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against (or even the assassination of) opposition candidates, the use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and the manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

                      What I also find so intriguing is how in Turkey the feeling that an independence war is still raging is very evident. Indeed, when in Turkey, (as a Turk who is living abroad) you can feel the tense air in regards to politics, but largely when coming to terms with historical issues. The points of contention and argument are needless to restate, the Armenian Genocide, Cyprus, PKK, the Kurds, minorities etc. Often, I will hear such statements as, “we have to protect Turkey from the enemies.” When asked who the enemies are, “they” (friends, family members, acquaintances) resolutely proclaim, well, “the East, of course!” Funny, how Turkey’s greatest “enemy” is itself. No matter what one tells me, I will always understand Turkey to be a part of the east.

                      An Iranian female friend and colleague recently returned from galavanting through ancient Turkish ruins in Konya, Istanbul, Ephesus, Izmir and Capadoccia. When Turkish people asked her how she percieved Turkey as an Iranian woman, she replied, “Honestly, I don’t get the European thing. Turkey is so much like Iran, minus the mandatory headscarves, obviously. This is the Middle East. But in Iran, even those “Muslim” women, wear makeup, high heels and present themselves as they wish. In Turkey, I saw so much extreme Islam that is not necessarily mandated by the government.” She was of course, told off by various Turkish people who found offense in her honest perception of Turkey. Why are we, Turkish people, like that? Why cannot we listen to opinions and open our minds? My mind has benefitted so much from opening up and letting in concepts that once, a long time ago, seemed so distant, so foreign, so strange, so wrong.

                      I am greatful I did.
                      General Antranik (1865-1927): “I am not a nationalist. I recognize only one nation, the nation of the oppressed.”

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