By Vivek Thiagarajan
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Middle East
MIDYAT, Turkey- Father Daniel Savici’s car was found abandoned on Wednesday in south eastern region of Mardin, Turkey. The Syraic priest was kidnapped and is being held captive. His kidnappers demanded 300,000 Euros as ransom for his safe release.
Lately, the Turkish Christians have faced many attacks. Last week marked the beginning of trial for men accused of brutally murdering three Protestant Christians during a Bible study in April. (See Story) Also, last year a Catholic Priest was shot and killed by a young zealous nationalist.
Turkey has about 25,000 Syriac Christians. In total, Turkey only has about 100,000 Christians out of the 75 million residents in Turkey. The Christians have always faced opposition since the emergence of Christianity in Turkey. Some nationalists have feared that the Christians are outsiders just seeking to rebel against the government while changing Turkish culture. This idea has been reinforced since most Christians are either Greek or Armenian.
The animosity faced by the Christians as a different outsider religion has recently affected the atheists. Erol Karaaslan, publisher of Steven Dawkins’s “The God Delusion,” has been recently investigated by Turkish prosecutors for insulting Turkishness, believers, and attacking “sacred values.” (Guardian Unlimited) The book tries to dismiss the possibility of God.
In an interview with Reuters regarding the prosecutorial investigation, Karaaslan said “[a] Turkish citizen complained, saying that this book was hurtful to members of religions living in Turkey, and wanted the book banned and the publishers punished.” (Reuters) The “God Delusion” has sold over 6,000 copies in Turkey.
Although Turkey is officially secular, Turkey’s population is mostly Muslim. Thus, Islam is seen as an integral part of the “Turkishness” that is protected under Article 301, which allows any person to be prosecuted for insulting the countries values. (See Article 301 story) The European Union has stated that Turkey must relax its enforcement of article 301 in order for Turkey to enter the Union.
The Turkish government must show a strong commitment to protecting minority belief systems in Turkey. It must adapt its rendition of secular society to include the free expression of religions throughout the country instead of regulating under the guise of a secular society. This will enable all non-Muslims such as Christians, Jews, and Atheists to believe freely without fear of possible ramifications. Also, protection of the religious minorities is necessary for Turkey in its possible effort to join the EU.
For more information, please see:
AP- Turkish Prosecutor Probes Atheist Book- 28 November 2007
BBC News- Turkish Christian priest abducted- 29 November 2007
Guardian Unlimited- Dawkins publisher may be tried for attack on ‘sacred values’- 28 November 2007
International Herald Tribune (AP)- Turkish prosecutor probes whether atheist book “The God Delusion” assaults values- 28 November 2007
Javno- Christian Priest Kidnapped in S. East Turkey- 29 November 2007
NTV MSNBC- Mystery surrounds kidnapping of Turkish priest- 29 November 2007
Reuters Africa- “God Delusion” publisher may face prosecution- 29 November 2007