Several Cases of Discrimination of and Violence against Christians

Country: Turkey

Date of incident: January 1, 2006

(2000-2006) Several instances recorded. Christians faced violence including murders, threats, vandalisations and administrational difficulties.

A number of constitutional reforms, approved by parliament on May 6th 2004 have modified the juridical set up of Turkey, removing the special courts and all constitutional references to the death penalty, and introducing explicitly the affirmation of the principle of equality between men and women. Respect for religious minorities however remains totally unsatisfactory. Christians are effectively denied access to civil and military institutional jobs, it is practically impossible to build churches, and, in spite of the constitution’s secularism, the communities have no civil recognition and therefore are not permitted to own anything. Furthermore, Bill 4928, approved in 2004, by replacing the word «mosque» with «place of worship» has established that local administrators must give permission for building them, if they believe there is «a need within the municipality and the region». On May 13th parliament approved a law for reforming the educational system allowing those graduating in Islamic schools to access all university courses and not only theology. These changes open the way also for those coming from Islamic schools to be able to access competitions for public appointments. On June 21st the Prime Minister Recep Tayyp Erdogan received the country’s Catholic Bishops, who presented two requests, reported by «il regno-attualità» no. 14-2004: the church’s juridical recognition and the creation of a mixed committee to prepare and implement this future juridical status. The official seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate suffered an attack in Istanbul on October 6th and was damaged by a grenade. The synod of the Evangelical Church in Germany (Ekd), held between November 7th and 12th at Magdeburg, judged as «problematic» the human rights situation on Turkey, and also – as reported by «Il regno-attualità» no. 20-2004 – that the state’s secularism is fragile. In particular, in view of Ankara joining the European Union, the Ekd noted that «the situation suffered by Christians and other religions in Turkey has not yet significantly improved. Non-Muslim religious communities as always encounter explicit and unacceptable problems to have their juridical status acknowledged, their rights to ownership and to train people for worship as well as obtaining residence permits». Report 2005 on Religious Freedom in the World – Aid to the Church in Need • July 2006 – Father Pierre Brunissen, a 75 year old French Catholic priest, was knifed the on July 2 by 47 year old Atilla Nuran, with a history of feeding Turkish media false rumours of proselytizing though the lead prosecutor insisted there was no religious motive. Compass Direct, 06/05/2006. • March 2006 – On March 11 a Turkish Muslim shouting insults against Christianity pulled a long butcher knife on two clergy and a group of teenagers at a Latin Catholic church in Mersin, threatening them and their families. Compass Direct, 16/03/2006. • February 2006 – An Italian missionary, Father Andrea Santoro, 60, was murdered in the Turkish city of Trabzon by a teen-ager influenced by the recently published caricatures of Mohammed. 06/02/2006 • January 2006 – On January 8 five young men attacked and threatened to kill Protestant church leader and convert Kamil Kiroglu, 29, in Adana after Sunday worship services. The victim was beaten unconscious after he refused to deny Jesus and become once again a Muslim. Compass Direct, 20/01/2006 • August 2005 – On August 3 more than 100 residents of the Turkish village of Karsu vandalized a Christian Orthodox quarter of Altinozu after receiving reports that Christians had attacked two Muslims. The Muslim mob descended on Altinosu’s Greek Orthodox neighborhood of Sarilar chanting “there is no room for infidels here.” The vandals damaged 10 houses and injured five people, including the wife of parish leader Spir Bayrakcioglu. Cousins Mitri and Engin Keseroglu, Greek Orthodox Christians from the Sarilar neighborhood, have been charged with using razors to slash two Karsu youths in a fight earlier that evening that triggered the outbreak of violence. One of the two Muslim youths from Karsu also brandished a knife, but he was not arrested. Compass Direct, 30/09/2005. • June 2004 – Christians’ request for the Diyarbakir Evangelical Church to be legally recognised as a place of worship denied, days after being acquitted of building an illegal church. Compass Direct, 14/6/2004 • November 2003 – Christian convert Yakup Cindilli beaten into a 9-month coma by ultra nationalists. Compass Direct, 14/11/2003 • January 2003 - Italian preacher’s visa revoked after baptizing a 26-year-old man. Katholiek Nieuwsblad, 17/1/2003 • July 2002 - Pastor Yusuf Yasmin, 71, told by Turkish security police to close his church after 7 years, as it had “no legal basis”. Compass Direct, 18/7/2002 • April 2002 - Sunday service of Agape Protestant Church disrupted by 100 nationalist supporters rallied in the Kocamustafapasa district chanting: “Every missionary is a spy”. Compass Direct, 13/5/2002 • February 2002 – Turkish Interior Ministry launched judicial proceedings questioning legality of Protestant designated places of worship. Head of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate admitted 81% of mosques under construction had obtained no license, and 55% had not drawn up an architectural plan. Compass Direct, 15/2/2002 • April 2001 - Christian convert, Kemal Timur, 32, facing trial accused of slander against Mohammed, while distributing Christian literature in Diyarbakir. CSW, 21/12/2001 • November 2000 – 40 Christians murdered in southeast Turkey by Kurdish Islamic extremists since 1998. Barnabas Fund, 28/11/2000 • March 2000 - Christians Ercan Sengul, 38, and Necati Aydin, 28, arrested while selling and distributing Christian literature near the southern port city of Izmir for allegedly insulting Islam and forcing people to accept Bibles. Compass Direct, 17/3/2000