Turkey

Report: Turkey Jails Twitter User for Blasphemous Handle

Submitted by Emily on Mon, 2014-06-02 07:04

URL: 
http://english.alarabiya.net/en/media/2014/05/29/Turkey-sentences-Twitter-user-to-jail-for-blasphemy-report.html
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Be Careful What You Say in Today's Turkey

A woman reads to police as part of a protest against Turkey's Islamist government.

A woman reads to police as part of a protest against Turkey's Islamist government.

by: 
Lonna Lisa Williams

Be careful what you say or publish in Turkey. Even if you are a journalist from another country, you could be arrested or expelled. Islamists in Turkey are trying to control free speech, protesters, the media, the legal system, and even the police. This week, new restrictions over the internet came into effect. The Turkish government will be able to block objectionable websites within hours.

One Turkish man told me, "Many internet sites are now blocked, especially foreign news sites. When there is a protest against Erdogan's restrictive policies, internet sites that cover it are blocked, and the local T.V. and newspapers are even more controlled. Hardly anyone knew about the protests in Istanbul yesterday."

In fact, the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul issued a warning to Americans living in Turkey to avoid yesterday's protest in Taksim Square, site of last spring's Gezi Park protests. I received this email from the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul:

U.S. Consulate General Istanbul informs U.S. citizens of news reports that a protest against recent legislation expanding the government's power to regulate Internet content is scheduled to take place at Taksim Square starting at 19:00 on Saturday, February 8. Large crowds and police presence are expected on surrounding streets as well, including Istiklal Street, and may begin to gather well before the scheduled start time of the protest ...The Department of State strongly advises avoiding the area during the protest.

However, when I looked at the U.S. Consulate's website, I could not find the warning under "Messages to U.S. Citizens." Did they remove it because Erdogan insisted that they cover up the protest?

When I was living in Turkey for two and a half years, I attended the Kocaeli Book Fair. Thousands of books were highlighted in huge conventional halls, many on the topic of Islam. But the book fair, controlled by the Islamist AKP party, allowed not one Bible. When I asked if I could find a Bible or any Christian book, the book fair director called security and labeled me a "Christian provocateur."

I left before I could be arrested, but the Muslim woman who came to the book fair with me later denounced our friendship. Although she had attended my wedding and freely posed for photos not only at the wedding, but on outings we had taken together and even outside the Kocaeli Book Fair, she complained to an AKP party prosecutor about a photo I published with her in it.

Police came to arrest me last September, just days after I left the country to teach English in China.

Ironically, Islamists demand rights they deny others. If someone exposes their restrictive policies, they immediately cry out, "Hate speech!" Recently, Digital Journal, the website where I often publish, was accused of "hate speech" against Islam and of shoddy journalism by citizen journalists.

The real enemies of free speech are Islamists who do not tolerate other religions, religious books, ways of dressing, smoking, drinking alcohol, and many other "haram" (forbidden) things. Sadly, Islamists kill more fellow Muslims (from minority sects like the Alevi and Shiite) than they kill Christians, Buddhists or other religious minorities among them. Just look at what has been happening in Iraq.

Recently, a French documentary about Syria interviewed Syrians who have been opposing Assad for years. These residents of Aleppo objected to the hijacking of their freedom revolution by Islamists who want to create an Islamic State in Syria, under sharia law.

One Syrian father declared, "Foreign Islamists who came to Aleppo saw a Syrian man smoking a cigarette and ripped it from his mouth, then destroyed the whole pack. They killed a Syrian girl for wearing a skirt. We cannot let them control our war for freedom."

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan has been allowing foreign Islamists to cross the Turkish border into Syria and bring weapons. He publicly supports the Muslim Brotherhood. He has been making laws to hurt his own people and has fired or imprisoned thousands of people since the December, 2013 corruption scandal.

When he was mayor of Istanbul, Erdogan shouted at a rally:

“Democracy is merely a train that we ride until we reach our goal. Mosques are our military barracks, minarets are our spears, domes are our helmets, and the faithful are our army.”

Is this not the real hate speech?

There are over 80,000 mosques in Turkey, and Erdogan will not let Christians build one church in the capital city of Ankara. Ancient churches are being converted to mosques. Erdogan and his fellow Islamists ignore Turkey's long Christian history and other religious minorities while limiting free speech, freedom of the press, the ability to protest, and even the internet.

In Saudi Arabia, which is ruled by strict Islamic sharia law, a group of 15 school girls were allowed to burn to death in 2002 because they fled their school without their veils, and the morality police locked the gate so that no one would see them uncovered. Recently, a female university student died of a heart attack because a male ambulance crew was not allowed into her women-only university.

Policies like these show great hatred,and countries that call themselves democracies and bastions of freedom must speak out—or come under the control of Islamists who will not tolerate other ways of life than their own.

Reporter's Update: Reuters reported that, in an impassioned television interview late on Monday, February 10, Fatih Altayli, editor-in-chief of the mainstream Haberturk newspaper, said government pressure had left media editors intimidated and created a climate in which they were unable to publish freely.

"The honor of journalism is being trampled on. Instructions rain down every day from various places. Can you write what you want? Everybody is afraid," Altayli told CNN Turk.

Editors and reporters have said in the past they had received phone calls from government officials asking them to alter their coverage or dismiss journalists, but they usually only spoke out after losing their jobs.

"This is not the first time a senior editor has spoken about this, but the intensity of Altayli repeating 'I am not the only one' means the entire conglomerate media, at a senior level, has been kept under immense pressure from Erdogan," Yavuz Baydar, one of Turkey's most prominent journalists, told Reuters.
 

"But I truly doubt that the pattern of media managers acting like black boxes—keeping government and company secrets to themselves—can be broken," said Baydar, a columnist for Zaman newspaper, which is close to Erdogan's rival, Fetullah Gulen.

Baydar added, "The problem is, editors in conglomerate media seem to have sold their freedom and integrity at a price. They live in lies, constantly chased by the truth."

 

Lonna Lisa Williams teaches English overseas and writes books about surviving cancer, travel adventures, science fiction, and fantasy.  You can follow her blog or find her onFacebookTwitter, and Youtube.  She also regularly contributes news articles and photo essays to “Digital Journal” and “Yahoo.”
 

This article and photo appeared originally on Digital Journal and was reprinted with the permission of the author.

 

Why Is America's Door Open to Powerful Islamist Fetullah Gulen?

A Gulen school in Istanbul. (Photo:  © Reuters)

A Gulen school in Istanbul. (Photo: © Reuters)

by: 
Lonna Lisa Williams

An Islamist cleric who runs a vast media empire and school system can challenge Turkey's Prime Minister from his secure compound near Philadelphia. Why does America harbor Fetullah Gulen, and how did he get his visa?

Many Turkish people are poor, struggling just to pay their electric bills this winter. They eat soup and bread and rarely splurge to buy tea for 1 lira at the local outdoor cafe. Often they work long hours for little money and few benefits.

If they are not a member of the ruling Islamist AKP party, they have little hope of a better job, especially in the government. Those who dare to speak out against Prime Minister Erdogan often end up in prison, including journalists, academics, writers, ex-army generals, and even musicians.

Many of these Turks, who are politically persecuted, dream of coming to America to start a new life in the "Land of Freedom and Opportunity." However, the emigration visa process is difficult and costly. A stack of papers (written only in English), that would challenge an American teacher to fill out, must be completed. At least $2000 must be paid just for the application fees, and various interviews must be held at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara.

But if a Turk doesn't have a job or home in America, or at least $10,000 in the bank, he can give up hopes of being accepted. How much of this difficulty in obtaining an emigration visa is because Turks are issued I.D. cards that automatically list their religion as "Islam"?

If America is so afraid of Muslims emigrating, why does it open wide its doors to powerful Islamist clerics like Fetullah Gulen? He was accused of attempting to establish an Islamic state in Turkey in 1999 and somehow managed to flee to America where he directs his vast empire of T.V. stations, newspapers, and even private schools—from his well-guarded, compound-like estate near Philadelphia.

"Gulen has at least 30 million followers, mostly in Turkey," a Turkish man told me. "He has people in the police, judiciary, and even the secret service. No Turkish journalist would dare write anything negative about him. His followers say they are practicing 'hizmet,' or Muslim community service, but they have other agendas."

Indeed, Gulen, a sweet-looking, grandfatherly man who wears a white prayer cap, regularly broadcasts his Islamist T.V. shows (such as Samanyolu TV) into Turkey. His newspaper, Zaman, (published in Turkish and English) is heavily biased toward Islamist thinking. And Gulen is powerful enough to challenge Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan after Erdogan began closing down his private (Hizzmet) schools in Turkey. Gulen's name and comments have been in the world news lately as the corruption scandal and protests rock Erdogan's Ak Party government.

According to some Gulen investigators, "Gülen’s writings from the 1990s contain detailed discussions of how to deal with the Christian world when Muslims are weak and not yet able to vanquish their opponents. 'Make sure you disguise your real thoughts and feelings from them,' he advises his followers; 'if you let yourself known, you will only cause them to triumph.'"

BBC investigated Gulen and observed that he takes large donations from his followers and makes strict rules for teachers in his schools, such as no smoking, alcohol or divorcing. BBC also observed that in 1999 Gulen spoke these words in Turkey (not long before he left for America):

"You must move within the arteries of the system, without anyone noticing your existence, until you reach all the power centres. You must wait until such time as you have got all the state power, until you have brought to your side all the power of the constitutional institution in Turkey."

BBC also noted that "Several of Hizmet's most prominent critics have been jailed in Turkey, sparking claims that it has become a sinister controlling force in its native land. A police chief who wrote a book on Gulen's influence on the police and judiciary was jailed, as were two Turkish investigative journalists. One of the journalists, Ahmet Sik, shouted during his arrest: 'Whoever touches them [Hizmet supporters] burns!'"

However, his official website calls him a "pious peace advocate and scholar." The 72-year-old continues to rule his empire from his Pennsylvania estate, which was picketed by activists this summer.

America should rethink its emigration policy and not let visas to America be bought by power and money. Many poor, politically persecuted Turks would like a chance at the freedom Gulen enjoys. Gulen should be more closely watched in America.

 

Lonna Lisa Williams teaches English overseas and writes books about surviving cancer, travel adventures, science fiction, and fantasy.  You can follow her blog or find her onFacebookTwitter, and Youtube.  She also regularly contributes news articles and photo essays to “Digital Journal” and “Yahoo.”
 

This article and photo appeared originally on Digital Journal and was reprinted with permission of the author.

 

Turkey: No Compulsion … Yet!

The Sultanahmet mosque, known as the Blue mosque, in Istanbul (Photo: © Reuters)

The Sultanahmet mosque, known as the Blue mosque, in Istanbul (Photo: © Reuters)

by: 
Raheel Raza

This Thanksgiving we took a much overdue trip to Istanbul, Turkey and I feel compelled to write about what I saw. It was interesting to try and convince my grandsons that the “Turkey” we were visiting was not the same turkey they were consuming!

We had chosen a place to stay at random, and it was a pleasant surprise that it turned out to be in the Old City walking distance from The Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace.
Having come from Canada, it was a balm to our ears to hear the azaan (call to prayer), and we traipsed off in search of the mosque.

We had to walk through the Bazaar and it was interesting to note that not everyone rushed off to pray. Those who wished to worship, did so quietly and others stayed on the sides respectfully while those who were not in the mosque went about their business. There was no feeling of being compelled to pray, and it was a new sensation for those of us who have seen the likes of Saudi Arabia where you are beaten into submission. It also makes sense of the Quranic line “there is no compulsion in religion.”

Next day we had breakfast in the hotel which by the way, served soup, salad and cheeses that kept us going all day on one meal. We met a tourist from Sweden who liked to start and end his day with local Turkish beer. Then I noticed that the corner convenience store also sold beer and raki.

So it was – belly dance and beer exist side by side with mosques and minarets. The person who comes out of the Mosque and the person who comes out of the bar meet but do not collide in the public square. Religiosity is a buzz in the background, not in your face, with no one telling you what to do or not to do – yet.

You can’t tell by looking at anyone where they are from as heels and hijab, short skirts and shalwars (traditional pants), beards and buzz cuts mix and mingle with ease.

People were happy and friendly, especially to Pakistanis which is a pleasant surprise. I kept refreshed on fresh pomegranate juice which gave me energy for the whole day. Topped up with Turkish coffee, Turkish food, Turkish delight and Turkish tea – we were in culinary heaven. 

There are beautiful public squares with benches, everyone is kid-friendly, and while it was cold for others, coming from Canada all we could say was what’s cold, eh?

There was a framed photo of Mustapha Kemal Ataturk in the hotel lobby, and the young people who ran the hotel called themselves proud “secular” Turks. The word secular came up many times during our stay.

Our young guide who took us to the Mosque of Ayub Ansari and other sites, mentioned time and again that Turkey is secular. It was also fascinating to note that none of the mosques are lit up or heavily decorated – the old architecture from the time of the Ottomans has been kept as close to the original as possible with no ostentatious additions.

There is a strong Sufi influence even though Sufism also went underground during Ataturk’s reformation towards secularism, but there are enough people who follow the Tareeqas to make it a reality. I think it’s due to the Sufi influence that there is a softness among Turkish Muslims which was inspiring.

However all is not what it seems on the surface. When the rallies started at Taksim square, people thought this was another incident like Tahrir Square in Egypt. Through conversations with Turks both within and outside Turkey, my understanding is that this was different. First of all, Turkey is economically stable and you can see this in Istanbul, so the grumblings of economically deprived masses is not the case.

Secondly, they have had years of being secular and the push back, especially by young Turks was against Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s insistence on forcing Islam into the public square.

At first he made subtle moves like putting a ban on stewardesses wearing red lipstick on Turkish Airlines. The response was not so subtle. Every stewardess regardless of age wore bright red lipstick – I like that! I believe the ban was lifted.

But in September this year, two dramatic announcements by Erdogan sent shivers down the spines of many of the country’s secularists. Erdogan annulled a decades-long ban on wearing headscarves in public institutions and ended the daily reciting of the pledge of allegiance in primary schools.

These moves have the potential to alienate Turkey’s minority non-Muslim communities. Turkish researcher Halil M. Karaveli, claimed in a New York Times op-ed that far from helping Turkey’s minority, Erdogan was increasingly playing with sectarian fire. Already from 13 synagogues, there are now only three left.

“Erdogan is turning Turkey into a powder keg in an attempt to shore up his own political base,” Karaveli wrote. “He is intentionally activating the longstanding fault lines separating religious and secular Turks — and most dangerously the divide between the country’s Sunni majority and its Alevi minority. If he continues to do so, Turkish democracy itself could become a casualty of his confrontational policies.”

More recently there was a petition to turn Hagia Sophia into a Mosque, and this has many Turks in a dither.

So Turkish youth come out regularly to Taksim Square to protest what they call Erdogan’s dictatorship and intrusion into their private lives, such as restrictions on personal freedoms, the non-availability of alcohol after 10 pm, the ban on public displays of affection and the “advice” from Erdogan for Turkish women to have “at least three children.”

These young Turks want “freedom” and will continue to lobby for their right to have these freedoms in a secular Turkey.

See ClarionProject.org's interview with Raheel Raza: 

 Separation of Mosque and State

 

Raheel Raza is the President of the Council of Muslims Facing Tomorrow(MFT), a non-profit think-tank established with the purpose of bringing together the East and West. She produced a documentary titled, Whose Sharia Is It Anyway? about the debate over ShariaLaw in Ontario, Canada.

Egypt Declares Turkish Envoy Unwelcome -- Turkey Responds in Kind

Submitted by Emily on Mon, 2013-11-25 11:19

URL: 
http://edition.cnn.com/2013/11/23/world/meast/egypt-turkey-diplomacy/
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Turkish MP's Wear Hijabs in Parliament for First Time

Submitted by Emily on Mon, 2013-11-04 10:49

URL: 
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-24761548
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EU Revives Membership Talks with Turkey After Three-Year Hiatus

Submitted by Emily on Thu, 2013-10-24 04:32

URL: 
http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/22/us-eu-turkey-idUSBRE99L0L720131022
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Thu, April 12, 2012 Turkey: Since Islamist Rule Honor Killing Rate Highest in World

by Meira Svirsky

According to the Turkish Government figures, after the Islamists rose to power in 2002, the rate of honor killings in Turkey increased at alarmingly in the deeply religious segments of the Turkish society, turning Turkey into a leading country afflicted by honor killings. After the current ruling Islamist party, the AKP, came to power in 2002, reports Christian Science Monitor (CSM), honor killings increased "14 fold" over the next seven years. There were 66 cases of honor killings in 2002, which rose 953 in the first seven months of 2009.

In Pakistan, notorious for honor killing, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan recorded 943 cases of such killings in 2011, and about 100 less in 2010. That means Turkey had about double the number of honor killings in 2009 as compared the number honor-killed in Pakistan in 2011. Given Pakistan has a population of 177 million as compared to Turkey’s 75 million, Turkey has an honor-killing rate, which is greater than 5 times higher than that of Pakistan.

First Ever: Turkish Academics to Visit Israel Holocaust Museum for Seminar

Submitted by Emily on Mon, 2014-06-30 05:36

URL: 
http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/06/26/first-ever-turkish-academics-to-visit-israel-holocaust-museum-for-seminar/

Turkish Gov’t Replaces More Than 2,500 Judges and Prosecutors in Latest Mass Purge

Submitted by Emily on Tue, 2014-06-24 09:50

URL: 
http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/govt-replaces-more-than-2500-judges-and-prosecutors-in-latest-mass-purge.aspx?pageID=238&nID=67702&NewsCatID=338
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