Song Criticizes Victims
The Malatya revelations were further stoked in the public forum on September 21, when FOX TV’s widely viewed Friday night “Objective” talk show hosted a controversial Turkish folk singer and his lyricist.Singer Ismail Turut and lyrics writer Arif Sirin are facing possible criminal charges for their racist song “Don’t Make Any Plans,” which appeared earlier this month with video images on website YouTube eulogizing the teenage killer of Armenian Christian journalist Hrant Dink last January.The song concludes with the words, “If a person betrays the country, he is finished off. The sun of Turks and Islam will never set in the Black Sea.”During the broadcast, Sirin expressed hostile views against Christian missionary activities in Turkey, criticizing the three murdered Christians for “selling snails [forbidden food for observant Muslims] in a Muslim neighborhood.”“In Malatya missionaries were murdered and killed, that’s out of the question,” Sirin said. “But [they were saying] ‘We are selling snails in a Muslim neighborhood.’ Now look here, you can’t do that! Who are you selling to? I’ll take those snails and shove them up the appropriate place in that man.”No date has been announced for opening the murder trial, although last week the lead prosecutor indicated to the lawyer heading the legal team representing the Christian victims that the investigation would be completed “within a few weeks.”Because the crime was classified by Turkish authorities as an act of terrorism, the Christians’ lawyers have yet to examine any of the investigative evidence, including the official autopsies.“But as soon as the date for the trial is set by the courts, we will be given access to all the files on the case,” attorney Orhan Kemal Cengiz told Compass today by telephone.Last week Prof. Ibrahim Kabogku publicly questioned the Turkish government’s right to withhold critical evidence in major terrorism cases such as the Malatya murders. The government has claimed that “state secrets” that required confidentiality must remain behind the curtain of “national security.”Quoted in the Milliyet newspaper on September 18, Kaboglu declared, “A state secret is against the state. Even in a murder case, rather than hurting the state by using the excuse of a state secret, the state should be obliged to apply impartial law.”In two recent, high-profile cases involving murdered Christians, the state prevented full disclosure of the investigations by classifying them behind the curtain of “confidentiality.”Questions still remain over the judicial proceedings convicting a teenage boy of killing Catholic priest Andrea Santoro in February 2006, and earlier this month Trabzon Governate authorities refused to turn over evidence requested by lawyers in the Dink murder trial.Cengiz said he would protest if the Malatya courts denied his team access to all the investigative evidence to protect alleged “state secrets.”
Call to Fasting
The Alliance of Protestant Churches in Turkey is calling on Christian congregations throughout the country to designate each Thursday in the coming weeks for prayer and fasting for the upcoming murder trial, as well as for other cases in Turkish courts addressing the rights and freedoms of Christian citizens.“God has been honored through the martyrdom of Necati, Ugur and Tilmann for their faith,” said Semse Aydin, widow of Necati Aydin. “So we must pray that He will also be honored through this trial, that the truth will come out, and justice will be done.”
Aydin noted that seven years ago, when her husband was jailed in Izmir for 30 days on false charges against his Christian activities, the church prayed and fasted, and the accusers withdrew their complaints at the first court hearing.“It was really a miracle that these villagers stood up in court and admitted that they had been forced by gendarmerie officials to sign prepared complaints against Necati and his colleague, and that the written statements were not true,” Aydin said.
Europe Demands Justice
In a draft resolution released last week that goes up for debate in late October in Brussels, the European Parliament “strongly condemns” the slaying of the three Christian missionaries, declaring that the Turkish government must “bring full light” upon this case and bring all responsible to justice.Underlining “the urgent need to efficiently combat all types of extremism and violence and to ban them from all levels of public life in Turkey,” the resolution’s 13th paragraph calls for Turkish government measures to “increase the protection of those groups, minorities or individuals who feel exposed to threat.”According to the 2007 report by the U.S. Department of State on religious freedom in Turkey, released September 14, there were multiple religiously motivated “violent attacks and threats against non-Muslims” that “created an atmosphere of pressure and diminished freedom for some non-Muslim communities.”
“Public debates ensued over the government’s response to these attacks and threats,” the report continues, noting that religious pluralism was widely viewed by the Turkish population as “a threat to Islam and to national unity.”