[A-List] 3 Evangelicals Found Slain in East Turkey
sabri_oncu at yahoo.com
Thu Apr 19 21:50:21 MDT 2007
The New York Times, April 19, 2007
3 Evangelicals Found Slain in East Turkey
By SABRINA TAVERNISE
ISTANBUL, April 18 Three people were found with their throats slit in a
publishing house in eastern Turkey that printed Bibles and other Christian
literature, the authorities said Wednesday. One victim was a German citizen.
Turkish authorities detained five men for questioning, three 19-year-olds and
two 20-year-olds; the five were not identified. The publishing house, in
Malatya, a town with a reputation for nationalism, has had trouble in the past
over a shipment of Bibles, and it seemed likely that the attackers had a
Change is opening up Turkish society, and the countrys nationalist fringe, for
whom the ethnic and religious purity of the Turkish state is worth killing for,
has been turning to violence more often. Hrant Dink, a Turkish journalist of
Armenian descent, who was killed in January in Istanbul, was one of the
victims. A Roman Catholic priest was another.
The trend worries the government, whose prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan,
has been pushing hard for Turkeys entry into the European Union. Some European
politicians have opposed membership, arguing that Turkey does not fit in
culturally or religiously.
The three victims in Malatya were found seated in chairs, their hands and feet
bound, Halil Ibrahim Dasoz, a government official there, said in comments on
NTV, a Turkish news channel. One did not die from his wounds until later; he
had also been stabbed in the back and stomach.
The state-run Anatolian news agency identified the victims as Tilman Ekkehart
Geske, 46; Necati Aydin, 35; and Ugur Yuksel, whose age was not given. The
German ambassador to Turkey, Eckart Cuntz, said through a spokesman that one
victim was a German citizen but he declined to give details.
The victims were evangelical Protestants, said an evangelical pastor in
Istanbul, Carlos Madrigal, who said he knew them, Reuters reported.
The killings took place in the building where the publishing house was based,
the Turkish interior minister, Abdulkadir Aksu, said at a news conference.
Several of the suspects were carrying weapons when they were apprehended, the
authorities said. One had broken his leg in a jump or fall. NTV broadcast
images of authorities rushing several young men down the stairwell of a
The recent nationalist attacks are ghosts from Turkeys past. Malatya once had
a heavy Armenian population. But in eastern Turkey, Armenians were driven out
or killed in a series of purges culminating in the 1915 genocide, in which 1.5
million Armenians died. Subsequently, nationalists were urged to settle in the
area to preserve a Turkish identity there.
Mehmet Ali Agca, who tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II in 1981, was from
Malatya, as was Mr. Dink, the outspoken journalist.
Nationalism is on the rise in Turkey, said Ali Bulac, a Turkish newspaper
columnist in Istanbul. It stands against the U.S. and the E.U.
The publishing house had changed its name recently after trouble with
nationalists who had forcefully blocked a shipment of Bibles, said Meftun
Kilinc, a reporter from ERTV, a station in Malatya, who spoke in a telephone
interview. She said the new name was the Zirve Publishing House.
Turkish nationalists boast of their Muslim identity, but often have just as
much in common with the secularists of the state elite as with Islamists. So it
was not clear whether the suspects were motivated more by a dedication to Islam
or a longing for a pure Turkish state.
The distinction is important because of the broad debate over the role of
religion now roiling Turkish society. The discussion has become more shrill in
recent weeks because the country faces an election to its presidency, the
single most important post safeguarding secularism.
Prime Minister Erdogan, a former Islamist who has moderated his views
considerably, may try to compete for the presidency, a possibility that has
thrown some secularists into a panic.
Sebnem Arsu contributed reporting.
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