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Turkey’s Protestants concerned about attacks, demand legal status

ICC Note:

Attacks continued against the Protestant church throughout 2010, according to a report by the Association of Protestant Churches. Protestants have still not gained legal status, which has left many of the problems unresolved.

By Yonca Poyraz Dogan

3/6/2011 Turkey (Today’s Zaman) – Various attacks carried out against Protestants and their churches continued to occur in 2010, stated a report prepared by the Association of Protestant Churches based in the Aegean province of İzmir.
 And since the Protestant community has not gained legal status, their problems remain largely unsolved.

One such attack occurred on Dec. 2 of last year at the İzmir Karataş Christian Church as one of its members was slandered at his workplace by his employer when he found out the young man was Christian. The young man was later stabbed and wounded in the hand by the same person. Since the owner of the business was a family friend of the young man, charges were not pressed.

In another incident in April 2010, the window shutters of the Ankara Kurtuluş Church were damaged by repeated kicks. The assailant it was identified through security surveillance cameras and arrested by the police. During his court appearance the attacker apologized for his actions, and the church withdrew its complaint. The man was released.

The association reported nine similar incidents that occurred last year.

The report also indicated that changes to Zoning Law No. 3194 in 2003, as part of the European Union’s Sixth Harmonization Package, was intended to meet the needs of non-Muslim citizens for places of worship by replacing the word “mosque” with the words “place of worship.” However, the community is still confronted with obstructions in exercising their rights because of the arbitrary interpretation of the law, according to the report.

One of the examples given is that the leader of İstanbul’s Ümraniye Protestant Church was issued a fine on Jan. 10 of last year by the Ataşehir County Police Directorate because the building they were using was not an “official place of worship” and was therefore in violation of the Misdemeanor Law. Another example given in the report is that although the official application of the İstanbul’s Beşiktaş Protestant Church was approved as an “official place of worship” in 2006, the Culture and Natural Resources Protection Committee Number 3 rejected the renewal application on May 14 of last year on grounds that the church was located in a residential area and did not have adequate space to serve as a church.

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