Group Of Young Muslims Murder 3 Christians In Turkey

by Barbara G. Baker/Compass Direct News Service

Christian Examiner
April 30 2007

ISTANBUL – In a gruesome assault against Turkey’s tiny Christian
community, five young Muslim Turks entered a Christian publishing
office in the southeastern province of Malatya April 18 and slit the
throats of the three Protestant Christians present.

Two of the victims, Necati Aydin, 36, and Ugur Yuksel, 32, were
Turkish converts from Islam. The third man, Tilmann Geske, 46, was
a German citizen.

The Turkish press reported that four of the five young men, all 19
to 20 years of age, admitted during initial interrogations that they
were motivated by both "nationalist and religious feelings."

"We did this for our country," an identical note in the pockets of
all five young men read, Channel D television station reported. "They
are attacking our religion."

According to the Hurriyet newspaper, one of the suspects declared
during police questioning, "We didn’t do this for ourselves. We did
it for our religion. May this be a lesson to the enemies of religion."

In a demonstration against the Zirve Publishing office in Malatya two
years ago, local protestors had claimed its publishing and distribution
activities constituted "proselytism" among Muslims and should be
closed down. Turkish law, however, guarantees the right to engage in
religious evangelism if it does not contain proven political motives.

The three Christians were found tied hand and foot to chairs in
the liaison office of Zirve Publishing in Malatya’s Niyazi Misr-i
district. Their throats had been cut and their bodies marred by
multiple stab wounds.

Both Aydin and Geske were already dead when local police discovered
their bodies. Police had received a call from a nearby office in the
building about a "disturbance" happening in the Christian publishing
house’s third-floor office.

Although Yuksel was still breathing and rushed to a nearby hospital
for massive blood transfusions, he died soon afterwards.

When police stormed the building, one of the killers threw himself
from the third story to the street, suffering a broken leg and severe
head injuries. The other four suspects were apprehended as they tried
to flee the building, still holding their bloodied knives.

During interrogation, the four confessed killers claimed the attack
had been planned by the fifth suspect, now hospitalized in serious
condition. But Malatya Gov. Halil Ibrahim Dasoz announced that five
additional suspects had been arrested in the police investigation.

Turkish government leaders were quick to denounce the murders and
promise a full investigation. The police, meanwhile, fielded conjecture
that the suspects were linked to the Turkish Hizbollah, a Kurdish
Islamic movement calling for a Muslim state in southeastern Turkey.

According to Zirve Publishing’s general manager, Hamza Ozant, the
company’s Malatya staff had received death threats in recent months.

All three of the men worked in the office and attended the local
30-member Kurtulus Protestant Church pastored by Aydin.

Aydin is survived by his wife, Semse, and a son and daughter,
both preschool age. Geske with his wife Susanne had two sons and a
daughter, ages 8 to 13 years. Yuksel was engaged to be married within
a few months.

Forensic authorities surrendered Yuksel’s body to his family, who
buried him in his home village in Elazig.

Aydin’s funeral was April 21 at the Anglican Church in Izmir, his
home city in western Turkey.

It is not yet known whether Geske’s widow will decide to inter his
body in Malatya or Germany.

In a bold initiative, Pastor Ihsan Ozbek, chairman of the Alliance
of Protestant Churches in Turkey, led a press conference broadcast
live from Malatya by CNNTURK and shown simultaneously on several
other TV channels.

Flanked by the churches’ legal representative, Orhan Kemal Cengiz,
and Istanbul pastor Bedri Peker, Ihsan distributed a forthright press
release to the Turkish media headlined, "A Horrible Brutality, But
Not a Surprise."

"Yesterday, Turkey was buried in the darkness of the Middle Ages,"
Ozbek declared. He compared the nation’s ongoing conspiracy theories
and missionary phobias to the witch-hunts of the Middle Ages.

"We know this will not be the last [martyr]. But with all our hearts
we wish it would be the last," Ozbek said.

The deadly attack was the first known martyrdom of Turkish converts
from Islam since the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923.

But it was the third tragic incident targeting Christians in Turkey
in the past 15 months to spark major international media coverage.

Last year an Italian Catholic priest was shot to death while kneeling
in his church in the Black Sea port city of Trabzon. This past January,
a prominent Turkish journalist of Armenian Christian descent, Hrant
Dink, was murdered in Istanbul.

Over the past three years, top government officials have been
accused of fanning growing hostility against non-Muslims by openly
criticizing Christian missionary activities. Local prosecutors and
police authorities are often reluctant to pursue reported incidents
of vandalism or threats against church buildings or personnel.

Compass Direct News, based in Santa Ana, Calif., provides reports
on Christians worldwide who are persecuted for their faith. Used
by permission.

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