Turkey: Christian Held Hostage At Knife Point In Istanbul


Compass Direct News
Au g 6 2009

Young Muslim threatens to slit throat of convert; police arrest him
after short standoff.

ISTANBUL, August 6 (Compass Direct News) – In a bizarre show of Turkish
nationalism, a young Muslim here took a Christian Turk at knife point,
draped his head with the national flag and threatened to slit the
throat of the "missionary dog" in broad daylight earlier this week.

Yasin Karasu, 24, held Ã~]smail Aydýn, 35, hostage for less than
half an hour on Monday (Aug. 3) in a busy district on the Asian side
of Istanbul in front of passersby and police who promptly came to
the scene.

"This is Turkey, and you can’t hand out gospels," he yelled, according
to the daily newspaper Haberturk. "These godless ones without the
true book are doing missionary work."

About 99 percent of Turkey’s population is at least nominally Muslim,
and in the popular mindset the religion is strongly connected with
being Turkish.

Karasu threatened to slit Aydin’s throat if anyone came near him and
commanded those watching to give him a Turkish flag. Within minutes,
Aydin told Compass, bystanders produced two flags. Karasu, who has
known Aydin for a year, wrapped the larger of the two flags around
Aydin’s head, making it difficult for him to breathe in heat that
reached the low 30s Celsius (90s F) this week.

"Do you see this missionary dog?" he yelled at the crowd. "He is
handing out gospels and he is breaking up the country!"

Karasu placed the smaller flag in Aydin’s hand and commanded him to
wave it.

"Both flags came at the same time," Aydin told Compass. "The big one
he put very tightly over my head, and in the heat I couldn’t breathe."

The whole time Karasu held a large knife to Aydin’s throat.

"You missionary dogs, do you see this flag?" he said, commanding
Aydin to wave the flag. "This is a holy flag washed in the blood of
our fathers."

Aydin said he told Karasu, "Yasin, in any case this flag is mine as
well! I’m a Turk too, but I’m a Christian."

Karasu insisted that Aydin was not a Turk because he had betrayed
the Turkish flag and country by his evangelism, according to Aydin.

Aydin said he told Karasu, "No, Yasin, I’m a Turk and I’m waving this
flag with love. This is my flag. I’m a Turk." He said Karasu replied,
"No, you can’t be – you are breaking up the country, and I won’t
allow it."

Police managed to convince Karasu to put down the knife and release
Aydin, telling him that if he killed the convert Turkey would be
ridiculed around the world, and that as a last resort they were
authorized to shoot to kill him.

"If you love this country, leave the man," they told him.

A member of the Turkish Protestant Alliance’s legal team said Karasu
was evidently trying to get attention.

"He was the type of person who would commit a crime," said Umut
Sahin. "He had just gotten out of the army, he probably didn’t have
a job … Anyway he achieved his goal of putting on a show."

Sahin added that Karasu had previously gotten into trouble for selling
pirated CDs.

Religious Conversations

Aydin, who escaped with a slight cut on his throat, said that he
never would have believed that Karasu would do such a thing.

The two men have known each other for about a year. While in the army,
Karasu showed interest in learning more about Christianity and would
call Aydin, a convert from Islam, to ask questions and talk, saying
he was interested in other religions.

"He would call me often, because while in the army he was really
depressed and he would often call me to tell me," said Aydin. "He
wanted relief and to talk to someone, but at the same time he was
researching about religions."

After his release from compulsory army duty, Karasu called Aydin and
the two planned to meet at a Protestant church in the district of
Kadikoy. Karasu came with a friend identified as Baris, who preferred
to stay outside while the two of them had tea alone in the church

Aydin said they spoke for nearly 20 minutes about Karasu’s life in
his hometown of Erzurum and his financial and family difficulties,
as well as some spiritual matters, but since his friend was outside
they made it short. Karasu was smiling, in good spirits and not at
all the way Aydin remembered him from their meeting nearly a year
earlier when he was depressed, he said.

"He looked so healthy, and he was smiling, he was dressed well, he
was talking comfortably, he looked so cheerful," recalled Aydin with
disbelief. "He was not at all depressed! I was so surprised!"

Karasu thanked Aydin for the conversation, and the two got up from
the table to go up the stairs. Aydin led the way, walking ahead of
Karasu about a meter. Just as Aydin reached the stairway, he felt an
arm grab him around the neck.

"At the first step he violently grabbed me, putting his arm around
my neck, and gripped me tightly," recalled Aydin. "I was surprised
and thought someone had come up from behind me to tease me, but then
I remembered it was just the two of us downstairs. ‘Yasin,’ I said,
‘Is that you? Are you playing a joke on me?’"

"What joke!" he said, pulling out a knife, according to Aydin. "You’re
a missionary dog, and I’ve come to cut your throat."

Karasu told Aydin that he planned to make an example of him in the
eyes of the nation by killing him in public. Two members of the church
tried and failed to stop Karasu. The two church members and Karasu’s
friend followed them to a busy street down the road.

"He took me down to the busy street by the sea, threatening to kill
me," Aydin said. "The funny thing about it is that I had the impression
that we were playing a part in a film. Not a single person on the way
down tried to stop him or told him to stop. They just all looked on
with consternation."

Within one or two minutes, he said, police and a television crew

"Within a minute, both police and cameras showed up – how quick was
that?" he said. "I was surprised."

Suspicion of ‘Terrorism’

Although Aydin said he believes the act was an isolated incident,
other Christian Turks as well as police suspect it may have been an
act of propaganda to frighten Turkey’s small Protestant community,
most of whom are converts from Islam.

"I don’t think it was planned," said Aydin, "but it is possible that
it was."

The police section on terrorism combat is researching the possibility
that the attack was planned by a wider group. Aydin has decided not
to press charges, telling Turkish media that he forgave Karasu.

"I think it was an isolated case, but I have to see the police
report," said Sahin of the Turkish Protestant Alliance. "If this was
a provocation he would have killed him. He just wanted to show off
… with the Turkish flag." He added with a chuckle, "As if we don’t
like waving it."

According to Article 24 of the Turkish Constitution, people of all
faiths have the right to spread information about their faith.

Aydin, who was convinced he was going to lose his life, said he feels
the experience instilled new life into him.

"On Aug. 3 I died and was reborn," said Aydin. "That was my date
of death and birth. I was sure I was going to die. It’s like a new
opportunity, a new life. I really think the Lord gave me a second
chance, because if you think of it, after other events, like Hrant Dink
or the Malatya killings, those brothers weren’t so fortunate, right?"

Police found two knives on Karasu’s person, along with two cell
phones and the two flags he got from his audience. He is still in
police custody with his friend.

In February 2006 an Italian Catholic priest was killed in the Black Sea
coastal town of Trabzon, and Armenian Christian editor Hrant Dink was
shot in front of the weekly Agos three months before three Christians –
two Turks and a German – were killed in Malatya in April 2007.

Last month a German businessman was also murdered for being a Christian
on a busy Istanbul street (see "Christian Murdered on Busy Street in
Istanbul," July 28).

All murders were committed by Turkish men in their 20s.