ANKARA: Unprotected Non-Muslim Cemeteries Under Cage Threat

UNPROTECTED NON-MUSLIM CEMETERIES UNDER CAGE THREAT

Today’s Zaman
Nov 24 2009
Turkey

Several of Istanbul’s 65 non-Muslim cemeteries, which are not properly
protected, have been targeted in provocative attacks, as was mentioned
in an action plan devised by a group of Naval Forces Command officers.

The Cage Operation Action Plan, aimed at sparking clashes between
Turkey’s Muslim and non-Muslim population through schemes including
assassinations of prominent non-Muslim figures and bomb attacks at
non-Muslim cemeteries. The anti-democratic formation within the Naval
Forces Command hoped to trigger a coup d’état.

Ä°stanbul has 65 non-Muslim cemeteries, which are not affiliated with
the Ä°stanbul Municipality’s Directorate for Cemeteries. Therefore,
those cemeteries are not guarded by the municipality. All protection
and maintenance services of those cemeteries are met by Turkey’s
Armenian, Greek and Jewish communities. Some are in good condition,
as they receive financial aid from those communities, but many others
are in a miserable state and lack proper protection. Ä°stanbul’s
non-Muslim cemeteries are mainly situated in Kadıköy, BeÅ~_iktaÅ~_,
Uskudar, Adalar, Sarıyer, Å~^iÅ~_li, Beyoglu, Zeytinburnu, Fatih
and Bakırköy districts.

Recent incidents at the Balıklı Greek Orthodox Cemetery in
Zeytinburnu suggest that the Cage plan was at least partially put
into operation.

Around 90 graves at the cemetery have been desecrated by unidentified
assailants since the summer months.

The spiritual leader of the GedikpaÅ~_a Armenian Protestant Church,
Kirkor Agabaloglu, complained that the stones and crosses marking
graves at non-Muslim cemeteries are destroyed by people who visit
the cemeteries. "Non-Muslim cemeteries are surrounded by walls. We
have guards at the cemeteries’ doors. Many people visit the cemeteries.

They destroy the stones and crosses around the graves. Our protective
efforts will continue to fall short as long as people fail to change
their destructive mindsets," he remarked.

Agabaloglu also stated that the plans against non-Muslim cemeteries
are aimed at discrediting the Justice and Development Party (AK Party)
because the party has recently taken steps to eradicate hostility
against minorities in Turkey.

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