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June 26, 2012, Tuesday

Recognizing the victimhood of the slain Christians

At the beginning of the 2000s a peculiar phenomenon arrived in Turkey. All of a sudden, quite a weird enemy appeared on the horizon. They were Christian missionaries.

Just take a look at Turkish newspapers from 2005 and 2006; you will see much news about them, on a daily basis. When you read these “news stories” you will get the impression that Turkey was almost under attack by these “devilish” people who were linked to external enemies of Turkey and so on.

You know how this paranoia ended. On April 18, 2007, three missionaries were killed by having their throats slit. When Emre Günaydın, prime suspect among the five youngsters caught red-handed in the murder of the missionaries, was captured, he said to police that there were 49 illegal churches in Malatya where, in fact, only a dozen Christians, including those who had been barbarically killed, lived.

The paranoia about missionaries was so strong, so persistent, it even had an influence on the prosecutors and the judges who investigated these barbaric murders. To give you a sense of the mood of those days, I will offer a quotation from an article I wrote on Nov. 22, 2007, immediately after I had read the court files relating to this murder:

“There are 31 files in this case and just 15 of them comprise information about the murder and the perpetrators. What about the other 16 files? You will not believe this, but these files are about the activities of the victims whose throats were slit. The prosecutor retrieved all documents from the computers of the victims and put them in the case file as ‘evidence.’ If I did not know the background I would think that there were two gangs fighting each other and the members of one gang killed the members of the other, and that the prosecutor collected evidence about both these gangs! In reality though, we are talking about an unbelievable slaughter of three innocent people, whose only wrongdoing was carrying out missionary activities in the wrong place!”

Not only the missionaries who were killed, but also we the lawyers of the families of the victims, were treated like criminals from the beginning. The court, the prosecutors, the local media at first saw us as intruders whose only intention was to create a scandal out of an “ordinary” murder. In the first few hearings the murderers were confident that their defense of acting on “provocation” would be accepted. “They were acting to protect their country from missionaries who insulted their religious beliefs,” and so on. In the beginning not only were they willing to sell this image of “fundamentalist Muslims” who killed Christians, but the media, including Western television and newspapers, were willing to buy this version of the story.

The real story, however, was much deeper, much more complex and much more sophisticated. Last Friday, the Malatya Criminal Court accepted the second indictment in this case. We have been waiting for this for such a long time. It is 761 pages long. I have read most of it, and I will share my opinion about the indictment with you in subsequent pieces.

When I read the following evaluation by the prosecutor I remembered all the events that I described at the beginning of this article. The prosecutor says, “As a result of the black propaganda, it resulted that rather then the murder itself, missionary activities were put on trial at the 3rd [Criminal] Court of Malatya.”

Well, with this indictment, for the first time the victim status of the slain Christians has been established. They were just innocent victims of a barbaric act, provoked and prepared by insidious and very well calculated efforts of some dark forces in Turkey. That’s it. It is that simple. There was not the slightest provocation on the part of victims. They were only the victims of this unprovoked barbaric act. Well, the court is just starting, five years after the massacre. I will continue on this.

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