ORHAN KEMAL CENGİZ

From the September 1955 pogroms to a campaign against missionaries

One of the most dangerous situations for the mind is being unable to make a distinction between fantasy and reality. This can work in two ways. You may treat a fantasy as if it is reality or you can listen to a shocking reality as though it’s a fable.

When it comes to paranoia about missionaries and Christians, we can see that our minds were paralyzed by both ways. Turkish society, media, politicians and so on treated a very stupid fantasy as if it was real for a long time. Our minds became a slave to this carefully created image of missionaries. We were looking for them everywhere: They had invaded Turkey, they were working to divide the country and they represented the fifth estate of Turkey’s external enemies. In the last couple of years, it became clear that this paranoia was created by the Turkish deep state in order to manipulate Turkish society into becoming more nationalist, to prepare the ground work for the ensuing murders of Christians and so on. With the Ergenekon investigation, we started to see the tip of the iceberg of this anti-Christian paranoia. With the second indictment in the Malatya massacre case, which is about the murder of three missionaries in 2007, some shocking details started to come out about how the paranoia surrounding them was created. In another country, these details would all have made headlines, whereas in Turkey they are ignored and treated like a kind of fantasy.

In this second indictment, we learned that this campaign against missionaries and Christians was led and orchestrated by a single center within the Turkish General Staff. This center is called the National Strategies and Operations Department (TUSHAD). TUSHAD was established within the framework of the Special Forces (Özel Kuvvetler), which is the continuation of Special Warfare Department (Özel Harp Dairesi).

Without knowing some history, these connections would not make any sense at all. The Special Warfare Department was implicated in many bloody provocations in Turkey in the past, including the pogroms of Sept. 6-7, 1955, targeting non-Muslims in İstanbul. One of the directors of this department, retired Gen. Sabri Yirmibeşoğlu, once said in an interview that the pogroms of 1955 “were an excellent operation carried out by Special Warfare and they achieved their goal.” Today, we have learned that a special branch, TUSHAD, was established in 1993 within the Turkish military by Hurşit Tolon, a four-star general and secretary-general of the General Staff at the time, to engage with Christians.

İlker Çınar, a staff member of this branch and a witness for the prosecutor, told the story of his activities within the framework of TUSHAD in great detail.

Çınar was first extensively educated about missionaries and intelligence at TUSHAD. Then he was sent to Mersin, where he infiltrated Christian community for the first time. He presented himself to the Christian community as a person doing some “soul-searching”. He was quickly accepted by the Christian community there and became a “member”. He started to distribute bibles. He engaged in quite intensive missionary activities throughout the whole Mediterranean region, while of course at the same time regularly sending all intelligence to TUSHAD through local gendarmerie agencies. His hard labor was appreciated by the Christian community and he was accepted to the Bible Academy in Ephesus. He received a diploma and became a pastor. He even changed his identity card to reflect his religion as Christian, of course with the permission of TUSHAD. He became one of the leading figures in his Christian community. His idea of opening a church in Mersin was accepted and he became the pastor of this church. In 2005, he received new instructions from TUSHAD ordering him to become Muslim again and to tell Turkish society about missionaries.

I clearly remember his first appearance on one of the popular TV channels. His whole head and face was covered with a paper bag first, but after a while he took off the paper bag and he said he is “not embarrassed.” It was such a theatrical show. Then he started to speak of how devilish the missionary people were. After this, he appeared on many national TV channels, one after another. He wrote books about missionaries. He attended conferences in every corner the country and became the symbol of the anti-missionary war. Now, he has told the prosecutors he did everything under the orders of TUSHAD, which arranged all contacts and other things for him.

I will continue with this subject in my next column.

2012-06-28