DoctorE

Turtles all the way down

Turkey’s Atheists Face Hostilities, Death Threats

Posted by doctore0 on April 16, 2015


ISTANBUL—

Onur Romano, a founding member of Turkey’s Atheism Association, opens the office and checks the mail. For once, he says, there are no death threats.

“Sometimes they send photos of some al-Qaida members chopping people off heads and putting all the heads in a bucket,” he says. “They tell us your head is going to be in one of the buckets, that’s how you are going to leave your office, stuff like that.”

In officially secular Turkey, whose population is 99 percent Muslim, atheists are voicing alarm about what they call increasing intolerance fueled by the country’s pro-Islamist government.

“Through Facebook, Twitter, emails, and to our call center, we have received a couple of hundred death threats already,” Romano continues. “We have a total of three security cameras, and we have two panic buttons hooked up to the nearest police precinct. But we are determined.”

On Turkish TV channels where growing numbers of Islamic clerics espouse their beliefs, Atheists are a popular target. Romano says much of his group’s work involves countering such views.

“We don’t insult religion, we don’t insult people’s values. All we are trying to [do] is to tell people what atheism, because our people think that atheists are people who have orgies every night, rape animals because [and] have no ethical values,” he said. “For them, ethics is equal to religion.”
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