By Zehra Pala
on April 17, 2017
Unfortunately you may be sentenced to suffer affronts, be judged, jailed, targeted to a lynch and even to be killed by the government unless you are “one of them” in any country that is retrogressive, does not value human rights and freedoms of speech and expression, is pushed into religion and bigotry, has left behind human emotions…
In Turkey, too, the situation changes from good to bad to worse.
Unfortunately we witness obligatory religious classes, the introduction of Sunni Islamic teachings under the name of religion classes, and trying to infuse religion with fear because it is known that small children will be better “controlled” at that age. Although the parents do not want their children to take the religious lessons, we are confronted with a management that makes the religion course mandatory by extending it as elective religious instructions. A sad but true example is Abuzer Meral, (an emergency polyclinic doctor in Yalova) who was opposed to his son practising prayer in religion class; a journalist targeted him, and he lost his job. Another example: I was not surprised to hear that Kahraman Kepenekci (a history teacher) complained to BİMER (Prime Ministry Contact Center) because he made his class watch the Cosmos documentary in school. What can we say for “against religion” education as the reason for that? The education system has collapsed; and the number of Imam-Hatip (preacher) schools is being multiplied. In fact, the state, which changed state schools to Imam-Hatip schools, has made it a necessity for the children to go to these schools without giving any other option to the public.
In Friday at prayer times, some business places make people go to the mosques by shutting up shop at those times. Everyone can preach if they want. And no one can be against this… BUT; why are the people performing their prayers on the streets or in the business centers in a country where there are more mosques than schools? There are also such people who are atheists and/or who do not belong to Sunni Islam, or who are Sunni Muslim but do not pray on Friday – these people are treated as pariahs by the others and lose their job after falling victim to mob justice.
During Ramadan, we are aware of the existence of the people who are hungry because of oppression when they do not fast at work. We are also aware of people who are beaten, and/or suffer affronts and bullied by the people gathering other people for drinking water or smoking in the street. This is a normal situation every Ramadan. Since Islam is the religion of “peace and tolerance” for them; why is this behavior always on the agenda? Of course not all Muslims are like this. There are also believers who are angry with such barbaric behavior.
Of course, we cannot expect the people to tell their family that they are atheists who cannot express themselves at work, or even their friends. The Atheism Association is an association that has assisted these people on this issue. It is encouraging to see that those who have attended the meetings of Atheism Association are being aware that they are not alone (as their slogan – We are not alone anymore!) and becoming a little more confident. People can behave, even if they are not fully free, more freely after seeing people who think like themselves and see people who speak the same language, in an environment where being atheist can be considered “NORMAL”, and where it is not dangerous to say it.
After the July 15th coup d’état attempt, with the “support” of political Islam, people are completely separated. When the coup originally targeted the state on July 15, there were people crying “Allahu Akbar!” on the streets. The knell sounded as people called for a jihad, and intolerant sermons were made from all the mosques throughout Turkey, non-stop for weeks. By imposing the idea of “Losing Religion” and adding the coup attempt to this, it caused the people to accept each other as “not from us” instead of being together. We are also witnesses to the reality of the people “unleashing” to the people living in the same land, shopping from the same markets, using the same public transport. In a Constitutional “SECULARIST” country, we have seen people recording videos of “secular dog hunts” after the state called them to the streets. We have witnessed that not only atheists, but also secular ones, Kurds, Alevis, Armenians – anyone who is not a Sunni Muslim is targeted. We have witnessed a huge crowd invocating in the Capitol of Turkey, Ankara and even in the “PRESIDENTIAL” Palace.
Secular people have been reluctant to defend secularism. When you do this – I will repeat it: although we live in a secular country by the constitution – you are treated as a terrorist. Even though the fact is that those who did this were violating the constitution, nonetheless, you are treated as a terrorist. People cannot rise against these injustices for fear of losing their jobs. As long as there is encouragement and endorsement from the state, we will not have the right to say a word to those who suffer. Everyone is complicit. In very old times, Turkey, exemplified as a secular country by the revolutions, is now buried in darkness with political Islamization. Of course these events are not promising. The streets are becoming insecure for those who are not Sunni Muslims. When this is the case, being an atheist in Turkey, voicing it and talking about it can easily lead you to many things. But courage is not to be afraid, but to march despite your fears.
How can you talk about secularism in a country where a man kicks a woman because of her wearing shorts on a bus, and showing the reason for this inhumane action as “not appropriate for Islam”, and after being questioned for this, was released by the officials? How can you speak about “human rights” in a country where the social media enterprise is banned, the rightful television channels and newspapers are closed, authors and commentators are jailed? It is not easy to express both being a secular and being an atheist, of course. But if we stop telling that and cower, we have to be prepared for tougher days.
I can understand that a person believes in a creator or a religion because he/she needs to belong to a collective, he/she has to believe in something or he/she wants not to feel alone in any way. But I cannot understand doing harm, and even killing a living creature feloniously for the sake of the political interests of the ones in government and/or for the “approved” rage, hatred and barbarism of the people…
With the wishes for a life together, “HUMANE” and with tolerance.
Zehra Pala (Atheist Activist-Speaker-President of Ateizm Derneği)