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Cablegate: Background to Attack On Christian in Istanbul

VZCZCXYZ0002
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIT #0314 2260526
ZNR UUUUU ZZH (CCY AD9FD49B WSC6442-695)
P 140526Z AUG 09
FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9115
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEUITH/ODC ANKARA TU
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC

UNCLAS ISTANBUL 000314

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

C O R R E C T E D COPY CAPTION
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM OSCE TU
SUBJECT: BACKGROUND TO ATTACK ON CHRISTIAN IN ISTANBUL

1. (SBU) Summary. On August 3, a Christian Turk was attacked
in Kadikoy, Istanbul, by an acquaintance who recently
completed military service. The twenty-minute standoff ended
when police officers threatened to open fire. The attacker
eventually released the victim after calling him a
"missionary dog," accusing him of breaking up the country,
and forcing him to wave a Turkish flag. The attack was
unprecedented in the last year, and some Christian Turks and
a journalist for Compass Direct allege it was a planned
propaganda piece used to threaten Turkish Protestants. So far
this isolated incident has not been accompanied by any
heightened anti-missionary rhetoric in media or among
domestic groups, but we will be alert for any trend in
anti-minority threats. End Summary.

2. (SBU) According to a conversation between the victim and
our journalist contact, on August 3, 24-year old Yasin
Karasu, following Karasu's release from military service, met
with 35-year old Ismail Aydin in the basement of a church in
Kadikoy to discuss Christianity. On their way out of the
building, Karasu reportedly grabbed Aydin and, according to
Aydin, said, "You're a missionary dog, and I've come to cut
your throat" as he guided Aydin down the street. Aydin
explained that "it felt as if we were playing a part in a
film. Not a single person on the way down tried to stop him
or told him to stop." Within a few minutes the police and a
television crew arrived. Upon their arrival, Karasu demanded
two Turkish flags from the crowd - forcing Aydin to wave one
after he wrapped the other around Aydin's head. Karasu then
surrendered willingly to the police, and he remained in
police custody at the time of this report. The victim,
Aydin, shared with a contact that he will not press charges,
but that the police had offered to do so for him.

3. (SBU) According to Aydin, over the last year while Karasu
was in the army he showed interest in learning more about
Christianity and would regularly call Aydin, a convert from
Islam, to discuss religion. Aydin said he considered Karasu
to be depressed and was "seeking relief" through his weekly
calls. He said he believed the attack was an isolated
incident and likely not planned. However, other Christians
and some members of the police (according to reporting in
Compass Direct, an on-line Christian news source) and one
journalist suspect it may have been an orchestrated act of
propaganda intended to frighten Turkey's small Protestant
community. No one was able to specify who might have been
behind Karasu's act. (Note: According to Article 24 of the
Turkish Constitution, people of all faiths have the right to
spread information about their faith. While proselytizing is
not illegal, it is viewed by many as a threat to the nation.
Until recently, eighth grade Turkish textbooks included
several pages of information warning of the grave threats to
the nation posed by missionaries in Turkey.)

4. (SBU) Comment: The physical attack on a Christian in
Istanbul on August 3 came as a surprise to those who follow
religious freedom in Turkey given the ebb in alleged social
abuse against religious minorities over the last year. Until
this event, there had been no reports of physical violence
against religious minorities in the last year. Some, like HR
lawyer Orhan Kemal Cengiz and professor and author of the "I
Apologize Campaign" Cengiz Aktar speculated during prior
discussions that the arrests associated with the Ergenekon
indictments caused the lull in violence. So far this
isolated incident has not been accompanied by any heightened
anti-missionary rhetoric in media or among domestic groups,
but we will be alert for any trend in anti-minority threats.
End Comment.
WIENER

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