Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Press Release

Ateizm.org, the most prominent non-profit Turkish web site on atheism and religions was closed for the second time in December 2007, under orders from a Turkish court. Ateizm.org was established in 2000 by three young Turkish atheists who devoted themselves to the enlightenment of Turkish people. Ateizm.org hosts an online discussion board named Ateistforum (forum.ateizm.org), one of the busiest forums for the Turkish speaking online community over the Internet. Ateizm.org received 1000 visits a day at its peak when it was open.

Turkey is a land of many cultures, traditions, ethnicities and religious groups. We are proud of our recent secular past, for numerous reforms and accomplishments that took place in political, social and economic areas. Although statistically Turkey appears as 98 percent Muslim, 15 percent of Turkish population follows the Alevi tradition, a very moderate version of Islam. There are significant numbers of secular non-practicing Muslims and very small numbers of people belonging to other religions, agnostics, deists and atheists.

Many aspects of Ateizm.org is considered to be revolutionary for Turkey. First time in the history of Turkey every conceivable aspect of Islam is being openly, scientifically, honestly and courageously discussed and criticized. Over the years many thousands of articles appeared in the forum, many of which referred to the verses of Koran and Hadits. With the possible exception of Ilhan Arsel and Turan Dursun’s studies, Koran had never been criticized in Turkey so much before. In addition to these short communications, numerous satires, short stories, poems, comments and lengthy articles were published. A few years after the inception of Ateizm.org, a separate science forum was established and started to enlighten young Turkish minds.

During its lifetime Ateizm.org was hacked three times and experienced some serious hosting problems. We survived all of them with flying colors and started over wherever we had left. Last year, however, our web site encountered a different and more ominous kind of problem. In June 2007, without warning, our web site was closed to its Turkish audience with a court order based on a legal action taken by a Turkish creationist named "Adnan Oktar" (now widely known by his pen name "Harun Yahya"). Since ateizm.org was hosted in the US, it remained accessible from abroad, but inaccessible to its main audience in Turkey. If we hired a lawyer and challenged the court order, we probably would have won our case. But we do not want to disclose our identities. This is our biggest weakness. According to our lawyer, there is no way to take a legal action in Turkey and remain anonymous at the same time. Many Turkish intellectuals who were against Islam and outspoken about their views on religion were murdered by Islamic fundamentalists in the past. We do not want to risk our lives.

Since we were unable to challenge the court order, we chose to change our domain name to Ateizm1.org and remained in operation. However we were well aware of the fact that the dark force of Harun Yahya would follow us in this endeavor as well. Despite this, we did not want to change our style and language and continued to bitterly criticize a Turkish creationist organization called "Science Research Foundation" ("Bilim Arastirma Vakfi" or "BAV") and its honorary president Harun Yahya. In December 2007 Ateizm.org (then called Ateizm1.org) was closed to Turkish audience for the second time by another court order.

Ateizm.org is particularly successful in debunking false claims made by BAV. BAV has international links, countless web sites and vast financial resources. BAV created their own version of Islamic creationism and they became very popular in Turkey and in other Islamic countries.

During 2007 Turkish Telecom has been busy blocking access to many other web sites(*), including YouTube, but they had to back off from YouTube ban due to public outrage.

In August 2007 popular blogging platform wordpress.com was completely blocked by Turkish Telecom on the ground that a number of "defamation" blogs allegedly made "slanderous" remarks against Harun Yahya. This was also a court order.

Harun Yahya, is the spiritual head of a vast Islamic apologist outfit in Turkey, which has reached Islamic publishers in London, Canada and the US. Though Harun Yahya is described by many as a "charlatan", he has made inroads with Muslims all the way from Indonesia to America.

His books cover topics including refutations of atheism and Darwinism, romanticism as a weapon of Satan, anti-evolution pseudo-science, affirmation of miracles, and attacks on Freemasons, Zionism, Buddhism, and terrorism (Darwin's fault).

Since around 1998, Harun Yahya's operations have focused emphatically on promoting Islamic creationism. Recently, his operations sent a glossy 770 page book about creationism to European and US scientists. This creationist movement has allied itself with the American creationists. In fact, in 2005, American taxpayers had to pay for a Turkish non-scientist creationist speaker who was allied with BAV to come and enter the debate on evolution in Kansas.

Majority of web sites that target unscientific claims made by BAV, particularly the web sites promoting free thinking, atheism and views against Islam, do not have sufficient resources nor influential power to create publicity for removing the Turkish Telecom ban.

We believe in our cause. We will never be intimidated. We will never stop to enlighten our people. But we are realists also. We know and accept our limitations and capabilities. We also realize that European and American atheist and freethinking organizations do not have the same kind of problems we have, and in spite of their good intensions it would be almost impossible for them to help us in going through difficult times such as this one.

Despite our recognition of difficulties related to receiving international support from friendly and humanitarian organizations, we cannot help but draw attention to our growing problems. Obviously we need some sort of support and encouragement. In Turkey almost no journalist sympathizes with our views. Very few of them share our concerns and fears. We need more coverage in the press, and more scholarly writings about atheism, secularism and freethinking. But the Turkish Press in general is not interested in going against the popular Islamic movement in Turkey, which is on the rise. We are sure of one thing that we will never get positive media attention in Turkey.

However we also know that if Turkish media or Turkish Government is criticized in Europe or US, they listen and pay more attention to it. Becoming a full member of the European Union is crucial for Turks, therefore whenever issues related to democracy, freedom of speech, human rights and alike are raised in the West, they are taken seriously, sometimes even addressed by the government, particularly if the issue is something that affects Turkey's image or credibility in the West.

Therefore it is vitally important that we find prominent international allies eager to support our cause by publicizing this issue as much as possible. We need a lot of noise!

The ban on ateizm.org in Turkey is yet another example of fundamentalist Islam gaining ground in a country survived as a secular democracy for well over half a century. Today secular forces in Turkey are struggling to protect democracy. Fundamentalist Islam aided by vast local and foreign financial resources is rapidly gaining ground. Therefore in Turkey, forces of "Secularism", "Democracy" and "Freedom of Speech" need all the help they can get.

If you want to help, you may make a plea for removing the ban on ateizm.org. Here is a list of organizations that you may wish to send your request:

Telecommunication Agency:

Telekomunikasyon Kurumu (www.tk.gov.tr)
Address: Yesilirmak Sokak No:16 Demirtepe 06430 ANKARA
Tel: 90 312 232 23 23
Fax: 90 312 294 71 45
Email: info@tk.gov.tr

Republic of Turkey Ministry of Justice:

Turkiye Cumhuriyeti Adalet Bakanligi (www.adalet.gov.tr)
T.C. Adalet Bakanligi, 06659 Kizilay ANKARA
Tel: 90 312 4177770
Fax: 90 312 4193370
E-mail: Not available

Turkish Newspapers:

Milliyet Gazetesi (www.milliyet.com.tr)
Address: Dogan Medya Center, BAGCILAR 34204 ISTANBUL
Tel: 90 212 505 61 11

Editor e-mail: webadmin@milliyet.com.tr

Aksam Gazetesi (www.aksam.com.tr)
Address: Davutpasa C. No.34 34020 Zeytinburnu ISTANBUL / TÜRKIYE

Tel: 90 212 449 32 71
Fax: 90 212 481 95 71
E-mail: haber@aksam.com.tr

Cumhuriyet Gazetesi (www.cumhuriyet.com.tr)
Address: Prof. Nurettin Mazhar Öktel Sokak No:2 Sisli 34381 Istanbul
Tel: 90 212 343 72 74
Fax: 90 212 343 72 64
email: postakutusu@cumhuriyet.com.tr

News Agency:

Anadolu Ajansi (www.aa.com.tr)
Anadolu Ajansi Genel Müdürlügü Gazi Mustafa Kemal Bulvari 128/C Tandogan/ANKARA
Tel: 90 312 231 70 00
Fax: 90 312 231 21 74
E-mail: ichaber@anadoluajansi.com.tr

Should you need more information regarding this matter, you may contact ateizm.org via administrator@ateizm.org

Should you need more information on "court orders" please go to this blog page:

(*) Some of the web sites blocked by Turkish Telecom in 2007: