Turkey, SE Europe & SW Asia
Political Leader: Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Religions: Islam 99.6%, Christianity 0.3%, Jewish 0.1%
Persecution Ranking: No.
Number of Terrorist Groups: 27
Acts of Terrorism: 1,239; Casualties: 560
Percent of Corruption: 62%
% of People in Poverty: 20%
Turkey, known officially as the Republic of Turkey, is a Eurasian country that stretches across the Anatolian peninsula in southwest Asia and the Balkan region of southeastern Europe. Turkey borders eight countries: Bulgaria to the northwest, Greece to the west, Georgia to the northeast, Armenia, Azerbaijan (the Nakhichevan exclave), and Iran to the east, Iraq and Syria to the southeast. It borders the Mediterranean Sea to the south, the Aegean Sea to the west, and the Black Sea to the north. Turkey also contains the Sea of Marmara, which is used by geographers to mark the border between Europe and Asia, which makes Turkey transcontinental.
Domestic and transnational terrorist groups have targeted Turkish nationals and foreigners on occasion for more than 40 years. International and domestic terrorist groups that operated in Turkey included Kurdish separatist, Marxist-Leninist, radical Islamist, and pro-Chechen groups. Most prominent among terrorist groups in Turkey is the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), subject to regular name changes, currently operating as Kongra-Gel (KGK/PKK). Composed primarily of Kurds with a historically separatist agenda, the KGK/PKK operated from headquarters in part of northern Iraq and directed forces to target mainly Turkish security forces, government offices and villagers who opposed the KGK/PKK. The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), a group affiliated with the KGK, assumed responsibility for attacks on resort areas in southern and western Turkey, an attack on the office of a political party and the bombing of a minibus carrying schoolchildren. KGK/PKK attacks against Turkey increased significantly and claimed as many as 600 lives in 2006. In October, the KGK/PKK declared a unilateral cease-fire that slowed the intensity and pace of its attacks but attacks continued in response to Turkish security forces significant counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations, especially in the southeast.
Other prominent terrorist groups included the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C), a militant Marxist-Leninist party with anti-U.S. and anti-NATO views that seeks the violent overthrow of the Turkish state; and Turkish Hizballah (not affiliated with Lebanese Hizballah), an organization of Sunni Kurds with a violent history, which appeared to be providing social services and promoting Sharia in parts of the southeast.
At the end of 2006, a criminal trial was underway for the 72 defendants allegedly involved in the four November 2003 Istanbul bombings. The trial concluded on February 16, 2007, with 48 of the 72 receiving jail sentences. Seven of those were sentenced to life in prison; 26 were acquitted. The lead defendants admitted to contacts with Al Qaeda and warned of further attacks. Most of the other defendants denied responsibility for, or knowledge of, the bombings. Four of the suspects, including the brother of one of the four suicide bombers, were released pending trial in May after spending more than two and half years in prison.
As of late November 2006, Turkish prosecutors were seeking life imprisonment for Luay Sakka, a Syrian national linked to Al Qaeda and the Zarqawi network. Sakka was connected to the funding of the November 2003 Istanbul bombings and the deaths of U.S. and Coalition Forces in Iraq, and was allegedly plotting a terrorist attack on Israeli cruise ships in Turkish ports when he was apprehended in August 2005.
In addition to sharing intelligence information on various groups operating in Turkey, the Turkish National Police (TNP) and the National Intelligence Organization conducted an aggressive counterterrorist campaign and detained numerous suspected terrorists in scores of raids, disrupting these groups before terrorist acts could be carried out. For example, in December 2006, TNP counterterrorism units simultaneously raided ten addresses in Istanbul that were suspected of housing leftist militants. Twenty suspects were arrested. Turkish law defined terrorism as attacks against Turkish citizens and the Turkish state, and government left the definition unchanged when Parliament enacted a package of amendments to its antiterrorism law.
Turkey is comprised of 99.6% Muslims and only 0.3% of the population are Christians. . In the last century Turkey rejected Islam as the official national religion in favor of becoming a secular state. However, Turkey remains a country that identifies strongly with Islam and Christians face harassment and persecution.
Challenges for Christians:
Turkey is ranked No. 35 among nations that are the worst persecutors of Christians based on Open Doors 2007 “World Watch List.” Turkey is considered the largest unreached nation in the world.
Six months after the brutal killing of three evangelical Christians in Turkey a murder trial will open at the Heavy Penal Court in Malatya, Southeast Turkey in late October 2007. According to Turkish press reports the prosecution demands multiple life sentences for five defendants, accused of murdering the German Tilmann Geske and the Turkish Christians Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel.
They were tortured and their throats slashed at the Zirve Publishing House in Malatya, April 18, 2007. Zirve publishes Bibles and other Christian literature. Five young Muslims―Emre Gunaydin, Abuzer Yildirim, Hamit Ceker, Cuma Ozdemir and Salih Guler―were arrested and indicted. According to the prosecution they acted out of hate for Christian missionaries. They are also accused of founding an armed group and organized killing. Seven other defendants are accused of aiding and abetting the group.
Susanne Geske, Tilmann Geske’s widow, has publicly forgiven the murderers. She continues living in Malatya with her three children. They are members of a Protestant church in the town.
The founder of the publishing house, Martin de Lange, had made a statement in 2005 that the company had been targeted and threatened by Turkish nationalists.
According to the Turkish information service Bianet in Istanbul, 15 of the 22 Christian families in Malatya have left and will not return. There are approximately 120,000 Christians in Turkey, among them about 4,000 evangelicals.
- Pray for God to thwart the plans of terrorist groups in Turkey, including Al Qaeda. Pray that when the enemy comes against innocent people in Turkey that the Spirit of the Lord will raise up a standard against the enemy by sending forth weapons from His arsenal in heaven. (Exodus 15:3, 6-7 and Isaiah 59:19)
- Pray for the Turkish government to continue its strong opposition against to combating terrorism and terrorist finance issues.
- There is an increasing openness in Turkish government to officially recognize that Turkey is a multi-cultural and multi-religious country. Pray that this openness would continue and bring greater freedom for all people in Turkey
- Thank God that the number of Christians in Turkey has grown from only 10 in 1960 to 2,000 in 2000.
- Turkey remains the largest unreached nation in the world. Few of the 66 million Muslims have ever heard the Gospel and only 15 of Turkeys 80 provinces have a Christian church. Pray for laborers for this harvest field.
- Pray that the barriers and prejudices against Christianity can be broken down. To be a Turk is to be a Muslim, so people who decide to follow Jesus are threatened, intimidated and can be rejected by their families. There is a deep-seated hostility towards Christians, who are identified with foreign invaders who invaded the Turkish empire during the crusades. Pray that these misconceptions would be shattered by the truth and love of Jesus.
- Pray for an end to the trouble and hostility between the Turkish army and Kurdish separatists, who are fighting for their independence from Turkey. Although there may be a few Kurdish Christians, there are no Kurdish churches. Pray for the development of a Church that reflects and reaches these people.
- After 20 years of work by the Bible Society, a new modern Turkish translation of the Bible was published in 2001. Pray that these Bibles would bring fresh revelation and excitement and reach the people who need them.
- Pray for justice for these five defendants accused of murdering the German Tilmann Geske and the Turkish Christians Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel. Pray for their salvation.
Sources: 24-7 Prayer, Operation World, Wikipedia, Country Reports on Terrorism 2006, International Religious Freedom Report 2007, Open Doors, Assist News Service, The World Factbook