Entertainment, freedom of information in crosshairs of Turkey’s purge

Turkey (MNN) — The ever-growing post-coup purge in Turkey struck another blow last weekend. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan fired nearly 4,000 more public officials, and banned Wikipedia and certain television dating shows. Wikipedia, a free online encyclopedia, was particularly blocked because the Turkish government says the site refused to take down content and articles which alluded to Turkey cooperating with terrorist groups.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Image Courtesy: World Economic Forum, Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic | Wikimedia Commons)

Todd Nettleton with The Voice of the Martyrs, USA says, “My concern is that what we’re seeing is another step down the road to a dictatorship in Turkey. Since the failed coup attempt last summer, there’s now been 140,000 people purged from their jobs. There are thousands that have been arrested…. Literally, entire universities have closed down because all of the staff members, all of the faculty have been purged from their jobs. So this is another step now. We’ve purged people; now let’s start to control the flow of information. If it’s information we don’t like, then we’ll not let the people see it.”

Those fired or jailed also include teachers, academics, journalists (more than anywhere else in the world), and pastors (including imprisoned American pastor Andrew Brunson).

“As someone who has visited Turkey numerous times, I love the country of Turkey, I love the people there, and so this is very concerning.”

This new move to control information and entertainment follows President Erdogan’s power sweep in the recent referendum vote. Nettleton says, “There is some concern about the [referendum] vote and the voracity of the vote. I think the hope was, when the vote was so close, that Erdogan would maybe take some steps towards reconciliation…. What happened, or what seems to be happening instead, is, ‘Well, it doesn’t matter what those people think. I’m in charge. I’m going to make sure I stay in charge. I’m going to make sure my control is even greater than it was before.’”

Ministries and churches are asking a lot of questions about what these shifting power tides could mean for outreach or even religious freedom in the future.

Turkey is 99.8 percent Muslim, with the other 0.2 percent accounting for minority religions, mostly Jews and Christians. Being a Turk and a Muslim are seen a synonymous.

“I think everyone’s having to be more careful right now in Turkey, and that obviously includes the Christians who are there. The perception often in Turkey is that somehow, becoming a Christian makes you less patriotic, or you’re turning your back on your national identity and on your heritage. So, in a time when nobody’s trusted, people who are perceived to have sort of renounced their nationality are extra untrustworthy. So there is that potential for Christians to be singled-out.”

However, says Nettleton, “Right now, it seems the biggest attention is being paid to followers of Fethullah Gulen, which is an Islamic sect, but Christians are certainly on edge about what this means for them and what it means a year from now and five years from now as President Erdogan gets even more power and more control.”

(Photo courtesy of Andreas Trojak via Flickr)

As we continue to pray for and with Turkey, here are two things Nettleton says you can pray specifically this week.

“I think one of the things first is to pray for the believers who are there now. Pray for their protection, pray that they will have favor with government authorities, that the government authorities will see that Christians are good citizens, that they follow the laws, they pray for their government, they want to be good citizens and be a part of good things in the country,” he says.

“The second thing I think we can pray is for revival. You know, times of upheaval, times of worry and concern are times when the Holy Spirit can move in and speak.”