Turkey blocks website of its first atheist association
ISTANBULIt took less than a year for a Turkish court to block the website of the country’s first official atheism association.
The Atheism Association, the first of its kind in any Muslim-majority country, was officially founded in Istanbul’s Asian-side neighborhood of Kadıköy in April 2014. However, the Gölbaşı 2nd Civil Court of Peace in Ankara has finally moved to block the association’s website, according to the group’s statement on March 3, 2015.
As of March 4, Turkish internet users could not access www.ateizmdernegi.org without using tools to bypass blockings, such as a VPN.
The court ruling cites Article 216 of the Turkish Penal Law, which forbids “provoking the people for hate and enmity or degrading them.”
The association has issued a statement to criticize the blocking. “Three months ago, the European Space Agency managed to put Philae on a one-km wide comet named 67P, which has a speed of 135,00p km/h, after a 3,907-day-long journey to a location 500 million km away. Meanwhile, courts in Turkey are still busy blocking websites, citing laws with vague expressions and trying to make a certain belief dominate the others,” it stated.
The Atheism Association also described the court’s decision as “a historic example of accumulating legislative, executive and judicial powers in one hand,” claiming that Turkey is “drifting away from the level of modern civilizations as fast as its judiciary system drifts away from reason.”
The association had recently declared in a statement that it was officially recognized by the European Union and invited by universities and think-tanks to speak at their events. Morgan Elizabeth Romano, its vice president, had stressed in her recent addresses that Article 216 is seriously harming freedom of expression in Turkey.
In an interview with daily Agos last year, the founders of the association, Tolga İnci and Ahmet Balyemez, said they thought there should be a place to provide legal support to people facing problems as atheists.
Only three weeks after its foundation, the association had to install a panic button, which is directly connected to the police center near its headquarters in Istanbul, due to death threats.
In the past, the Turkish government or the courts blocked access to a number of popular websites, including YouTube and Twitter. More than 66,000 websites are still blocked in Turkey.