Sign reading ‘Traitors’ Cemetery’ removed from graveyard in Turkey

Sign reading ‘Traitors’ Cemetery’ removed from graveyard in Turkey

Sign reading ‘Traitors’ Cemetery’ removed from graveyard in Turkey

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A controversial sign reading “Traitors’ Cemetery” was removed from a graveyard built in the Pendik district of Istanbul for the coup plotters killed in the July 15 failed coup attempt. The cemetery was constructed upon the orders of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Mayor Kadir Topbaş, who said he ordered the sign to be removed on July 29 after consulting the head of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), Mehmet Görmez. 

“There was a meeting of the High Commission of the Religious Affairs [Directorate]. Görmez told me that it’s highly probable that the families of the dead would be offended by the name of the cemetery. He told me that it would be appropriate to remove the sign and I had it removed,” Topbaş said. 

Topbaş previously claimed the Cemetery of the Nameless was not a suitable place for the coup plotters to be buried as it included religious people, adding that putschists “won’t be saved from hell.”

The construction of the graveyard had sparked debate, with some campaigners and theologians saying proper burial was a human right, whatever the deceased had done.  

“This was a decision made hastily in the heat of the moment. But there have always been traitors. It is nothing new, you can bury [the coup plotters] in a separate spot... I don’t think it is a good idea to create such a cemetery,” said Necip Taylan, a former lawmaker from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and retired professor from the faculty of theology at Marmara University.   

Andrew Gardner, Turkey researcher for Amnesty International, said such moves were “contributing to what is a pretty poisonous atmosphere and a dangerous atmosphere” in the aftermath of the failed coup.     

“Denying people religious services and decent burial is a basic denial of people’s rights. In any normal circumstances such statements would be unimaginable,” Gardner said.  

The first - and so far, only - body arrived in an ambulance on July 25, the workers at the site said. No prayers were said and no ceremony was held for the burial beneath a dying pine tree.