A recently retired imam in Turkey has taken his own life following a similar case in August, fueling concerns over alleged political discrimination within Turkey’s religious institutions against imams unsupportive of the ruling of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), Turkish Minute reported.
Imam Muhammed Şahin, who had retired six months ago, was found dead in the basement of his home. Allegations suggest that prior to his retirement he faced political pressure from the mayor of the town where he lived in northern Kastamonu province for not being supportive of the ruling AKP. A letter requesting Şahin’s transfer to another district was sent to the Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), signed by local AKP representatives and the mayor.
Mil Diyanet-Sen, a union representing religious workers, has called for an investigation into the allegations. The union stated that both Şahin and his family harbored serious grievances and that Şahin had left a letter detailing the pressures he faced.
The family of the deceased imam expressed their grief and emphasized their trust in divine and Turkish justice. Meanwhile, the mayor denied any direct interactions with Şahin.
In August imam Mehmet Deniz in western Balıkesir province ended his life after being removed from his position by the Diyanet for not adhering to traditional religious attire. The case had sparked an investigation into alleged workplace bullying within the Diyanet.
The Diyanet, the budget of which outstripped seven out of 17 Turkish ministries this year, is frequently criticized for being politicized under the AKP government, to the extent that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan compared the staff and imams of the directorate to “members of the army” in 2018.
The Turkish government has been accused of using the directorate as an instrument to silence dissent and cover up wrongdoing by incorporating political issues into religious sermons.