Turkish Atheism Association to close down due to pressure

Turkey’s first atheist nongovernmental organization is preparing to dissolve itself after being targeted by the pro-government media and due to pressure on its members, according to a report by Voice of America’s Turkish edition.

The Atheism Association was founded in 2014 and has 170 members. Only 12 of them attended the association’s general board meeting on Sunday after Turkey’s pro-government and radical Islamist newspaper Yeni Akit gave details of the meeting beforehand and called Barbaros Şansal, a Turkish fashion designer and a member of the organization, an enemy of Turkey and a person who insults Islam.

Şansal was expelled from Cyprus in 2016 and attacked by a mob on the stairway of a passenger plane as he arrived at an İstanbul airport after he posted a video on New Year’s Eve complaining about the government’s crackdown on journalists, sexual harassment of children, corruption and rising extremism. “Drown in your shit, Turkey,” Şansal said in the video. Şansal was later arrested and jailed for two months.

Zeynep Ayça, the chairperson of the Atheism Association, said their members had stopped sending their membership fees and that the financial burden of the organization had to be shouldered by only a few people.

Şanar Atik, one of the association’s board members, said he had been prosecuted for insulting religious values and sentenced to six months in prison, which was later turned into a fine. Atik was also prosecuted for insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and sentenced to 14 months in prison.

“I cannot work in the public sector anymore. I don’t have a job. Under these circumstances people inevitably do not want to be seen as connected to our association,” Atik said.

The senior members of the organization also said although the number of atheists in Turkey was on the rise due to religious pressure and the failure of the rule of law in the country, there were not enough courageous atheists who could take the risk of working for the organization. (Ahval)

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