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Journalist faces legal action for exposing religious sect activity

Aysemden Akin
Aysemden Akin

Turkish religious sects operating in the north have filed a case against Turkish Cypriot journalist Aysemden Akin , while the journalist also has a second case against her in Turkey over political articles she wrote in 2020 it emerged on Wednesday.

Akin, a journalist with Bugun Kibris, was targeted recently by a Turkish religious sect, after she wrote an article exposing the activity of the group in the north and the proselytizing that has been ongoing.

The journalist also has a case that the Republic of Turkey opened against her for social media posts that dealt with former Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci’s distancing from the leadership.

Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) about the issues and the cases brought against her, Akin said: “Ankara has been pressuring the Turkish Cypriots in recent years through various means. One lever of pressure is to enforce the standard of the ‘acceptable (proper) Muslim’ according to Sunni Islam, as interpreted by the Turkish government.”

Akin is not the first journalist to be targeted by Turkey and the ‘authorities’ in the north, with the list continuously growing, and one of the most high-profile cases being that brought against journalist Ali Kismir, who faces ten years in prison for “insulting” the Turkish Cypriot armed forces.

Commenting further on the matter of the religious proselytizing in the north, Akin said that the main task of the ‘religious services adviser’ of the ‘[Turkish] embassy’ is to convert Turkish Cypriots who do not follow the standards of religious Muslims. She added that Turkey is also building a second religious school in Famagusta.

Regarding the action of the Turkish religious orders in the occupied territories, Akin added: “These orders gather children through the associations they have established here. They subject the children to religious education called ‘study centres’. Teachers’ unions have repeatedly called on the government and the police to focus on this development.”

Commenting on the case brought against her, she said that an organisation associated with the sect Suleymanites, a religious sect based on teaching of Muslim scholar Suleyman Hilmi Tunahan, she said that the newspaper investigated various cases of the sect operating in the north.

She said that they found it works at exposed that they were creating students’ dormitories across the north.

From what it seems, she said that the organisation must have been angered and filed a case with the police. She said that if the court’s accept the case they will go and stand trial.

“They will be asked to explain how small children were abused at these dormitories,” she added, if the case goes to court and they face off against each other.

Regarding the ongoing trial in Turkey, she said that she had made a post on social media calling the previous ‘ambassador’ of Turkey to the north “persona non grata” following interference in the north’s elections in 2020, that saw Ersin Tatar elected Turkish Cypriot leader.

“The whole Turkish state tried to intimidate me. I have not been able to go to Turkey for three years because the lawyers there tell me that there is a risk of detention instead of deportation because of my dual citizenship,” she said.

Commenting on the situation for Turkish Cypriot journalists: “Our people are filling courtrooms to protect their journalists. We Turkish Cypriots are a small community oriented towards Europe and have embraced the principle of the secular state and democracy.”

She added that no matter how much pressure they endure the journalists will not abandon their bastions.

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