Christian praying in southeastern Turkey
Christian praying in southeastern Turkey

DIYARBAKIR — When Aykan Erdemir, a parliamentary member from Turkey's Republican People's Party, tried to visit the website of a Christian church located in the country's southeastern city of Diyarbakir, he was surprised to see that the parliament's filtering system recognized it as pornography.

The preacher of Diyarbakir Protestant church, Ahmet Guvener, said he thought it was a joke when Erdemir first called him in to discuss it. He knew that access to the church's website had been blocked from government computers, but it was a complete surprise to learn that the parliament system classified the website as pornography.

"You are the state," Guvener was quoted as saying. "You can say, "This country has another religion." You can say, "You are a missionary." I would not be offended at all because these are known accusations. But you are accusing a religious institution of being pornographic. This is really hard to tolerate."

Guvener also mentioned the case of American preacher Jeremiah Mattix, who worked for more than a decade in the overwhelmingly Muslim country but was deported after applying for an indefinite visa. "He has been instructing us on theology for 12 years," Guvener said. "You do not allow him a residence permit for 12 years. Then you deport him from the country."

Guvener noted that to deport Mattix authorities applied an immigration rule that is normally reserved for troublemakers. "This article is practiced against prostitution, hooliganism, mendicancy and pimping. You practice it against a man of the cloth," he said angrily.

Guvener also said that six other Christian families were deported from Diyabakir in the past. Guvener said there is no direct pressure on him or his community, but he feels sure that his phones are wiretapped.

"Let them gather us, put us in a ship and leave at sea," he said. "Then they would be rid of us."

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