İdris Emen - Radikal / Istanbul, June 23 () - A self-described atheist from the southeastern province of Adıyaman has been forced to leave his hometown after receiving death threats for removing the term “Islam” from the religious affiliation section of his national identity card.
The threats began on May 21, with the young man, identified only by the initials E.F., receiving two letters containing death threats and his house being marked.
Fearing for his life, E.F. appealed to the Adıyaman branch of Turkey’s Human Rights Association (İHD), which filed a criminal complaint in his name.
He subsequently decided to leave Adıyaman for the neighboring province of Gaziantep, where started to live with his uncle.
However, the threats continued when E.F. visited Adıyaman with his uncle on June 13 for the funeral of his grandfather.
Upon his return to Gaziantep, E.F. found another letter containing a verse from the Quran written in Arabic and a sentence written in Turkish below that read “We are entitled to your blood.”
Although he filed a complaint at the police station in Gaziantep’s Şahinbey district, E.F. returned to his hometown Adıyaman as the death threats did not subside in Gaziantep.
Speaking to Radikal newspaper, E.F. said the state should grant him legal protection.
“I can no longer leave my house or hang out with my friends. I am an atheist. My family members are Alevis. I believe this is why I’m receiving death threats. I want the state to find those who are threatening me and I want the state to protect me” he said.
The head of İHD’s Adıyaman branch, Osman Süzen, urged the chief public prosecutor’s office to shed light on the incidents.
“We believe the continuation of such threats could damage E.F.’s mental health. Those who are threatening him could be people who are closely acquainted with him. We demand that the public prosecutor’s office clarify the situation” Süzen said.
The religious affiliation section in national ID cards remains a thorny issue in Turkey, where citizens were obliged to declare their religion until 2006.
Turkish citizens have since been allowed to leave the section blank.
Nevertheless, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on Feb. 2, 2010 that the mere presence of a religious affiliation section on national identity cards is a violation of freedom of conscience and religion as defined in the European Convention on Human Rights.