By: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal
The following report from Martin Bucer Seminary (MBS) Bonn, Germany, was
compiled by Titus Vogt, MBS Dean of International Programs. The English
translation was done by Thomas K. Johnson, Ph.D., MBS Professor of
Apologetics and Ethics.
Elizabeth Kendal WEA RLC
THE LAST HOURS OF THE THREE MARTYRS:
Necati Aydin, Ugur Yuksel, and Tilmann Geske
The assassins deceived the victims in order to gain their trust.
Martin Bucer Seminary (Bonn, Germany) reconstructs the last hours of its
student, Necati Aydin.
Martin Bucer Seminary (MBS) Dean for International Programs, Titus Vogt,
led an investigation into the tragic events of 18 April 2007 by means of
putting together the statements from all the witnesses. MBS remains
close to the victims, survivors, and witnesses to the brutal murder in
Malatya through its Turkish branch, as one of the victims, Necati Aydin,
was their student. Until now, MBS has hesitated to give all the details
to the public, but MBS President Thomas Schirrmacher has concluded now
that nothing stands in the way of a full public statement of all the
MURDERERS SPENT MONTHS SURREPTITIOUSLY GAINING THE TRUST OF THE VICTIMS
Some months ago the murderers gained the trust of their intended
victims. To do this, the assassins indicated an interest in the
Christian faith and said they wanted more information about the Bible
and its contents. What deception could be more powerful to Bible
publishers who were themselves adult converts from Islam to
Christianity? Under this guise, they met repeatedly with their future
victims. Clearly the attack was planned well in advance.
On the morning of 18 April, two of the murderers came to the office of
Zirve Publishing House in Malatya, which is an extension of a Protestant
publisher based in Istanbul, with distribution offices in various
Turkish cities. Among other things, they discussed the Christian faith
with Necati Aydin, as they had done frequently over the previous
months. On this particular morning, in addition to Tilmann Geske, the
bookkeeper, Emin M., was also in the office. Everything seemed to be
completely normal. In the course of the morning, M. left the office,
not suspecting that he would never see Aydin and Geske alive again.
Shortly thereafter the three other assassins arrived and tied up the
first two victims, while they threatened them with pistols. Two days
before, the assassins had been taken into custody because of wielding
weapons in public, but they had been set free because they were only
carrying warning pistols.
As soon as the victims were tied up, the murderers began stabbing them
with knives all over their bodies. A short time later Ugur Yuksel came
into the office; he was immediately grabbed by the murderers and tied
up. Right after that Gokhan H., also a Christian, stopped by the Zirve
office, but he could not open the door, because it was locked from
inside and the lock was jammed. H. tried to call the office and finally
reached Ugur on the telephone. Ugur said that the planned meeting was
not going to be held in the Zirve office; it would instead be held in a
particular hotel. H. had the impression that something was wrong, so he
called a friend in the city. This friend advised him to call the police,
which Gokham H. did.
When the police arrived a few minutes later, the victims were still
alive. The police demanded that the criminals open the door, at which
they slit the throats of the victims. When the police forced the door
and stormed the office, they found Aydin and Geske already dead. Yuksel
was still alive and was rushed to a local hospital. In spite of
emergency surgery and 51 units of blood, he died of his numerous and
massive knife wounds.
The autopsy reports lead to the following picture: The bodies were
covered with about 156 knife wounds in the pelvis area, lower body,
anus, abdomen, and back. Their fingertips had been sliced repeatedly;
and they had massive slashes on their necks which severed the windpipe
The distinctively ritual manner of the murder, particularly the slicing
of fingertips, is convincing observers of the consciously religious
motivation of the assassins. The perpetrators seem to have been
following the instructions of Sure 8:12, from the Koran. There it says
(in the Rudi Paret German translation of the Koran), "I will strike
terror into the hearts of unbelievers. Flay their necks (with a sword)
and strike every finger." The last half of the sentence is translated
in even more striking terms in some versions. In the Rassoul and Zaidan
translation it says, "chop off every finger;" the Azhar and Ahmadeyya
translation says, "chop off every finger tip."
Three of the attackers were arrested directly in the office, where the
attack was occurring; two tried to escape by climbing down an external
downspout pipe. One more attacker was arrested in the second floor of
the building, one floor below the crime scene. The final assassin, who
is described by the others as the leader of the group, fell to the
street from a significant height when the downspout pipe broke off from
the wall of the building. He was brought to a hospital and spent some
days in a coma, but he is now awake and is being questioned by police.
In the course of the next few days, some other suspects were taken into
custody, including the son of a mayor (AKP party) from a town near to
FIRST TURKISH MARTYRS SINCE 1923
At a press conference a day after the attack, Pastor Ihsan Ozbek (from
Ankara), President of the Association of Protestant Churches in Turkey,
said "Yesterday Turkey was buried in the darkness of the Middle East."
He compared the common, country-wide, widely hawked conspiracy theories
which accuse Christians of conspiring against Muslims with the medieval
witch hunts in Europe. These conspiracy theories contain a deep phobia
of foreign missionaries. In responding to an inquiry of why Geske, a
foreign missionary, was in Malatya, Ozbek said this is already an
unconscionable question, since in a truly democratic state one may not
ask "why are you or they in Malatya?" The pastor used very pointed
words to portray the background of the murders which led the Turkish
media to entitle a report on the news conference, "A gruesome brutality,
but no surprise." Ozbek said he was convinced that, "it is not the last
martyrdom, though we hope from the bottom of our hearts that it could be
the last martyrdom."
Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel are the first known Muslim converts to
Christianity to be martyred, since the founding of the Turkish Republic
in 1923. Ugur Yuksel was buried according to Islamic/Alevitic rituals
at the orders of his family which vehemently denies his Christian
faith. The German victim was buried on 20 April in the Armenian
cemetery in Malatya, following the wishes of his widow. This occurred
after a bitter fight with the local authorities who unconditionally
wanted to prevent Geske's burial in their city. Because of pressure
applied by the German government, his burial was only delayed by three
hours, from 2:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. Eye witnesses say that about 100
mourners from across Turkey came to his funeral. Necati Aydin, who was
pastor of the local Protestant church in addition to his work in the
Zirve Publishing House, was laid to rest on Saturday, 21 April, in his
home town of Izmir. The roughly 500 mourners who attended his funeral
were very deeply moved.
MEDIA STORM IN TURKEY
There has been an enormous media storm in Turkey following these
events. Many Turks sent letters to the newspapers to express their deep
disgust. The widow, Susanne Geske, earned tremendous admiration for her
words in a TV interview the day after the massacre. She said she
forgave the murderers of her husband, the way Christ forgave his
murderers, citing Jesus' prayer, "Father, forgive them, for they do not
know what they are doing." This is the reason why she wants to stay in
Malatya with her children. Many letters to the newspapers are saying
that now they really want to read the New Testament or even to describe
themselves as Christians, since they no longer want to have anything to
do with Islam.
This brutal attack is not really the act of a group of deluded youth,
since the media has been provoking antagonism against Christians for a
long time. One of the most harmless media lies is that Christian are
paying Muslims to convert to Christianity; one of the more disturbing is
that Christians offer prostitutes to Muslims, in order to entice them to
become Christians. Two events related to the funeral of Necati Aydin
serve to illustrate the deep ambivalence of Turkish society toward
Christians. When his coffin was to be flown from Malatya to Izmir, it
would not fit into the x-ray machine in airport security. The Turkish
newspapers reported that the airport security staff simply broke the
handles off the coffin, a sign of their feelings. And during his
funeral, one of the police officers standing guard over the funeral
called one of the mourners "a son of a whore."
Last Sunday (22 April 2007) the services of many Protestant churches
took place under heavy police guard. In one small congregation in one
of the parts of Istanbul, two top local police officials came to enquire
about their security needs and to urgently suggest the installation of
an alarm system and security cameras. And because of the continuing
massive threats, many pastors are now accompanied by security guards.
This causes great concern for believers in Turkey. In spite of truly
positive developments in the realm of freedom of religion in recent
years, they now see their freedom of religion as deeply threatened.
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