RATIONALIST INTERNATIONAL

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Richard Dawkins’ website blocked by court in Turkey

Prof. Richard Dawkins
Prof. Richard Dawkins

If you are in Turkey and try to visit Richard Dawkins’ website www.richarddawkins.net, you will currently find nothing but the note: ‘The access to the site has been banned by court order’. Istanbul’s 2nd Criminal Court of Peace ordered the Turkish Telecom to block access to the highly popular website upon complaint by Adnan Oktar alias Harun Yahya who claims that the site contains insulting remarks about him and his work.

Harun Yahya is a messianic campaigner for an Islamic version of creationism, who tries to “expose” Darwin’s theory of evolution as the greatest fraud in the history of science. This bustling anti-science-zealot has enormous funds from unknown sources at his disposal. He tries to speard his numerous books, articles and films against evolution in various languages through the Internet. In 2006, he produced a weighty and glossy opus of 800 pages with the name Atlas of Creation and sent 10,000 copies of it to scientists, journalists, media and schools all over Europe. One of the recipients was Prof. Richard Dawkins. The prominent evolution specialist described the book on his website as "preposterous" and noted he was at "a loss to reconcile the expensive and glossy production values of this book with the 'breathtaking inanity' of the content.“ (Richard Dawkins, Venomous-Snakes-Slippery-Eels-and-Harun-Yahya). Oktar filed a lawsuit for the damages of mental anguish in the amount of 8000 YTL (about 4000 Euro) against the Oxford professor.

Earlier, Adnan Oktar tried and failed to ban the Turkish version of Richard Dawkin’s famous book The God Delusion. The Turkish publisher was sued and acquitted. Oktar’s claim that the book was blasphemous was rejected by the court. The book became a best-seller in Turkey. Dawkin’s book The Ancestor’s Tale – written before, but in Turkey published after The God Delusion - was released and sold out in a single day.

Richard Dawkins, The Ancestor's Tale, in Turkish
Richard Dawkins, The Ancestor's Tale, in Turkish

After the enforcement of a new Internet law in May 2008, Internet censorship is rampant in Turkey. More than 850 sites have already been blocked since then. Sites can be banned for various reasons: if their content is deemed to be harmful to children, to encourage use of drugs, gambling, prostitution, pornography or suicide, to support the Kurdish cause or to contain insults against Kamal Atatürk, the founder of Turkey. The video sharing site Youtube for example is banned in Turkey since four months for containing videos allegedly insulting to the memory of Atatürk. For Adnan Oktar and his associates, the new censorship law is a "heaven-sent" opportunity. Before Richard Dawkin's website, they managed already to get Google Groups and WordPress.com blocked with the claim that some groups and blogs on these sites contained libelous material.

Oktar is currently appealing against a three-year prison sentence imposed for creating an illegal organisation for personal gain