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Turkish Shiites fear growing hate crimes

Lacking political influence, Turkey's Shiite community continues to await a government response to recent arson attacks against their mosques.
A man walks past burnt religious pictures at the Shiite Muhammediye Mosque on July 8 , 2014 in Istanbul after a fire took on early in the morning, causing considerable material damage, but leaving no one injured. The fire erupted in the Muhammediye Mosque, mostly attended by the Shiite Caferis in Istanbuls Esenyurt district, after the community received repeated threats over the last week. AFP PHOTO/OZAN KOSE        (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)

On June 13, the small daily Yeni Mesaj reported an arson attack on the Shiite Allahu Akbar Mosque, in Istanbul's Esenyurt district. The reportedly unknown perpetuators struck after midnight, setting fire to the mosque’s library. Turkey's mainstream media failed to pick up on the incident until July 8, after another Shiite house of worship, the Muhammediye Mosque, was attacked in the same district. Both incidents took place in the middle of the night, involved arson targeting the mosques' libraries and caused serious material damage but no loss of life.

Hamza Aydin, Muhammediye's imam, told Al-Monitor, “Prior to the attack we had some suspicious visitors at the mosque. Initially, they just asked questions. Later, they made offensive comments. I reported one of them to the police. This man told me, 'You practice idolatry. We will not let your ezan [call to prayer] be heard in this country.'” Aydin further explained, “The mosque had no working security cameras at the time, so the police told us they could not follow up on the issue. Afterward we had the arson attack, which burnt several books, along with copies of the Quran.”

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