Survivors of a Turkish evangelist imprisoned for abuse share what it was like to live by his rules

Survivors of a Turkish evangelist imprisoned for abuse share what it was like to live by his rules

Men and women who survived living under the rule of a Turkish televangelist-turned-cult leader have spoken of the abuse they endured — often for years — before he was finally arrested.

In January, Adnan Oktar was jailed for 1,045 years in Turkey on a range of charges including rape, child abuse, espionage and blackmail. The 64-year-old has denied all charges and is expected to appeal.

At the height of his fame, the conservative Islamic preacher often broadcast his sermons surrounded by scantily clad women.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, several of the women who lived with him, whom he called “kittens,” and some of the men under his rule, known as his “lions,” now spoke of the terrible abuse he inflicted. them through.

Several women who have been victims of Turkish televangelist Adnan Oktar have now opened up about living with the leader of the abusive group after he was jailed for 1,045 years in January.

Several women who have been victims of Turkish televangelist Adnan Oktar have now opened up about living with the leader of the abusive group after he was jailed for 1,045 years in January.

Adnan (pictured left) was found guilty by a Turkish court on a range of charges including rape, child abuse, espionage and blackmail.

Adnan (pictured left) was found guilty by a Turkish court on a range of charges including rape, child abuse, espionage and blackmail.

He was arrested in 2018, along with dozens of his followers, during police raids on his property in Istanbul and other cities as part of an investigation into his group.

The televangelist, who uses the pseudonym Harun Yahya, is also known for a series of books he wrote advocating creationism against Darwin’s theory of evolution.

One woman told the newspaper that she was sexually abused by a cult leader when she was 16 and forced to have a nose job without general anesthesia when she was 20.

She said she was still traumatized by the operation: “I still remember the hammer. I counted how many times they hit my nose with a hammer and chisel,” she said.

Seda Isildar revealed that she joined the group at the age of 15 through school friends in the 1980s. Now in her 50s, she likened the group, which didn’t have an official name, to a toxic relationship, explaining that those at the top isolated her.

She revealed that Oktar forced her to marry him when he was in his 30s and she was still a teenager. After eight years with the evangelist, Selda managed to escape and move to Canada, where she still resides.

Another woman, Ceylan Ozgul, joined the group at the age of 24 in 2006 and became one of the most prominent members of the group until she left and filed allegations of abuse against Oktar.

She described life with the group as “prison” and added that no one in Turkey took Oktar seriously because he liked to surround himself with scantily clad women, but the mistreatment of his victims was severe.

Oktar was arrested for fraud in 2018, pictured, and was sentenced to jail this January after being found guilty of several crimes.

Oktar was arrested for fraud in 2018, pictured, and was sentenced to jail this January after being found guilty of several crimes.

The televangelist became famous in Turkey for preaching on television surrounded by groups of half-naked women - some of these women now say their screams have not been heard in a long time.

The televangelist became famous in Turkey for preaching on television surrounded by groups of half-naked women – some of these women now say their screams have not been heard in a long time.

While Islam preaches modesty among women, Oktar argued that this was due to a misinterpretation and that women should protect their “inner beauty” with their appearance. Turkish public opinion considered it tasteless.

Ozgul said that when she first met Oktar, she liked talking to him because he was funny and took her seriously. She helped establish the group’s international reputation and secured Oktar appearances with prestigious organizations including University College London.

However, over time, her actions were increasingly monitored and her freedom of movement began to be restricted. She said that the area where Oktar’s followers were staying was constantly monitored by multiple cameras.

On his A9 TV channel, Oktar hosted theological shows in which women danced for him in front of a crowd.

On his A9 TV channel, Oktar hosted theological shows in which women danced for him in front of a crowd.

Meanwhile, the other members were tasked with recruiting more women into the group. A man named Sahin told The Sunday Times that he became one of the televangelist’s followers through friends as a teenager.

Encouraged by Oktar, Shahin began to dress in expensive clothes and take care of his appearance. His attractive appearance was “bait” for fans.

He tells how he and other “lions” hung out in shopping centers or cafes, struck up a conversation with women there and gave them his number, posing as a modeling agency scout or a professional looking for a salesman.

The women in the show, whom Oktar referred to as

The women in the show, whom Oktar referred to as “kittens”, also looked at him with adoration. However, some of them said that life with a preacher was like living in a “prison”.

This scheme has been called the “turnstile system” and over the years countless women have been drawn to the cult in this way.

Shaheen, who claimed to have brought 200 women into the sect, said Oktar brainwashed him into thinking he was doing the right thing. Shaheen eventually left the cult and, along with other members, shared information with the police in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

In January, Adnan Oktar was found guilty on 10 separate charges, including child sexual abuse, running a gang, rape, blackmail, fraud, political and military espionage and torture.

The 64-year-old man, who denied the charges, received a total of 1,075 years in prison.

The hearings featured ominous details and heartbreaking allegations of sex crimes. In December, Oktar told the presiding judge that he had about 1,000 girlfriends.

Since then, Octat has been accused by several former members of sexual harassment, rape, and blackmail.  Oktar expected to appeal jail sentence

Since then, Octat has been accused by several former members of sexual harassment, rape, and blackmail. Oktar expected to appeal jail sentence

“My heart is overflowing with love for women. Love is a human quality. This is the quality of a Muslim,” he said at another hearing in October.

On another occasion he added: “I am unusually strong.”

Oktar first came to public attention in the 1990s when he was the leader of a cult involved in numerous sex scandals.

His online TV channel A9 began broadcasting in 2011, drawing condemnation from Turkey’s religious leaders.

One of the women at the trial, identified only as CC, told the court that Oktar repeatedly sexually abused her and other women.

Some of the women he raped were forced to take birth control pills, CC told the court.

Asked about the 69,000 birth control pills police found at his home, Oktar said they were used to treat skin conditions and menstrual irregularities.

He was also found guilty of aiding U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom Turkey accuses of orchestrating a failed 2016 coup attempt.

Thirteen of Oktar’s associates were also sentenced to lengthy prison terms on similar charges, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

There are 236 suspects in the case, 78 of whom are under arrest.

Oktar is expected to appeal the verdict and claims he was the victim of a conspiracy.

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