ISTANBUL, August 30 (Compass) — Bektas Erdogan never expected his Christian faith of 11 years to jeopardize his career as a fashion designer in Turkey.
Hired five months ago by a designer jeans company in the Beyazit district of Istanbul, Erdogan was assured by his Muslim boss that he would be evaluated on the basis of his work, not his religion.
After his first collection sold successfully in Russia, Erdogan thought the phone call he received earlier this month from his employer — asking him to come to work on a Sunday afternoon — boded well. Maybe there was a surprise company dinner.
But that evening at the shop, his supervisor angrily accused him of “missionary work” and “brainwashing.” With the help of two employees and a relative, he beat Erdogan for two hours. The men repeatedly struck the designer’s head and face with their fists and the butt of a pistol. Three times Erdogan’s boss attempted to shoot him, but the gun failed to fire.
“He really wanted to kill me. It wasn’t just to scare me,” said Erdogan, who told Compass that he prayed for help and meditated on Bible verses while his attackers threatened to murder him and hide his body.
His co-workers released the 32-year-old Erdogan with a swollen and bloody face around 9 p.m., warning that they would kill him later. Since then, he has received three anonymous phone calls threatening his life.
Erdogan did not report the August 7 incident to the police, fearing that his boss’ ties with local officials might make him the target of further aggression. He also felt that once the authorities learned he was a Christian, they would be unwilling to help.
He believes that his employer’s anger stemmed from shop employees’ interest in Christianity. During his last three months at the job, Erdogan said, “Almost every meal [at work] became a question-and-answer session about my religion.”