Survivors of a Turkish evangelist jailed for abuse reveal what it was like to live under his rules
Men and women who survived the rule of a Turkish televangelist turned cult leader have opened up about the abuse they suffered – often for years – before he was finally arrested.
In January, Adnan Oktar was imprisoned for 1,045 years in Turkey on a series 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 notoriety, the conservative Islamist preacher frequently broadcast his sermons surrounded by scantily clad women.
Talk to the Sunday Timesmany of the women who lived with him, whom he called “kittens”, and some of the men who were under his rule, known as his “lions”, have now confided in the terrible abuse he gave them. inflicted.
Several women who fell victim to Turkish televangelist Adnan Oktar, pictured, have now opened up about life with the abusive group leader, after he was jailed for 1,045 years in January.
Adnan, pictured left, was found guilty of a series of charges including rape, child abuse, espionage and blackmail by a Turkish court in January
He was arrested in 2018 along with dozens of his followers during police raids on his properties in Istanbul and other cities as part of an investigation into his group.
The televangelist – who uses the pen name Harun Yahya – is also known for a series of books he wrote promoting creationism against Darwin’s theory of evolution.
A woman told the newspaper that she was sexually abused by the cult leader when she was 16 and forced to undergo rhinoplasty without general anesthesia when she was 20.
She said she was still traumatized by the operation: “I still remember the hammer. I was counting how many times they hit the hammer and chisel on my nose,” she said.
Seda Isildar, revealed she joined the band aged 15 through school friends in the 1980s. Now 50, she compared the band – which n didn’t have an official name – to a toxic relationship, explaining that those at the top were isolating him.
She revealed that Oktar forced her to marry him when he was in his thirties and she was still a teenager. After eight years with the evangelist, Selda managed to escape and moved to Canada, where she still resides.
Another woman, Ceylan Ozgul, joined the group aged 24 in 2006 and became one of the group’s most prominent members until she left and raised abuse allegations against Oktar. .
She described life with the group as a “prison” and added that no one in Turkey took Oktar seriously because he liked to surround himself with scantily clad women, but the abuse suffered by his victims was severe.
Oktar was arrested for fraud in 2018, pictured, and sentenced to prison in January this year, after being found guilty of multiple crimes
The televangelist became known in Turkey for preaching on television while surrounded by groups of scantily clad women – some of these women now say their cries have not been heard for a long time
While Islam preaches modesty in women, Oktar argued that this was due to misinterpretation and that women should protect their “inner beauty” with their appearance. He was considered corny by Turkish public opinion.
Ozgul said that when she was first introduced to Oktar, she liked talking to him because he was fun and took her seriously. She helped build the band’s international reputation and secured speaking engagements for Oktar from prestigious organizations including University College London.
However, over time, his actions came under increasing scrutiny and his freedom of movement became restricted. She said the compound where Oktar supporters were staying was constantly monitored by multiple cameras.
On his channel, A9 TV, Oktar hosted theological shows where women danced for him in front of a crowd
Meanwhile, other members were tasked with attracting more women to the group. A man named Sahin told The Sunday Times he became one of the televangelist’s supporters through friends as a teenager.
Encouraged by Oktar, Sahin started dressing up in expensive clothes and taking care of his appearance. Her beauty was “bait” for female followers.
He reveals how he and other ‘lions’ used to hang out in malls or cafes and strike up a conversation with women there and give them his number pretending to be a scout for a modeling agency or a professional looking from a seller.
The women on the show, whom Oktar referred to as “kitties,” also gave him adorable looks. However, several how to come out and reveal that life with the preacher was like living in a ‘jail’
This system was called the “tourstile system” and countless women have been brought to worship this way over the years.
Sahin, who claimed to have brought 200 women into the cult, said he was brainwashed by Oktar into believing what he was doing was right. Sahin eventually left the sect and, along with other members, shared information with the police in exchange for immunity from prosecution.
In January, Adnan Oktar was found guilty of 10 separate charges, including child sexual abuse, running a criminal gang, rape, blackmail, fraud, political and military espionage and torment.
The 64-year-old, who denied the charges, was sentenced to a total of 1,075 years in prison.
The hearings featured grim details and harrowing sex crime allegations, with Oktar telling the presiding judge in December that he had nearly 1,000 girlfriends.
Several ex-members have since accused Oktat or sexually abused, raped and blackmailed them. Oktar should appeal the verdict of his prison sentence
“There is an overflow of love in my heart for women. Love is a human quality. It is a quality of a Muslim,” he told another hearing in October.
He added on another occasion: “I am extraordinarily powerful.
Oktar first came to public attention in the 1990s when he was the leader of a cult that got caught up in multiple sex scandals.
His online TV channel A9 began broadcasting in 2011, prompting denunciations from Turkish religious leaders.
One of the women at her trial, identified only as CC, told the court that Oktar repeatedly sexually assaulted 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 found in his home by police, Oktar said they were used to treat skin disorders and menstrual irregularities.
He was also convicted of aiding US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey accuses of orchestrating a failed coup attempt in 2016.
Thirteen of Oktar’s associates were also given lengthy sentences on similar charges, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
Some 236 suspects have been tried in this case, 78 of whom are under arrest.
Oktar is expected to appeal the verdict and claimed he was the victim of a conspiracy.