Todays Zaman - Turkey
Masonic lodge shaken by mass resignations, a first in Turkey
03 April 2007, Tuesday
AHMET DÖNMEZ ISTANBUL
Turkey's masonic groups previously did not offer spokesmen, briefings for the media or provide talks to interested parties upon request. Freemasons in different countries have stated that Freemasonry has, in the 21st century, become less a secret society. In Turkey, the fraternity held its first press meeting on April 26, 1999 to mark the 90th anniversary of the group in Turkey. In eight of Turkey's major cities, 160 lodges spoke up and declared that they had a total of 12,000 members. Celebrity figures, such as actor Zeki Alasya, also publicly announced their masonic affiliation.
Since then, the fraternity has seen considerable press coverage. In particular disturbances in its administration, which began in March of 2006 when former Grand Master Kaya Pasakaya and two top leaders of the lodge were expelled from the group on corruption charges, made newspaper headlines. It appears that troubles in the administration continue for the fraternity as a wave of mass resignations, apparently the first such wave in Turkish masonic history, have shaken the organization. Recent resignations include those of former Grand Master Demir Savasçi, five board members and three stand-by board members.
Lodge members are highly skeptical that the reason behind the 2006 expulsions was actually "corruption doubts," and direct serious accusations at Grand Master Asim Akin. A former board member of the lodge, Yalçin Erceber, among those who recently resigned, asserted that last year's expulsions had been registered at a date three days earlier than the meeting out of which the official expulsion decision had emerged. Erceber also claimed that signatures collected earlier from board members on blank sheets of papers had been used to approve the expulsions ahead of the meeting. Former Grand Master Kaya Pasakaya, Grand Secretary Koray Darga and Grand Treasurer Professor Ali Sait Sevgener were all expelled from the Mason Lodge in March 2006 on charges of corruption. News about the expulsions hit the national media while mutual accusations between the expelled and the Lodge administration were brought to court.
In addition to reactions to the expulsions, some members have resigned to demonstrate exasperation with a new by-law introduced at a meeting on March 4, 2007. Members who resigned following a meeting on the new by-laws include former Grand Mater Demir Savasçin and three other board members from the Izmir chapter. These resignations were a bombshell in the Turkish freemasonry scene. The topic was dealt with at a board meeting on March 17, with many stating there was a vacuum in the Izmir chapter leadership. The current board, in an e-mail message it sent to lodge members, stressed that the massive resignations were a first in the history of Turkish masonry. The message underlined the need to take immediate action and warned that massive resignations would constitute a "masonic crime."
The schisms within the Izmir Lodge are already reflecting on preparations for the upcoming June general assembly meeting of the fraternity. Different factions of the Izmir Freemasons have rolled up their sleeves to overthrow Grand Master Akin. At this point, four names are being discussed as prospective candidates. According to sources, Akin's name is no longer on the list of candidates supported by the board. In the face of this, the fact that Yalcin Erceber, who resigned, has received the second-most votes for filling what is now Akin's position underscores what some say is a "message" to the Grand Master of the Freemasons.