Recent years have seen a series of trials against outspoken atheists under Article 216/3 of the Turkish Penal Code, most prominently the prosecution of the Turkish pianist and self-declared atheist Fazıl Say over several tweets, in which he not only stated his pride in being an atheist, but also mocked Islamic imaginations of the afterlife. Article 216/3 of the Turkish Penal Code provides for punishment for "any person who openly disrespects the religious belief of a group," while atheism itself is not covered by any law or legal regulation. Around the time of Fazıl Say's indictment, in spring 2014, a group of atheist activists established the first representative body for atheists in Turkey. The so-called Ateizm Derneği ('Atheism Association'), for the first time in Turkish history aimed at bringing together atheists around the country without referring to a particular ideology or political party. Its key objective is to defend the rights of Turkish atheists. Atheism is thereby understood in the broader sense of the term, also including deists as well as agnostics. Furthermore, January 2014 saw the launch of Ateist Dergi ('Atheist Journal'), a monthly magazine which considers itself as a platform for the dissemination of non-theistic, humanist, and secularist thought and ideas. Its first issue, entitled 'Why do atheists have to get organized?' ('Ateistler Neden Örgütlenmeli?'), stated as its mission to break the silence about atheism in Turkey and to make the existence and concerns of atheists publicly visible.
Investigating contemporary discourses on atheism in Turkey, the present study, in a first step, will conduct qualitative expert interviews with representatives from the aforementioned organizations in order to explore and finally map Turkey's 'atheist field.' These expert interviews with representatives from Ateizm Derneği and Ateist Dergi also aim at gaining an overview of the legal and political situation of Turkish atheists, their needs and demands, their organizational structures, and their tactics for obtaining visibility in the public sphere (participation in public festivities, social welfare activities, social media presence, etc.). The latter directly leads to the question of (counter)hegemonic discourses in regard to Turkey's presently dominant culture of religious conservatism.