Cult televangelist hit by fines, suspension

The famous Turkish televangelist Adnan Oktar’s television channel has been handed a five-show suspension and been hit with a top-level administrative fine by Turkey’s broadcast monitoring agency after receiving thousands of complaints, the Turkish business news site Patronlar Dunyasi reports.

The exact amount of the fine is not yet known, though the legal action, and the 4,592 complaints that prompted it, indicate that the televangelist’s brand is under pressure.

Oktar is known for the distinctive style of his programmes, which usually features him discussing religion and current events with women he refers to as his “kittens”. This crowd of female followers, many of whom have received extensive cosmetic surgery and are kitted out in revealing outfits, dance with the televangelist or offer him extravagant praise on air, laying fertile ground for a multitude of humorous memes and viral videos.

Oktar’s nonsensical conspiracy theories blaming a host of the world’s problems on Darwinism and the “British deep state” cemented his reputation as an absurd, comical figure on Turkish television.

However, reports have circulated about a far darker side to the televangelist, with a 2009 piece published in the New Humanist quoting former followers who accused Oktar of building a cult around himself, using the female members as sex slaves, and running a blackmailing ring.

In January, the father of two daughters who had been out of contact for seven months spotted them on Oktar’s television programme, and secured a restraining order against the televangelist, who he accused of brainwashing his daughters.

The head of Turkey’s state religious authority, Diyanet, called Oktar “Turkey’s most notorious cult leader” and a “corrupted person” later that month, calling for a ban on his television channel, A9.

Oktar is known by his pen name, Harun Yahya, outside Turkey, and he has made headlines as a creationist activist. His most notable book, The Atlas of Creation, claimed to disprove the theory of evolution and was sent to thousands of scientists around the world.