Turkish Nationalists Interrupt Orthodox Celebration

Turkish nationalists chanting slogans and waving the flag of an extreme right-wing party Thursday tried to disrupt a Greek Orthodox religious ceremony in Istanbul, eyewitnesses said.

The ceremony, known as the benediction of the waters of the Bosporus is part of a tradition dating back to Byzantine times during which a crucifix is thrown into the waters and young divers plunge in, competing to recover it.

As reported by the Agence France-Press, hundreds of members of Istanbul's Greek Orthodox community attended the traditional ceremony held every January 6—the date of the Orthodox Christmas—on the banks of the stretch of water known as the Golden Horn, which cuts into the western side of the Bosporus dividing the city's European and Asian sides.

Some 60 nationalists interrupted the proceedings waving flags of the National Action Party (MHP) and chanting: "This is Turkey here, like it or leave it."

Police held the intruders back, and they later made an equally unsuccessful attempt in fishing boats to invade the section of water where the ceremony took place.