Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authoritarian government has deemed members of religious minorities, such as Christians and Jews, “enemies of the state,” an analyst tells Breitbart News, echoing the U.S. State Department.
“The religious minorities in Turkey, like the Christians, Jews, and a few others, suffer from unequal treatment. … The religious minorities are believed to be enemies of the state,” Dr. Y. Alp Aslandogan, the executive director of the Alliance for Shared Values, a non-profit group that promotes bringing people from different backgrounds together, told Breitbart News. “So the association with them becomes a crime. So those religious minorities, those citizens themselves, are pushed into enemy status.”
“That’s what all religious minorities suffer from — the Armenians, the Christian Orthodox, and the Jews, among others — they suffer from this kind of stigma,” he added.
In the latest U.S. State Department International Religious Freedom Report, the American government acknowledged that discrimination against Christians and other religious minorities intensified in Turkey following the failed coup attempt of July 2016.
State reports that following the rebellion seeking to depose Erdogan, the president of Muslim-majority Turkey:
Some foreign citizens, including several individuals with ties to Christian groups, faced detention, residency-permission problems, or denial of entry to the country under the state of emergency powers following the attempted coup. The government continued to prosecute individuals for ‘openly disrespecting the religious belief of a group.
Several foreign Christian missionaries were subjected to deportation, and cancellation of valid residency permits without notice. The government provided limited explanation or justification for such actions. The government denied any anti-Christian motivation underlying these actions.
Breitbart News also spoke with Emre Celik, the president of the Rumi Forum, an organization dedicated to intercultural and interfaith dialogue, about the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in Turkey under the Erdogan administration.
“Erdogan’s bigotry against Christians goes against the very fabric of Islam’s respect towards the ‘People of the book’ – a Quranic term for Jews and Christians – and does not comply with the very fundamental principle of democracy that people of different faith backgrounds need to be treated justly and with respect,” Celik told Breitbart News.
“It’s unfortunate that prejudicial and polarizing language is being used for political gain and has become commonplace in Erdogan’s Turkey – against Christians and numerous other minorities,” he continued.
Consistent with Celik’s remarks, Dr. Aslandogan told Breitbart News that Erdogan and his allies use association with religious minorities as a form of attack against their political opponents.
“There has been hate speech and defamation against religious minorities from the ruling party. When they want to attack their enemies, they openly associate them with religious minorities,” explained Aslandogan. “They accuse religious minorities as trying to undermine progress.”
“Erdogan, for instance, attacks his enemies by referring to them as the pawn of Israel or the pawn of the Jews or the pawn of the Catholics,” he also said.
Echoing the State Department, the executive director for the Alliance for Shared Values also noted that the lack of legal standing for religious minorities in Turkey prevents them from owning territory, rendering them a landless group.
“They don’t have a legal standing, so they cannot officially function as a legal entity. They can only exist as community foundations, so that creates difficulties for them because they cannot exist as legal entities. Therefore, they cannot own property either,” he told Breitbart News.
“During the formation of the Turkish Republic, many of the lands of the religious minorities were confiscated, and although Erdogan took some steps to restore those lands to the religious minorities, he later made a U-turn,” he added.
Breitbart News spoke to Aslandogan and Celik after they participated in a panel discussion hosted by the Newseum in Washington, DC, on March 5.
In remarks prepared for the event, Aslandogan pointed out that President Erdogan is seeking to become the “caliph” of the Muslim world.
Currently, “non-Muslim minorities” in Turkey “suffer various forms of discrimination,” he stressed during the March 5 discussion.
Open Doors, which tracks the mistreatment of Christians across the world, records that out of 50 countries, Turkey is the 37th-worst nation for persecution against followers of Jesus Christ. It notes:
Religious nationalism has grown to new heights. President Erdogan has strengthened his position, trying to transform Turkey from a secular state into a Sunni Muslim one. Leaving Islam for Christianity is considered a betrayal of the Turkish identity, Islam, and the family.
Christians have no access to state jobs and experience discrimination in private employment, especially where employers have ties to the government.
According to Open Doors, 187,000 Christians are in Turkey.
The State Department, which places the estimated number of Christians at nearly 300,000, notes that the Christians belong to a plethora of denominations, including Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Christians, Roman Catholics, Syrian Orthodox Christians, Russian Orthodox Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, various Protestant denominations, Chaldean Christians, and Greek Orthodox Christians, among others.