Turkey repudiated the annual report issued by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Wednesday for identifying Ankara as a “deeply troubling” violator against Christians, Jews, followers of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, and other minorities.
Specifically, Turkey took issue with the report acknowledging that followers of a religious movement led by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan former ally Gülen face persecution at the hands of the ruling regime.
The Erdogan administration did not deny the USCIRF’s assertions that it turns a blind eye to anti-semitism and persecution of Christians and other minorities.
Echoing the U.S. State Department in March 2018, Y. Alp Aslandogan, the executive director of the Alliance for Shared Values non-profit, told Breitbart News that Erdogan’s authoritarian government has deemed members of religious minorities, such as Christians and Jews, “enemies of the state.”
Erdoğan has designated Gülen followers terrorists, accusing them of conspiring to remove him from office via the failed 2016 coup.
The Turkish president has long accused Gülenists, which his administration has officially labeled the Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), of assembling a network of supporters in the media, judiciary, and education sectors of the country to oust him.
In a May 1 statement obtained by Hurriyet Daily News, Hami Aksoy, a spokesman of the Turkish foreign ministry, declared:
Criticisms against Turkey by the U.S. administration and the Congress, which could not digest the election of a Muslim to the House Representatives, fail to show sufficient will in the fight against Islamophobia and to prevent attacks against their own religious minorities, are a display of inconsistency.
Describing the members of FETÖ as Sunni Muslims facing persecution openly manifests, from the very beginning, that this report is biased, dislocated from reality and written under the influence of … evil groups.
Aksoy further indicated “The description of FETÖ [as a victim of persecution] in the annual report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) means tolerating terror.”
The Erdogan administration did not refute the U.S. commission’s accusations of anti-semitism and mistreatment of the country’s Christian minority by the ruling government.
Released this week, the U.S. religious freedom report found:
In 2018, the state of religious freedom in Turkey remained deeply troubling, raising serious concerns that the country’s current trajectory will lead to the further deterioration of conditions in the year ahead. The lack of any meaningful progress on the part of the Turkish government to address longstanding religious freedom issues was continued cause for concern. Many serious limitations on the freedom of religion or belief continued, threatening the continued vitality and survival of minority religious communities in the country; in addition, increased demonization and a smear campaign by government entities and pro-government media contributed to a growing climate of fear among religious minority communities.
Followers of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen continued to be dismissed from public service, detained, and arrested in the tens of thousands for alleged complicity in the July 2016 failed coup attempt, or involvement in terrorist activity. The Turkish government has indiscriminately designated those affiliated with Gülen as part of a terrorist organization. Government officials also continued to engage in anti-Semitism in the form of public statements and comments made on social media platforms, while pro-government newspapers and media outlets propagated hate speech directed against both Christians and Jews
USCIRF placed Turkey on its Tier 2 list, along with other 11 countries, meaning the country’s “violations meet one or two, but not all three, of the elements of the systematic, ongoing egregious test for ‘countries of particular concern’ (CPCs).”
“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,” Aslandogan told Breitbart News last year. “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.
According to the latest U.S. State Department International Religious Freedom Report, discrimination against Christians and other religious minorities intensified in Turkey following the failed coup attempt of July 2016.