(Wikimedia Commons/Nevit Dilmen)The St. Giragos Armenian Church in Diyarbak?r, Turkey is featured in this image.
A U.S.-based non-profit international policy council and think tank has recently published a report detailing the mass persecution of Christians and Kurds in Turkey.
According to the report released by the Gatestone Institute on Monday, Christians in Turkey are persecuted by government officials and are severely abused by the public on social media.
The article pointed to several other reports, including one published in August 2017 by the Armenian-Turkish weekly Agos, which noted that Armenian, Syriac and Chaldean Christians have been prevented from worshipping in their churches for the last three years because their places of worship have been included in the government’s expropriation plan.
The plan, adopted by the Turkish cabinet in March 2016, expropriated Christian properties belonging to the indigenous Armenian, Assyrian (Syriac), Chaldean and Protestant communities, including the Armenian Catholic, the Chaldean Mor Petyun and the Armenian Surp Giragos churches.
Members of the Surp Giragos church have claimed that there is new damage to the building each time they visit. The church has since filed a lawsuit against the Turkish State Council and other Christian foundations have also filed cases in an effort to stop the expropriation.
Ahmet Güvener, a pastor and the spiritual leader of the Diyarbak?r Protestant Church, said that the persecution of Christians in Turkey is not new. “We have been exposed to ethnic and religious discrimination for years,” he said, adding that not a single church has been erected since the Turkish Republic was established in 1923.
“The state, which spends billions [of Turkish liras] and builds gigantic mosques, has not built a church so far,” he added.
Moreover, even Muslims who refuse to shun Christians and Kurds experience harassment from the authorities.
Gatestone reported that in Diyarbak?r, a 76-year-old Muslim woman, who is active in a Kurdish political movement has been harassed by Turkish police for being a “hidden Armenian,” simply because she reads both the Bible and the Quran.
Kurds have also been experiencing persecution from the Turkish government for decades. Last October, Gültan K??anak and F?rat Anl?, the co-mayors of Diyarbak?r, were arrested and jailed for “being members of a terrorist organization.”
The institute noted that there are currently 13 Kurdish MPs, including the leaders of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), held in Turkish prisons.
Apart from the imprisonment of the 13 Kurdish MPs, the Turkish government had also imprisoned 89 Kurdish mayors and had appointed custodians to govern 83 Kurdish-run municipalities in April, according to the pro-Kurdish Democratic Regions Party (DBP).
The think tank explained that the persecution of Christians and Kurds “is not restricted to government officials. It is widespread among the public, as well, and expressed extensively on social media.”
The report cited Twitter posts, where Armenians and grandchildren of survivors of the 1914 Armenian Christian genocide were described as “infidels,” “vile and treacherous,” with some saying that all Armenians “must die.”
“The situation of minorities in Turkey and their persecution by Turkey — a member of NATO and perpetual candidate for EU membership — must be told as often and as loudly as possible,” the report concluded.
Amnesty International has recently accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of having a “human rights meltdown” following the arrest of the group’s Turkey director Idil Eser.
“This is not a legitimate prosecution. This is a politically motivated persecution that charts a frightening future for rights in Turkey,” Salil Shetty, Amnesty’s secretary general, said in a statement in July following Eser’s arrest.