Turkey — it sometimes slips out of view since it doesn’t make the Secretary of State’s “Countries of Particular Concern” list for human rights violations.
But in the city of Diyarbikir for one, “entire neighborhoods” have disappeared. The Surp Giragos Church has been converted to an army base, the sanctuary desecrated with urine and garbage, the pews burned as firewood.
Those are just a few things mentioned in the report “Turkey’s Mass Persecution of Christians and Kurds,” released Sept. 4 by the Gatestone Institute. Since 2015, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been attacking Kurdish-majority areas in the country, and Christians have been caught in the crossfire, according to the report.
In Diyarbikir “virtually the entire town — and all Christian properties belonging to the indigenous Armenian, Assyrian (Syriac), Chaldean and Protestant communities — was included in an expropriation plan adopted in March 2016 by the Turkish cabinet.” That expropriation plan included the Surp Giragos Church and others. Those ethnic groups haven’t been able to worship in their own churches for the past three years, according to the report.
“We have been exposed to ethnic and religious discrimination for years,” said Ahmet Güvener, a pastor and the spiritual leader of the Diyarbak?r Protestant Church, adding that not one church has been built since the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923.
And the government isn’t the only source of “hatred,” the report stated. That sentiment is “widespread among the public as well and expressed extensively on social media.”
It has spread even to mistreatment of Muslims who have refused to shun Christians or Kurds, said Gatestone Institute, a U.S.-based think tank and international policy group.
Harassed by Turkish police
“For instance, a 76-year-old Muslim grandmother in Diyarbak?r who is active in a Kurdish political movement has been harassed by Turkish police for being a ‘hidden Armenian,’ simply because she reads the Bible as well as the Quran,” Gatestone reported.
The situation has impacted journalists and American Christians too. Andrew Brunson, a North Carolina native who served as pastor of a church on Turkey’s Aegean coast, was detained in October 2016 as a “national security risk.”
Watchdog groups, such as the American Center for Law and Justice, have accused President Erdogan of keeping Brunson in prison without cause, but in August, officials stated his charges as “gathering state secrets for espionage, attempting to overthrow the Turkish parliament and government, and to change the constitutional order.” (TAB)