NGOs submit petition to rights body over persecution of Christians in Turkey

A group of nongovernmental organisations have submitted a petition to the United Nations’ Human Rights Committee (HRC) that outlines the persecution of Christians in Turkey. 

On Saturday, the Washington D.C-based International Christian Concern (ICC) announced that four NGOs - The World Evangelical Alliance, The European Evangelical Alliance, Middle East Concern, and Association of Protestant Churches - Turkey - shared with the HRC a report that details how Turkish and foreign Christians face discrimination in Turkey, within and outside the legal system. 

The quartet of NGOs said that Turkey violates its own constitution as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Turkey adopted in 2003, by denying full freedom of religion in the country. 

Foreign Christians in Turkey have struggled under a veil of suspicion cast on them by Turkish authorities. Christian pastors and missionaries who leave the country find themselves frequently incapable of returning to Turkey because security services flag their passports with what is called an N82 code. 

These designations mark individuals as national security threats which gives officials the power to prevent their return to Turkey, regardless of their residency status or how long they lived in the country. Lawyers representing clients hit with the N82 complain that the process for issuing the code is unclear and no legal recourse exists to challenge the designations. 

Included in their submission to the HRC, the NGOs linked a copy of an earlier report by ICC and Middle East Concern that compares the deportations of Christian today to other acts of religious discrimination in Turkish history, including the Armenian Genocide and the murders of Anatolian Greeks at the start of the last century. 

“The forced expulsion of Christians from Turkey is certainly not a new phenomenon. The similarities with the 20th century expulsion of Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians is disturbing,” read a portion of the joint report. 

“It shows that these attitudes remain embodied in the Turkish state apparatus to the extent that the Interior Ministry can label expatriate pastors, evangelists, and ordinary church members as security threats, and enforce their deportation in violation of their human rights.”