Turkey’s Christians face increasingly dangerous persecution – analyst

Turkey’s Christian minorities are suffering from increased persecution as the government grows more repressive, Hudson Institute research fellow Lela Gilbert wrote in Newsweek on Monday.

Gilbert said that the symbolic conversion of Hagia Sophia from a museum to a mosque was only the most blatant example of this new environment in which the government aggressively targets non-Muslim religious minorities.

She specifically calls to attention the plight of Christian refugees who fled Iraq and Syra in recent years. Many of these arrivals struggle with employment, learning Turkish and finding the space to practice their faith.

“Christian refugees in Turkey have been treated with contempt, consigned to remote locations, far removed from existing churches or co-religionists. Neither Turkish speakers nor Muslims, the Christian men could not legally find employment, while language and religious issues sidelined women and children struggling to work or attend school,” wrote Gilbert.

Christians in Turkey are often treated as a domestic security threat, whether they are foreigners or after living in the country for years. Many foreign Christians who have lived in Turkey for years found themselves incapable of returning after it was discovered that their passports were labeled with an N82 stamp.

N82 stamps are for individuals flagged by Turkish authorities as security risks to the country, but critics say the process of issuing and deciding who receives the stamp lacks transparency. They also complain about the limited legal remedies they have for appealing these decisions.

Dr. Aykan Erdemir, senior director of the Turkey Program at the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies (FDD) in Washington D.C, explained that the rhetoric of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in particular has had a polarising effect on the treatment of Turkish Christians.

"Such supremacist policy and rhetoric will exacerbate precarious conditions for Christians. They will be at the mercy of a repressive government that swings back and forth between outbreaks of persecution and spectacles of tolerance," Erdemir told Gilbert.