Turkey must respect religious freedom to rebuild U.S. relationship - analysts

The United States should predicate rebuilding its relationship with Turkey on ensuring respect for religious freedom, said Michael Rubin, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a U.S. think tank, and Toufic Baaklini, president of In Defense of Christians.

Ankara’s record with regards to minority rights increasingly resembles that of a “rogue regime” rather than a “responsible state”, Rubin and Baaklini said in an article published in the National Interest on Thursday.

Turkey recently drew international condemnation over its decision to revert Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia monument – a former Byzantine church – from a museum into a mosque.  

However, “Christians are not the only targets,” they wrote. “Erdoğan has forced Sunni religious studies upon Alevi children, destroyed Alevi prayer halls, and his government has denied aid to Yezidi refugees inside Turkey solely on the grounds of their religion.”

Ankara is also backing international groups with a poor record of religious tolerance, the authors said, including in northern Syria where Turkish proxies have imposed restrictions “similar to those of the Taliban”, Rubin and Baaklini wrote.

Until this changes, there should be no return to “model partnership” between Turkey and the United States, they said.