Turkey rejects US report on religious freedom

Turkey on Friday rejected the US State Department's latest report on religious freedom, vowing the government is fully committed to protecting its people's religious freedom and will do so in the future, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

“The Turkey section of the International Religious Freedom Report 2020 is not based on facts and ignored Ankara's efforts to promote religious freedom in the country,” Anadolu cited Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tanju Bilgic as saying in a statement.

“The country has always had a communal structure in which people of different faiths lived in peace and harmony,” Bilgic said.

The Ankara government has taken tangible steps to further promote religious freedom, he added.

Bilgic pointed to the Turkish government's recently announced Human Rights Action Plan which “has a strong emphasis on protecting religious freedom.”

The U.S. State Department on Thursday slammed Turkey on its record on religious freedoms citing the pressures exerted on the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the limitations on the rights of non-Muslim religious minorities in the country in its new report for 2020.

The report said that the Turkish government “continued to restrict efforts of minority religious groups to train their clergy”, and the Greek Orthodox Halki Seminary remained closed, while it “continued not to recognise Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I as the leader of the world’s approximately 300 million Orthodox Christians, consistent with the government’s stance that there was no legal obligation for it to do so”.