Turkey ‘slowly suffocating’ its Christians, says Christian advocacy group

Turkey’s Christian minority is slowly suffocating due to the discrimination facing members of its community, Washington-based Christian human rights group International Christian Concern said on Monday.

The group recently accused Turkey and Azerbaijan of destroying churches and other religious sites, abusing prisoners of war and hiring known Islamist extremists, including members of the Islamic State (ISIS), as mercenaries to help regain control of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region in the latest round of fighting with Armenia, a Christian country.

“Turkey has been slowly suffocating its Christian community since the genocide,” Claire Evans of the ICC said, referring to the events of 1915, often dubbed the Armenian Genocide by scholars. Turkey refutes the term, saying some Armenians perished under World War I conditions and not in a deliberate act.

Turkey’s Armenian community has been “heavily abused,” she said, adding that groups in the Turkish diaspora have also targeted Armenians. Turkish nationalist groups have harassed and attacked Armenians in Europe after the clashes over Nagorno-Karabakh broke out in late September.

Turkey and Azerbaijan’s “strategic planning” in the Karabakh conflict “show an intent of mass extermination, thereby genocide, of Karabakh’s Armenian residents because of their combined faith and ethnic identity,” the ICC said.

The advocacy group called on the United States to act against the Grey Wolves, a nationalist group involved with targeted attacks against Armenians in France, and on Congress to “condemn war crimes committed in Nagorno-Karabakh” and support European investigations into the status of Armenian war prisoners.

Turkey joined Russia in peacekeeping efforts following a Moscow-brokered truce that went into effect in November. ICC said Turkey embraced “the trappings of a caretaker role,” but has since shown “bias towards the aggressor,” Azerbaijan.

Baku and Ankara had been planning for September’s events since at least July, when the two countries began large-scale military exercises together, the organisation said.

ICC also repeated the allegations that Turkey had recruited Syrian jihadists to fight in Nagorno-Karabakh and said recruiters used rhetoric of Muslims going on jihad against Christians.