Turkey’s foreign policy agenda harming religious freedom – J Post

Religious freedom is suffering due to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s foreign policy agenda and Turkey’s military intervention in several countries, a columnist for the Jerusalem Post said on Sunday.

Lela Gilbert, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council and a fellow at the Hudson Institute, wrote that it is “noteworthy to those of us who focus on international religious freedom that whenever Turkey moves in, religious freedom moves out. There can be no lasting freedom of worship for any faith unless it conforms with Turkey’s Islamic practices”.

Gilbert said that Turkey is working to gain influence in East Jerusalem through the governmental Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA) and often through activists ideologically linked to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood movement.

She said that Turkey has recently bombed Sinjar mountain, Iraq where Yazidi refugees have taken shelter. Turkey says it is targeting groups aligned with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Gilbert also said that Turkey’s occupation of areas in northeast Syria had also led to abuses of religious minorities by Turkey’s military and its proxies.  

She cited Genocide Watch as reporting that, in areas under Turkish control in Syria, “civilians have been subjected to horrific crimes against humanity committed by Turkish forces and Turkish supported militias. Kurdish towns have been bombed and destroyed...Hundreds of civilians have been summarily executed. Kurdish and Yazidi women have been kidnapped and subjected to sexual slavery.”

Gilbwert also cited a recent report by the U.S. Commission on International Religion Freedom that recommended that the U.S. government include Turkey on the U.S. Department of State’s Special Watch List for engaging in or tolerating severe violations of religious freedom.

The report said Turkish government officials and politicians had continued to propagate anti-Semitism and hate speech and that in 2019, in several instances, Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek religious and cultural sites, including cemeteries, faced severe damage or destruction.

Erdoğan’s foreign policy agenda is believed by some analysts to reflect his vision of a glorious, neo-Ottoman Empire, and by others to be motivated by pan-Islamism – but the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive, Gilbert argued.

“Meanwhile, the U.S. government has been exceedingly - even excessively - tolerant of Erdoğan’s widespread human rights abuses,” she wrote. “Perhaps the time has come time for reevaluation and restoration of a U.S. policy that was not compromised toward Turkey. It needs to reflect indiscriminate justice and equality - including uncompromising demands for religious freedom for all.”