Turkey is increasing its practice of “whitewashing” its treatment of religious minorities, The Christian Post reported on Saturday.
Religious freedom advocates are issuing warnings over the country’s treatment of minorities while urging the U.S. State Department to designate Turkey as a country of particular concern, it said.
“The leadership, both religious and lay leadership of Turkey’s non-Muslim communities, are now expected to be willing and able players in whitewashing the regime’s persecution and crimes,” it cited Aykan Erdemir, senior director of the Turkey Program at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, as saying at the In Defense of Christians National Summit in Washington D.C.
Turkey’s Christians and Jews have been portrayed by the Turkish government as being fifth columnists, particularly after the failed coup attempt of July 2016.
Since the failed putsch, the deportation of Protestant faith leaders has picked up steam. Since 2016, Ankara has intensified its use of the N-82 code—designating foreign nationals as a national security threat—to deny entry or residence permits to Protestant faith leaders. Turkish authorities expelled 30 Protestants in 2020 and 35 the year before, according to the Times.
Religious minorities in the country are being forced to “attend ceremonies or sign statements or play props in various window dressing attempts to show that the Erdogan government is
tolerant, benevolent and embracing of minorities,” according to Erdemir.
Amy Austin Holmes, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, cited an example of a Christian who remained behind to protect his family’s land while the rest of the family fled the Turkish-occupied Syrian city of Ras al-Ayn was pressured to take part in a propaganda campaign.
Turkey controls swathes of land in northern Syria, where Turkish-backed forces are accused of human rights violations targeting minorities.
Holmes called on Washington to “ensure that it is possible for everyone who fled from these areas to return, to regain their property, to receive compensation for the property that was stolen or damaged.”