Monday, March 26, 2012

Turkey should do more to protect its Christians

Turan Kayaoğlu, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center and a visiting professor at Qatar University, wrote an article that appeared in Today’s Zaman about Turkey’s responsibilities towards its minorities.

Photo: Today's Zaman
Kayaoğlu writes:
“Despite my skepticism over how the report characterizes religious freedom in Turkey and its overall conclusion, there is also some truth to it. Certainly, Turkey does not belong in the same category as Iran, China and Saudi Arabia when it comes to religious freedom. Unquestionably, the lot of Christians in Turkey has improved under the Justice and Development Party (AKP). But it is not enough; the government has done little to genuinely care for and help Turkey’s Christians maintain a dignified presence in Turkey.”
Kayaoğlu describes his own experiences growing up in a town called Tatavla. The town was later renamed Kurtuluş as part of a campaign of Turkification. Kayaoglu explains,
“The name change came after the burning of a significant portion of the neighborhood in 1929. The municipality did little to stop the fire and used the rebuilding as an opportunity to resettle the neighborhood with Muslim residents. Subsequent waves of attacks and discrimination against Christians resulted in Greeks fleeing Turkey in large numbers, turning Kurtuluş into a Muslim-majority neighborhood in the 1960s.”
While listing some of the improvements in the plight of Turkish Christians he writes,
“For their part, mainstream Turkish pro-Islamic groups have treated Christians well. The Gülen community initiated some inter-faith meetings and the AKP government eliminated the most abusive treatment towards Christians such as ultranationalists’ harassment of them.”
Ending his piece with a call to action he writes,
“These minorities, have been loyal citizens of Turkey since the establishment of the republic despite having their human rights and dignity violated, while struggling to save their culture and identity.”

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